Sunday, November 11, 2007

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

First published on Friday, October 20, 2006

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

I had an interesting experience at the grocery store the other day. I am the type of person who looks like he is always in a hurry. When I'm eating, I'm eating fast. When I walk, I'm walking fast, even if I'm not really headed anywhere. So when people are at the store taking a survey, or taking up a collection, I walk right on by. I have learned that if you don't meet their eye, more often than not they will leave you alone.

But there is always an exception to the rule.

I am one of the least patriotic people you are going to meet. I am against the Iraq war, and seeing military recruiters at the vocational high school where I teach really bothers me. I didn't fly a flag on Sept. 10, 2001, and I didn't suddenly "find religion" the next day. I felt like it would be hypocritical of me to start flying one just because everyone else was, even though I had no feelings for it. You won't see a yellow ribbon magnet on my car, I won't be sporting a "We support our troops" bumper sticker... I just feel like it's too easy to say "We support the troops", but people don't often support the troops in some practical way.

A gentleman had a table set up outside Giant Eagle and he was taking donations for the Lorain County Vietnam Veterans War Memorial. I decided to talk to the guy, and after a few minutes of conversation I put a $5 bill in his jar. He thanked me and asked if I would like one of the assortment of flags or bumper stickers he had on the table. I declined. I explained to him that I didn't want to show off patriotism (I didn't explain that I didn't have any). I said that I was glad that he made it back alive, and I could see a wistful look in his eyes as he stared away, just for a second, and then thanked me. My groceries and I proceeded on the journey home, with the little paper flower I bought from a World War II veteran several months ago still wrapped around my rear view mirror.

A guy I know only via his online business, Bill Staffa, is retired military. On his Delphi forum a few months ago, in the midst of a right/left debate on Memorial Day, he made this observation:

The guys we remember on memorial day don't give a flying f*** about the NEA, or any other issue. They did what they believed to be their duty.

Memorial Day is not about protests, riots, political agendas, or anything else.

When you die, it all becomes rather moot, doesn't it?

And that's it. The guy standing outside Giant Eagle that day wasn't conservative, he wasn't liberal, he wasn't from a red state or a blue state- he was a guy who most likely watched a lot of his buddies die. The elderly man who sold me the paper flower, who had to point to the enclosed explanation because he couldn't talk, who is probably close to death and wondering why Johnny bought it on the muddy battlelines in Europe and he survived- he isn't an ideology, he's a man.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.


And who was wrong?
And who was right?
It didnt matter in the thick of the fight
Billy Joel, "Goodnight Saigon"


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