Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Ribbons or Medals? 

In the latest John Kerry flap, too many (especially those in the media) are getting hung up on pointless "technicalities". Did he throw his ribbons or his medals? Is it possible to "return" a medal when it is part of your military record? Well, guess what, the difference is irrelevant. This is because what went over the fence or what is in his permanent record isn't the real issue.

In 1971 John Kerry did something. He threw his ribbons/medals (let's just call them awards) over a fence. In 1984 he did something else. He proudly displayed the medals in his Senate office. These things, in sentiment, do not match each other. The first question Gibson should have asked was "what did your discarding of the awards mean in 1971?" To my way of thinking, it meant, "I am not proud of what my country asked me to do and I choose to not acknowledge its 'appreciation' of my service." If, in fact, this was the sentiment behind this action, then the second question should have been "why did you display your Vietnam service awards on the wall of your Senate office?" In my eyes, again, the meaning of this, clearly, is "I am proud of the service I did for my country." So, the only logical third question is "which sentiment really reflects John Kerry's true convictions?"

From the information known, one cannot say, as the two demonstrated sentiments are directly contradictory. I may markedly agree with one and disagree with the other, but both are legitimate feelings. They are not, however, compatible with each other. Was the throwing of awards not really an act of moral conscious or was the display done only to mollify the Union bosses? The sentiment of the 1984 act could, of course, represent a legitimate change of heart and thinking, but shouldn't this be clearly acknowledged?

That last, of course, is largely rhetorical, as to infer that any anti-Vietnam war activity might have been foolish or impetuous would be suicide with a great deal of his constituency. For many of his contemporaries, their activities in opposition to the Vietnam War are a high-water mark in their lives. In their actions, they feel they had significance and relevancy. That is the real reason they compare not only Iraq but any military conflict with Vietnam. Their opposition was their raison d'etre, a defining moment. It is the same reason the media tries to remind everyone of their importance and relevancy in '73 by tacking "-gate" onto the end of every potential scandal. These people have excused the violent acts of groups such as the Weathermen on the premise that their goal was noble.

Of course, another possibility is that the real meanings of both of these acts are absolutely identical. The real sentiment displayed just might be "I want the support, admiration and respect of people who agree with either sentiment." Unfortunately, this seems to be both the least noble and most likely case. And it is, again, reflective of the "I want everything without having to give up anything" mentality that I find indicative of Sen. Kerry and many of his political allies. He wants to express his rage and frustration by throwing away his awards without really throwing them away. The same way many wanted to change the regime in Iraq without really doing it ourselves. Nothing is free, and without the real sacrifice that was implied in 1971, what was it worth? As much as I may disagree with the action, I have a great deal more respect for someone who burned their draft card and went to jail for their convictions than for someone who threw away their ribbons but not their medals.

In any event, the greatest disappointment so far in this campaign has been the media's willingness to roll about in the political mud, taking the cheap and easy shot instead of asking questions of substance. "Ribbons or medals?" Who cares. Why can't someone ask plain and simple questions like those above? We are left, instead, to pose the truly relevant questions for both candidates on our private corner of the Internet and discuss it among ourselves rather than having definitive answers from the candidates. So, come November, the decision will largely be based upon our own personal interpretations and guesses of what the answers would have been based upon our impressions of what sort of person each candidate is. Truly sad.

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