Friday, April 8, 2016

The 'Greatest' Generation? / The Journal / A Dawn in Boston / Trump, Matthews & Hillary

The Greatest Generation? My father was a member of the so-called ‘greatest’ generation. He enlisted in the Army right after Pearl Harbor, joining up by March 1942. He didn’t have to enlist; in fact, it was a significant sacrifice as at that time my dad’s burgeoning medical practice was beginning to take off; he could have put off any military service for a year or two, at least; he ‘knew people,’ according to my mom. My father loved this country, which had afforded him great opportunity. So, he was compelled to ‘fight’ and defend his country in a great war.

The ‘greatest’ is accepted as the gospel truth now: that my father’s story was one of millions of soldiers’ stories defining the ‘greatest’ generation. I say this with the utmost respect and humility toward my dad and his contemporaries, but I disagree. The truth is that every generation whose young men had to fight in wars is the ‘greatest’ generation. War is such a catastrophic and horrific endeavor that every veteran of any war must be honored, and no one group should be singled out as special.

Tom Brokaw, who never was in the military at all, has made a ton of money off a couple of books he’s written about the World War II generation [One title: ‘The Greatest Generation’] He is of a mind that indeed those men were special, and unique. I’ll put aside the issue of whether Mr. Brokaw should ‘exploit’ these soldiers for his own fortune, and strongly counter that every soldier who’s fought in combat, whatever side he was on, is a monumentally courageous figure. Mr. Gripes has read all kinds of warfare history and combat fiction, and the one overriding truth he’s gleaned from the literature is that each soldier, in every war, especially the foot soldier [infantry], deserves our respect.

Allow me to cite Neil Sheehan, a correspondent in Vietnam for the New York Times during the 1960’s and ‘70’s, recollecting a battle scene in November 1965 that he may have witnessed: [NY Times, Nov. 13, 2015]

“Shortly after dawn the next morning [at the site of a battle that had taken place the previous day in Pleiku, in the Highlands of Vietnam] hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers, in loose-fitting khaki fatigues that blended well with the terrain, rose out of the elephant grass and rushed C Company’s foxhole line, seeking to overwhelm it. When the fight was over, only 40 men of the approximately 100 men in the company were not wounded or dead.

       ‘But the North Vietnamese attackers never managed to break through that line to threaten the battalion position because the men of C Company, First Battalion, Seventh Calvary, fought and died like the young lions they were.

‘They, and so many others who fought in Vietnam, were as great as any generation that preceded them.  Their misfortune was to draw a bad war, an unnecessary war, a mistake by American politicians and statesmen, for which they paid.’ [Writer’s note: Amen.]

I’m in awe of the sacrifice and courage of these young American boys, who were thousands of miles from home fighting in an absolutely alien and hostile environment. They’re heroes, and so are all the others – friend or foe – who have fought in that most horrific and gruesome activity of men: war. There is no one ‘greatest’ generation. Every fighting soldier in every war merits our honor and genuflection.

Op-Ed at the Journal  One of Mr. Gripes’ late-in-life passions has been the ‘Wall Street Journal’. My left-wing friends, of course, frozen in their unyielding political snobbery, would probably not line a cat’s litter box with the Journal, much less ever read it. Conversely, if Mr. Gripes were to be stranded on a distant Pacific Ocean atoll, the Journal would be the one newspaper he’d ask for. It’s probably the only print newspaper making a profit these days, and the reportage among its news pages is written by superb journalists [with great sportswriting, by the way]. Plus, no one covers business scandals like the WSJ. The editorial and opinion pages, though, are farcical: they are a one-trick pony – ‘regulation, regulation, regulation’ is killing American entrepreneurship – that’s the message all the time. Hey, WSJ, wake up: lack of regulation gave this country the massive 2008 subprime recession. Regulation, in fact, protects the Wall Street big shots from themselves, and their insatiable and often-reckless lust for yield and profits.

A Spring Rock n Roll Memory: a long time ago, on the eve of a rugby game in Boston I was to participate in, Mr. Gripes got roped into attending a bacchanalia of sorts. At about 5:30 in the morning, having dozed off on a sofa, I awoke amidst the detritus of the all-night affair: empty bottles of wine, vodka and beer, inert bodies strewn all over the living room floor, next to plates of half-eaten hash brownies. I had slept for no more than 30 minutes. Groggily, and alarmingly, I realized my dilemma: I was completely exhausted, and I had a game in about 5 hours. Holy sh_t, I thought, I could get myself killed. There was no way I could run one yard. But I kind of got myself galvanized, and decided to go for a slow jog to clear my head. I step outside, heading for a running path along the Charles River.  
Once outdoors, I saw that it was a beautiful Boston morning, with the sun peeking over the horizon. The day glittered. Suddenly, out of a townhouse’s upper floor, I hear, loudly, ‘Here Comes the Sun,’ by George Harrison. The absolute perfect melody and lyrics for that occasion: the rising sun right in front of me, displaying its healing power and magnificence, and the Harrison tune were in total synchrony. In that instance, I said to myself, ‘I can get through this.’ Later, I played all 80 minutes of the game, and survived. I have held on to Harrison’s miracle ‘siren song’ moment ever since. After all this time, I thank you, Mr. Harrison. 

Every quadrennial Presidential race starts out with journalists insisting that the electorate wants more substantial coverage of ‘meat-and-potatoes’ issues, yet election coverage always devolves into a numbers game – polls, polls, polls. Why? Because the political reporters are lazy – in-depth substance takes patience, time and a lot of drudge work. So, instead of issues, we watch twerps like Chris Matthews ‘ambush’ Donald Trump, and get him to assert that a woman who gets an abortion should be punished. Mr. Matthews achieved this by running his rat-a-tat-tat motor-mouth, spewing off some incomprehensible questions, and basically confusing Mr. Trump.
Photo Illustration by Ben Israel and

It was a ‘GOT-CHA’ moment, the ‘Oscar’ moment for journalists like Matthews; afterwards Mr. Matthews is toasted by his colleagues as if he’s Woodward or Bernstein, even though his ‘moment’ is actually nothing more than a juvenile display of celebrity-driven American journalism at its worst. To Mr. Gripes, Matthews performed like an infantile, aggressive, and discourteous brat. Later, on his show, Charlie Rose, in an incomprehensible gesture, offered his congratulations to Mr. Matthews. Shame on you, Mr. Rose.

Be Careful of What You Wish For  Mr. Gripes issues a warning: if Democrats manage to help Republicans derail the candidacy of Donald Trump, that action may initiate the nomination of an alternate candidate who’s much more likely to beat Hillary Clinton. Sure, it’s gleeful to beat up on Trump, and these days everyone’s doing it, but if he’s defeated at the Cleveland Republican convention, the fun and games for the Democrats will be over. The Republicans may nominate a much less divisive candidate who could very effectively run against Hillary, who’s a victim of bad timing – 15 or twenty years ago, she’d have been an excellent choice, but she appears so old-fashioned and boring these days, mouthing the same old platitudes – she’s undeniably a very weak candidate. Her moment, I’m afraid, has passed, and that’s perilous for Democrats. If Mr. Gripes were a Democratic operative in 2016, he’d do whatever he had to do to assure Trump’s nomination. Otherwise, it could be Doomsday.

Jim Israel aka Mr. Gripes
April 6, 2016