Today I have another gem to file under 'Never "ass"ume', sent to me by a long time reader and friend. Read on:
|Subject: letter from Mr. Keillor |
.The disturbing roar of hollow patriotism
By Garrison Keillor
May 28, 2008
Three hundred thousand bikers spent Memorial Day
weekend roaring around Washington in tribute to our war dead, and I stood on Constitution Avenue on Sunday afternoon watching a river of them go by, waiting for a gap in the procession so I could cross over to the Mall and look at pictures. The street had been closed off for them and they motored on by, some flying the Stars and Stripes and the black MIA-POW flag, honking, revving their engines, an endless celebration of internal combustion.
A patriotic bike rally is sort of like a patriotic toilet-papering or
patriotic graffiti; the patriotism somehow gets lost in the sheer
irritation of the thing. Somehow a person associates Memorial Day with long moments of silence when you summon up mental images of pilots revving up B-24s and infantrymen crouched behind piles of rubble steeling themselves for the next push.
You don't quite see the connection between that and these fat men with ponytails on Harleys. After hearing a few thousand bikes go by, you think maybe we could airlift these gentlemen to Baghdad to show their support of the troops in a more tangible way. It took 20 minutes until a gap appeared and then a mob of us pedestrians flooded across the street and the parade of bikes had to stop for us, and on we went to show our patriotism by, in my case, hiking around the National Gallery, which, after you've watched a few thousand Harleys pass, seems like an outpost of civilization.
There stood Renoir's ballerina in pale blue chiffon and Monet's children in the garden of sunflowers. And Mary Cassatt's "The Boating Party," which I stood and stared at for a long time. A lady in a white bonnet sits in a green sailboat, holding a contented baby in pink, as a man rows the boat toward a distant shore. (Perhaps the boat is becalmed.) The man wears a navy blue shirt, he is preoccupied with his rowing, and the lady looks wan and mildly anxious, as well a mother should be. The baby is looking dreamily over the gunwales. Is the man a hired hand or is he the husband and father?
A work of art can lift you up from the mishmash of life, the weight of the unintelligible world, and vulgarity squats on you like an enormous toad and won't get off. You stroll down past the World War II Memorial, which looks like something ordered out of a catalog, a bland insult to the memory of all who served, and thousands of motorcycles roar by disturbing the Sabbath, and it depresses you for hours.
If anyone cared about the war dead, they could go read David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter or Stephen Ambrose's Citizen Soldiers or any of a hundred other books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country, but the bikers riding in formation are more interested in being seen than in learning anything. They are grown men playing soldier, making a great hullabaloo without exposing themselves to danger, other than getting drunk and falling off a bike.
No wonder the Current Occupant welcomed them with open arms at the White House, put on a black leather vest, and gave a manly speech about how he'd just "choppered in" and saw the horde "cranking up their machines," and he thanked them for being so patriotic. They are his kind of guys, full of bluster, giving off noxious fumes, and when they leave town, nobody misses them.
Meanwhile, the man pulls at the oars, the lady wonders if this trip was a good idea or if some disaster is at hand, and the child lolls on her lap, dazed by the sun. They started this trip in 1894 and haven't advanced an inch; meanwhile, half the people who ever stood and watched them have reached that distant shore and the rest of us are getting closer every day.
I am the boatman and maybe you are, too - it is quiet on the water, we lean on the oars, and we are suspended in time, united with every other man, woman and child who ever voyaged afar.
|This is my response |
I can tell by your letter you are an educated man, much more then I. I can also tell you have never spent much time in a uniform or at a VA hospital. As I have both . In 1968 I laid on the side of a hill bleeding waiting to be helicoptered out in Viet Nam. A lot longer then the time you waited on Constitution Ave that Sunday . By the way we will be there next year on Sunday, maybe you should rest that day and go on Monday.
So I will make a deal with you . I will educate you on us 'PUDGY Ponytail fat men on Harleys, and you can enlighten me on RENOIR OR MONET .Question were they fat with long hair ,just asking .
I am a Viet Nam veteran. I stood on the [WALL] protecting your rights. So I am ready and have the right to address statements made about my special day. I have made over 24 trips to my WALL. I have gonewith veterans, non vets and even took a reporter once . None were Pudgy or had ponytails or were fat. We make that trip to let the world know that we have not forgotten our POW from all wars. Yes, we ride bikes, and yes they are loud. If the noise or people bother you why not do like I do on the 4th of july, can not handle fireworks, Stay home that day. GIVE US OUR DAY! Now some comments tell me you have not a clue. You keep talking about the fat men with ponytails, Clean your glasses , our fellow veterans are not all fat with ponytails . A lot are female, they smell pretty good, but watch them they have been known to make noise with their bikes also.
You talk about airlifting these gentlemen to Badhdad , does that mean the PUDGY FAT MEN WITH PONYTAILS CAN NOT GO? LET me explain something to you: most of us would jump at a chance to fight for our country again. I myself had asked to go back when we went into IRAQ . Age and a 70% rating has stopped me.
You talk about if we cared about our war dead. HOW DARE YOU make a comment like that . I for one have shed blood for you . I have stood on the wall protecting your rights even though I do not agree. We come to our Memorials to honor our brothers and sisters who have given the most that they could.
Walk with me to panel 27w and I will show you why I am there.
You talk about reading books [the coldest winter, citizen soldiers] and, we are more interested making noise then getting a vision of what its like to face death for our country. ARE YOU ON DRUGS? Some of us Viet Nam vets are the focus of many books. We have faced death many a day in Nam. We do not play soldier, sir. WE ARE SOLDIERS, and WE are the reason you are free.
Last but not least. I have met a lot of great VETERANS, men and women, ALL heroes. And SIR YOU COULD NOT SHINE THEIR SHOES.
H/T to Gail for this one.:)