A Bit of Spittle

Want a great way to try to sway political opinion? Here’s one: denigrate and disrespect a veteran. I mean, why not? Partisan politics is already using us as poker chips in their petty and petulant competitions. Personally, I’m getting pretty fed up with historical rewrites and making current and past military suffer for political gain. A great example of the media’s part in this is an article on OregonLive.com by David Sirota who claims that no Vietnam veterans were ever spat upon. He makes this claim in an effort to undermine President Obama’s comments in a Memorial Day speech that spoke to this very issue.

He points to a book published by another conservative malcontent who claims that Vietnam veterans weren’t spat upon when they returned from war, the author basing his thesis on a claimed inability to locate press images depicting an incident during his research. The book’s author is Jerry Lembcke, a professor from Holy Cross who most assuredly demonstrates that yellow journalism is still alive and thriving. As does Mr. Sirota.  I know as fact that both Sirota and Lembcke are mistaken because I am a veteran who was spit on –and on more than one occasion. The so-called research cited as proof that people like me are addle-brained or outright liars is reminiscent of the research produced by tobacco companies proving that cigarettes were non-addictive and not responsible for heart and lung disease.

The thing is, people are more and more seeing revisionist history and research on a wide set of fronts, for wide and diverse reasons. Almost every time someone wants to convince us that their personal biases are empirical fact, they will trot out massaged numbers from some heady looking research that has all of the validity of the Easter Bunny. Sadly, way too many people soak this baloney up with lazy acceptance rather than lifting a finger to verify the shovel full of bovine effluence they’ve just been served and told was steak. Okay, so your political views disagree with those of the sitting president, fine, make your case, but don’t do it by calling me and other vets liars. To do so is actually a greater disservice to us than the people who spit on us. At least they were honest and forthright about their opinions. They don’t use subterfuge, false innuendo and cowardly hiding behind a wall of someone else’s hogwash to do it.

The more I see of the political campaigns in progress, the more I question why I went to fight for this country in the first place. When I fought for rights and democratic process, I did not have in mind the First Amendment protections of disrespectful bullshit artists. In a way it’s pathetic; when Sarah Palin made her on-camera gaffe about Paul Revere’s ride and then her supporters flocked to rewrite Wikipedia to match her erroneous recollection, I thought it was funny. But that sort of cretinous politicking has become the standard, and it’s grown tiresome. It’s gone too far and denigrates the credibility of too many good and honest people.

If David Sirota were to present himself to me, I would rise from my wheelchair to spit into his face –making sure that there were no cameras to record the event and thus proving it never happened; I take great umbrage at being called a liar by some agenda-toting cretin practicing jaundiced journalism. I take umbrage with anyone who calls anyone a liar when they have no real grasp of, or access to, all of the pertinent facts. This is what Sirota has done with his assertions that veterans didn’t suffer the degrading experiences so colorfully rich and preserved in our memories. I can do research and produce data that demonstrates the the earth is flat, the Holocaust never happened, the moon landing was faked, and President Obama was born in Kenya. But it would all be as fallacious and disrespectful to those involved in the realities of those events, just as Sirota and Lembcke disrespect of Vietnam veterans is.

Politics in America is getting just too dishonest for my tastes. I prefer an arena based on facts over invention, where opposing factions compete on the value of their ideas rather than character assassination by scarlet letter. Truth be told, I don’t believe that anyone who engages in this below the belt activity belongs in government because dishonesty on the campaign trail suggests dishonesty in government. That a candidate who uses veterans as pawns on the campaign trail are going to use veterans as pawns should they attain office. A liar is a liar, especially those who toss about fallacious accusations of mistruth to hide their own dishonesty.

I am proud of my service as a combat veteran. I am disappointed and offended by the treatment that I and other veterans received by an ungrateful nation on my return from that service. I appreciate that a lot of effort has gone into the attempts to soften the blows we veterans took, especially since so many of us are still touched, still damaged by our gift of service. We are still in a healing process, one that for some of us may never be completed before we perish. That people like Sirota choose to refresh and antagonize our wounds is unacceptable to me, especially since it is so obviously a tool of yellow journalistic propaganda.

Shame on you, Sirota. And shame on anyone who accepts him as credible.