Two things: One, I’m probably fucking this story up. I don’t know the specifics of it. I feel like it’d be rude to ask. People don’t like talking about their experiences in war, which is understandable on one level, and a shame on another.
Two, I’ve been telling that story, all fucked up like it is, since the ninth grade.
Professionally I write in the AP style, personally I try and keep it MLA. As a result, it can get a little confused.
My uncle, the uncle in question, is my mother’s brother. He’s hilarious. He’s razor sharp, but he’s a mumbler. You can’t understand a lot of what he says, which makes him seem even smarter. It’s a pretty good trick. His father, like my father’s father, served in World War II. Lots of guys did.
His dad, my mother’s father, was, as I understand it, a navigator on a bomber that, one assumes, dropped bombs all over the place. He was part of the effort that won that war for the Allied powers. It cost a lot. It cost a lot of lives. Something like 60 million people. That’s an impossible number of lives to consider. Thinking of people not as individuals, but in terms of millions, which is impossible to really do, probably makes it easier to kill lots of them at a time.
World War II cost my grandfather, my uncle's father, not his life, but his faith. (I don’t honestly know if he was super godly prior to the war, all’s I know about is the part where he wasn’t when he got back.) Up in the air, navigating an aircraft dropping bombs all over the place, my grandfather concluded that there could be no God.
He was a cool guy. He was on the cover of Life magazine once, in a “sand sailboat” of his own design. It was a sailboat on wheels that you could get in and zip up and down the beach. I think he sold rides in it to tourists or something. The guy who took his picture for the cover of Life magazine was the same guy who took that picture of the sailor kissing the nurse on V-J Day. Alfred Eisenstaedt.
My other grandfather was dope as fuck, too. My man was an advanced level bullshitter and also a veteran of WWII. I don’t know if it cost him his faith. He wasn’t real churchy.
I didn’t grow up with any faith either. We flirted with the idea as a family for a few months but it didn’t stick. I think it ultimately seemed like a waste of time.
My father’s father was stationed on an aircraft carrier and his deal was he would run out onto the runway when a bomber accidentally dropped a bomb on the aircraft carrier itself during the landing process. Landing on an aircraft carrier now, like 70 years later, is a controlled crash. Back then they were just making the shit up as they went along. Anyway my old man’s old man would run out on the runway in the freezing fucking cold and make sure the bomb wasn’t going to blow them all to hell and gone.
“A couple years into it,” I remember him saying something to the effect of, “they told me I could wear long underwear.” Up till then he’d been freezing his nuts off.
His other famous story from his military experience was him standing in line at the mess hall and there’s a guy ahead of him and the guy didn’t get green beans.
“Why didn’t you get green beans,” asked my grandfather.
As a boy my grandfather had sat up all night with his mother in staunch protest of the idea that he would ever eat a green bean.
“I don’t like green beans,” said the guy.
Up till then, my grandfather thought he had to eat everything the army offered him.
My one grandfather lost his faith, the other succumbed to green beans, but they both of them served in an effort that seemed pretty righteous. They were part of the force that stopped a racist authoritarian demagogue from controlling the destiny of human civilization.
Not all good guys are all good, and not all bad guys are all bad, but yo. Hitler was Hitler.
I am a 34 year old man who just described his grandfather (who was much younger than 34 at the time he was running across the tarmac) as dope as fuck. We have the same name, me and him.
Recently, we, the United States of America, the global superpower that has been writing checks against the credit we earned 70 years ago when we won World War II, elected our own racist authoritarian demagogue to our highest office. But he’s not Hitler. He could yet be, but he is not now. Weirdly, a lot of the guys who voted for the new guy are the sons of the very same dudes who helped to defeat Hitler in the first place. Such a thought could make you sad if you let it.
For the record, I don't know how anybody from that generation in my family voted, and I don't care to know. It's a secret ballot.
It’s unfortunate that, in the wake of World War II, we as a people, our parents’ parents, or whomever, didn’t dedicate ourselves completely to the prevention of such wars, such massive losses of life. Maybe it was our parents’ fault. Maybe they didn’t want to hear it.
I included Hitler’s name, but not the new guy’s, in case it shakes out he is that bad, and writing mean things about him lands writers in prison camps or whatever. Like yo. Stakes is high, son.
Or they’re not.
But either way.
Up until the very moment he won the election, we all thought he was going to lose to his opponent, a lifelong politician and a woman. And in the days since, there’s been a lot of talk amongst — who? Liberals? Progressives? Intellectuals? Who are they, we, anymore? There’s been a lot of talk about how the woman’s party —
You probably won’t get sent to a prison camp for talking about liberals complaining about how the DNC handled the entire primary process and election. And how they artificially propped up an unpopular candidate like Hillary Clinton even when there was evidence to suggest that Bernie Sanders was 12 points more popular than the other guy.
And listen. I get it. I had a horse in this race. I gave Bernie Sanders money. I voted for him in the primary. And then I voted for Hillary in the general election and neither vote amounted to squat, but that’s the way it goes. You’ve got to vote. Otherwise, what the fuck, dog?
After the Civil War, rumors circulated that Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, dressed in women’s clothes. These rumors were circulated by Southerners. (Do you capitalize the “S?” I’m doing it just in case.
Get it? Wakka wakka.)
The cause was still righteous, it was the leadership that failed, they thought. If it weren’t for that Jefferson Davis, who wears dresses, the sentiment ran, we’d’a won.
They wouldna won. They never had a chance. People say they had better generals in the South, but those people are wrong.
It could never have been the fault of Robert E. Lee, he who represents all our best Southern ideals! He who graduated West Point without a single demerit!
Whose, for real, only military tactic was to just keep sending his outnumbered-ass troops to the front lines to be gunned down. He was, all told, a pretty bad commander. What he was best at was looking good on a horse.
The South was outnumbered, outgunned, out-resourced, and were depending on a European rescue that was never going to happen. Which is like the exact opposite of World War II.
Their only shot was a defensive strategy that might have engendered either apathy or sympathy on behalf of Northerners. (A strategy they probably hadn’t even come up with till long after the war was over.) But (either way) they forgot that their whole thing was a pretty unsympathetic cause: Young poor men were being sent to the slaughter so that old rich men could continue to enslave black people so poor that “poor” wasn’t then and isn’t now an accurate descriptor of their economic condition.
Don’t get it twisted: The democrats in 2016 had a way better cause than the CSA in the 1860’s. But turn on their leaders in defeat they still did. That’s how people get down.
Also, it bears mentioning that when a person is subject to dozens of investigations throughout their professional career and nothing ever comes of it, and no one can find any real evidence of wrongdoing, then you have to at least consider the idea that the person has actually done nothing wrong and has instead been the subject of unfair scrutiny. Not to say a witch hunt.
Up until 2008, when Barack Obama was elected, every president of the United States of America had been a rich old white man. The president-elect is himself a rich old white man.
Ice ages can’t be pleasant. Not for weird hairless primates like us. Maybe woolly mammoths will come back. Those motherfuckers loved an ice age.
Here’s something fucked up: not long ago, the Catholic church was all in the news for scandals involving the molestation of children. I mean. That’s fucked up, but it’s not the fucked up part. The fucked up part is this: Martin Luther was, before he was the guy who started Protestantism, like the A-Number One Catholic scholar. The best in the biz. So the dudes in Rome were like “come on down, dog,” like how baseball players get called up from the minors. No, uh.
No pun intended.
So Martin Luther went down to Rome, and was on the team. But then he was like, “it’s pretty fucked up how these cardinals and popes molest children all the time.” So he quit the scene, nailed his theses to the door, and became the most hated man in Europe.
I want to make it clear that I don’t think it says anywhere that Catholic priests all have to engage in heinous activity of this sort. I don’t conflate the evil that men do with the faiths themselves that they purport to follow.
What I’m saying is: we learn about the selling of indulgences as a reason that Martin Luther left the Catholic church. We don’t so much hear about the sexual predation angle. Why? Because it’s some pretty nasty shit to think about, and we, as a people, would, rightly, rather not.
But maybe there’s something to that. About not confronting the nastier aspects of history and thus being vulnerable to those same nasty aspects. Like I think that’s the fucked up part.
It’s almost as though a species like ours ceasing to believe that another ice age could ever occur is exactly the catalyst that triggers one.
For the past eight years, a black man was the president of the United States of America. And that time was marked in many ways by social progress. Progress for people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Progress for women. For people altogether outside of a gender binary. For people of sexual orientations other than heterosexual. Amazing! And all this amazing progress has made it easy for us to think of the conditions as they are today as though they are the norm, and to dismiss out of hand all the nasty bullshit that was absolutely the acceptable norm for literally all of the time in our history prior to that progress being made.
Either the steps we’ve taken over the past, say, 100 years or so are part of an inevitable march ever forward, toward kindness and equality, or they were, to mix a metaphor, a momentary flourish of civilized behavior between ice ages of intolerance. Maybe the surest indicator of a nasty, shameful epoch to come is an unwillingness to confront the nastiest elements of our history that we’re most ashamed of. Because that unwillingness gives those same elements room to manifest, to catch us off guard, again and again.