Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Lead sentence intoday's Washington Post: “Republican candidates appear to be coalescing around a central line of attack for the midterm elections, describing their Democratic opponents as protesters at odds with American patriotism.”

Since we seem to be celebrating all things 1968 this year, I guess it shouldn't be surprising that Republicans are resurrecting Richard Nixon's most cynical and divisive ploy—branding dissenters as un-American and haters of our sainted troops. The WP story quotes the newly nominated Republican Senate candidate in Arizona, Martha McSally characterizing her (also newly nominated) Democratic opponent, Kirsten Sinema, as a protester not a patriot because she opposed US military action after the 9-11 attacks. “While we were in harm’s way in uniform, Kyrsten Sinema was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service,” McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, said.

That strategy worked for Richard Nixon against both Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972. George W. Bush and Karl Rove were equally successful with a similar strategy in 2004 against John Kerry. In the latter two of those elections Republicans were able to redefine decorated war veterans as anti-American and disrespectful of American forces serving in combat because they questioned America's war in Vietnam.

So, once again, the stage is set for another election filled with lies and distortions. The WP article cites the additional example of Ted Cruz of tarring his opponent for US Senate in Texas, Beto O'Rourke, for disrespecting the American flag and veterans by defending the right of black athletes for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. Republicans don't have much to offer the electorate these days, so it makes sense for them to divide the nation with whatever weapons are available. Using false patriotism as a cudgel has worked before, so why not try again.

The strategy is cynical. As a veteran I don't see where my military service gains or loses meaning based on how people choose to participate or not participate in civic rituals. Like the American War in Vietnam itself, what I did in the Army contributed nothing to America's safety or security.  It has no inherent meaning beyond the hard-earned knowledge that comes from experience and whatever I could do to help my buddies stay alive.  We lost the war and yet our freedoms were not curtailed or destroyed by our victorious adversary.  Far more dangerous threats to our freedoms are the politicians like Richard Nixon, G.W. Bush and now Martha McSally, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and the many others who brand dissenters as beyond the pale.

It's funny, too, that these proud defenders of American freedom object when we exercise those rights for purposes which they disapprove. Apparently the freedoms that our troops defend are only supposed to be exercised in certain ways. “Freedom isn't free,” I am often told but those same “patriots” decrying protest and labeling protesters un-American leads me to think that only certain freedoms are allowed.

And that is not freedom at all.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Out of the Haze. For Now.

Olympia had a slight trace of rain last night. Not much by Pacific Northwest standards but most welcome. In late August Washington is pretty dry; the last rain I can recall was the brief shower that hit the Subdued Stringband Jamboree two weeks ago. Along with the dryness, which is normal, Olympia has experienced days of unhealthy air due to smoke from western wildfires. Last week was especially bad with air quality reaching very unhealthy levels.

Yesterday was an antidote to all of that. Brisk winds blew throughout the day, clearing the away the last remnants of smoky haze. By evening a very gentle mist was in the air under, just enough to barely feel but enough to release that sweet feel of newly-dampened earth. Just days before walking and breathing felt unpleasant. The trace of rain that fell during the night heightened the effect. For the moment at least breathing deeply feels like inhaling life itself.

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