Why I support the troops
Rick hates me.
He claims I was one of the hippies who spit on him during the Vietnam War.
The crowd at my latest dive has gone patriotic after 9/11 so they believe him, and turn a cold shoulder at me.
Or call me a terrorist each time I sit down to have a beer.
I guess I’m outraged more by the fact that I see the same likes being told now to send kids to war as were being told when I protested against the war in Vietnam, and I feel helpless to stop it.
I never spat on Rick.
I just wouldn’t give him a parade for going to kill people in Vietnam when the same U.S. government paid for him to fight let people starve in places like Newark.
I thought the immorality of the war in Vietnam was so obvious, even a high school bully like Rick could see it.
I didn’t realize back then how little Rick had to hold onto.
If he couldn’t beat somebody up or go fight for his country, he didn’t feel important.
If he stayed local and did what he always did at school, Rick – sooner or later – would end up in jail.
Vietnam for him was a way out.
So he put on a uniform and acted as if he was dong something great, like his father did going off to fight in World War II or his uncle, in going to Korea.
Even though Rick always tried to beat me up in high school – calling me a “long haired weirdo” when he did, I tried to talk him out of going.
I thought I was doing him and the world a service, by keeping his kind from doing the same kind of damage overseas as he had managed to do in the halls of high school.
I wanted America to seem a kinder and gentler place, not one packed full of bullies like Rick.
I guess I agreed with my hippie friends when we refused to make heroes out of men who insisted on following bad orders from a bad government that required them to burn down villages and kill the people who lived in them.
Wrong was wrong, we figured, no matter how many American flags you wave.
Things went bad for Rick overseas.
Their bullies were as tough as our bullies and wouldn’t roll over for Rick the way most of us did back at school.
But instead of blaming the government which liked and fed him all that patriotic crap to get him to go over there, he blamed me, saying I spit on him when I hadn’t.
He just couldn’t handle the fact that he had fought – not for our freedom, but for the freedom of international corporations to rip off poor overseas they way they ripped off poor in the US of A.
Rick was so better and disillusioned when he got back he took refuge in the one profession where he could feel important again.
He became a cop, then came looking for me.
Over the years, I managed to avoid confronting him, even when he got his buddies to give me tickets and cause me other problems.
When he spread his life among my friends, I made an effort to explain why the lies weren’t true.
When he ruined a place too thoroughly for talk, I moved on to another bar and made friends there.
Perhaps I should have confronted him early one. But I knew I could never convince him of the truth and it was pointless for me to try.
All he had to cling to was the flag and I feared if I shred that, he might take up killing again, with me as the target.
But now, Rick has added fuel to the fir by telling people in my latest dive that I not only spit on him, but spit on his kid who joined the army to fight after 9/11.
Rick’s kid is exactly like Rick.
He even terrorized my kid at school the way Rick terrorized me.
So naturally, Rick’s kid would seek the same refuge in war that Rick did, taking his anger to Iraq where no one would tell him he was out of line.
Sure, I know 9/11 justified almost any war we want, and that the war in Iraq is no more righteous than the one in Vietnam was.
But I also know I can no more ach Rick’s kid than I could Rick and people would believe all of Rick’s lies if I tried.
Rick knows this, too, which is why he finally confronted me in the bar, daring me to spit on his kid like I supposedly did him.
But I only smile.
With everybody looking on, I tell him I’m supporting the troops this time.
Of course, I keep quiet about how – deep down – I feel this war is even more immoral than Vietnam was, and our government even more evil than the government I protested when I was young.
I figure Rick’s kid is going to learn the same lessons in Iraq that Rick learned in Vietnam, only he won’t have me to blame everything on when he gets back.