A Tale of Two Deserters Episode 6
Nixon was elected President in 1968. I, of course, voted for nobody, because I was too young to vote. Old enough to operate and take responsibility for multi-million dollar weapons and equipment, old enough to kill ‘for peace’, and old enough to give my life in service. But, not old enough to vote for the people who make the big life and death decisions.
That works out well for the politicians and the business interests they represent. The age group that will bear the brunt of the sacrifice, that will see up close and personal, the real effects and consequences of Washington policy, has little to say about it.
This obvious un balance in the equation of basic fairness was a point that bothered me, very much. The conclusion it inferred was that I must be ‘guilty’ of being a powerless, low class, young male, sentenced to “Do your home and country proud”, in a shameful situation. Something no American should have to tolerate. Something millions of young Americans were confronted with.
I pondered that, in silence, among my new comrades as we were carted by Greyhound bus to the induction centre in Montgomery Alabama.. The old bus was packed with guys my age. High school kids, many of whom had graduated only the month before, from their farm or steel/coal town schools. We were mostly from the Birmingham area. Mostly white, as this was a group of Air Force inductees. Infer, as you will.
As the bus hummed through the June, Alabama night, the young nervous men were singing, shouting, and clowning like school kids on a field trip, with no teacher. Exactly like that, only more exuberant because everyone knew there was something more ominous than teachers waiting at the end of this trip.
I was the same age as these guys but unlike most of them, had been out, on my own, and had tasted freedom in a way a boy straight out of high school hasn’t. The singing and acting out of the other young guys became a background noise. I stared out the window trying to see all I could of the world I was leaving. I kept thinking of the places this bus should be headed. Like Florida where I should have half a dozen gigs waiting.
I thought about why I was there and pondered why my life was judged so worthless by family and country. Why do some men break the biggest laws and do inexcusable damage to the world and be regaled with praise and high office? While others are yoked by petty unjust laws and used, with disdain.
None of us knew why this was happening to us. None of us knew what the war was about or what actually was meant when ‘they’ talked about fighting for freedom. Freedom for who or what? To fight the evil commie monsters? What’s a communist?
Oh, the bad guy. I see…I guess.
Sitting, staring out that dark window, I tried to cast my mind as far from my body as possible, into the night of unexpected possibilities, while my body was driven towards an un-welcomed stretch of rigid certitude.
I can’t pretend to know what was going through the mind of George, our future president. But I can surmise that George had some similar thoughts and reservations. In a candid moment in the 90’s, Bush told a Dallas reporter that he was so desperate, he had considered either deafening himself with a shot gun blast or going to Canada.
I can imagine that his family, like mine, wanted him safely out of the way, “for his own good” and in a fashion that would not embarrass the relatives. His family was able to arrange things so that George would not face duty in a combat zone.
In the end, George could not handle the restrictions of his personal freedom. Pilot training is serious stuff and hard work, especially for a guy who scored 25% on the pilots test. No slacking off and partying for George and once random drug testing was introduced for pilots, it threatened to further curtail the personal freedoms of our millionaire party boy.
Somehow I doubt that George gave much thought to the questions I pondered on my way to the induction centre. It seems like George has always been a guy whose only question was, “Why me? Why not someone else?” And Daddy made it so.
So, now it’s “Welcome to Georges’ War” Why him? Why not someone else?