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I flew into Des Moines the other day.
Nice weather, no big deal. I said bye-bye to all of the passengers and finally there was just one left. He was a US Navy Ensign, in uniform. He asked me if I could help him get down to the ramp as he was escorting "military remains".
So, I went downstairs with him. I expected to see a flag, or something, but it was just a standard "this end up-handle with care: dead guy" cardboard container. I asked the ensign how much of this sort of thing he was doing. He said that this has been his job for the last five months; ever since he graduated and was commissioned. He was glum. Join the Navy and fly with dead guys. Meet their families. Express the condolences of the President. Do it again tomorrow. Fun.
I watched him get driven off along with the box, perched on the sideboard of the belt loader. There were a couple of pet carriers on there, too. I hope they dropped the puppies off before they met the family.
An interesting observation:
On the "mixed" forums that I visit--and where I post for a larger audience than we have here--in this dusty corner of the web, I often go head to head with some rather far-right wingnuts. When this happens, I make it a point not to:
1. Use insults.
2. Name call.
3. Ridicule a position without a specific and sourced rebuttal.
Invariably, those on the "right" violate all of these rules; even when they are otherwise articulate and well-informed. I've often wondered why this is and have finally, I think, figured it out:
The political right makes no distinction between these tactics and legitimate debate. Quite literally, they believe that insults, name calling and baseless ridicule are exactly equivalent, equally valid, and indistinguishable from any other debating technique. Rush limbaugh does it. Sean Hannity does it. Even President Bush does it.
And the media duly reports it. Bush's phrase, "You can run, but you can't hide" has been widely repeated in the mainstream press as a great comeback to Kerry's reasoned rebuttals and specific proposals in the last debate. Why? He offered no specific rebuttal at all.
And yet, empty phrases appear to be as valid as actual information--perhaps even more, if they make a good sound bite- for this election season. I guess I should work more on my snappy comebacks, name calling and insults; it would save me a lot of time compared to researching issues, forming positions and defending them with facts.
Maybe Kerry should do it , too. You know, instead of using big words and facts in the next debate he could just say things like, "My opponent is too dumb to run this country." or "We can't afford four more years with Dick Cheney at the helm." Who knows? It might work.
Politics as entertainment?
Here I am, sitting in a hotel in Atlanta and watching TV, which is not one of my usual activities. There's a game show on: "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" OK. Trivia questions, audience participation, plus I get to feel smarter than the sap in the seat.
All is well.
Then comes a question that's tough for the contestant: What is "Romaji": A system of writing which language using the Roman alphabet?
a: Japanese, b: Russian, c: Hebrew, d: Arabic
I happen to know that the answer is "a". The player doesn't, so I enjoy watching him agonize, use a couple of lifelines to no avail and vacillate between "Russian" and Japanese". He's leaning towards Russian. Everyone holds their breath.
He switches to "Japanese" at the last moment. Triumph! What a close call!
Then the host, Meredith Vieira, says something odd: (from memory, here) "Wow! That was a very brave flip-flop you did there--it's not brave when Kerry does it, but it was very brave of you, and it paid off!"
Huh? I thought I was watching a game show. It's becoming fairly obvious that most big media personalities like their tax cuts very much, thank you. And they intend to keep them.