Monday, April 5, 2010

My Dad on Political Violence

My Dad's stories about World War 2 were a big part of my childhood.  They were not the stories I saw on Combat! on TV or read in comics like Sgt. Rock or Sgt. Nick fury and His Howling Commandos.  My Dad enlisted two years before World War 2 actually started and would have gotten out in December of 1941, but no one was discharged from the Army after December 7, 1941.  My father barely made the enlistment cut-off age of 35 at the time he enlisted.  Since he was so old (35 when the war started) and had experience working in a warehouse, the Army sent him to Officer's Candidate School.  My Dad was 15 years older than the average 2nd lieutenant, so he never went overseas.  His first assignment was as a platoon leader in a Black maintenance company in the segregated Army of World War.

Shortly after he was assigned to Camp Shenango in PA, he was the officer on duty on a weekend.  That weekend there was a race riot.  My Dad went out of the headquarters and found himself in front of an armed mob.  He said the young soldier in front had "a 30 Ought 6 aimed right at my belly button."  My father told the soldier with the rifle to "take it easy."  Then he heard someone in the back say "shoot the white . . . "  The words in the rest of the description got coarser as I got older.  I'll assume Motherf##cker was the used at some point.  

Hearing the cowards in the back egging the man in front on, my Dad spoke to the shaking young man in front with the rifle.  "If you pull that trigger the MPs are going to shoot you.  If they don't shoot you they'll hang you.  Nothing will happen to the son of a bitch in the back telling you what to do."  The soldier put down his rifle.  My Dad ordered the men back to their barracks and as far as I know never said anything further about the incident.  He commanded a black company before being reassigned to Fort Indiantown Gap and a German Prisoner of War Camp in Reading.  He kept in touch with some of his sergeants after the war.

Lately I have heard several people say that the Liberty Tree is watered with the blood of Patriots.  When someone on the radio says this to his audience, you can bet he means their blood, not his.  My Dad was a Massachusetts Republican as long as I can remember and would still be one if he were alive now (He would be 104).  But he was a man who never backed down from a fight and had no use for "rabble rousers" the kind of people who start trouble and let others take the risks. 

I must have heard that story 50 times growing up.  I don't know why, but I did not think of that particular story until a few days ago, but it does help me understand why I dislike the current Patriot movement.  Talk Radio hosts by definition "lead" from the back, not from the front.  I just returned from serving in Iraq with an aviation task force in which all of the seniors officers including the commander flew missions--they led from the cockpit, not just from their desks.   

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

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