(Dan and Joan at Reunion-click to zoom)
Joan and I slowly made our way following the crowd back to the center of Annapolis on our way to our hotel after Navy beat Delaware in football 34-20 overwhelming the Blue Hens and silencing twenty of their despicable fans standing behind us. The Brigade of Midshipmen with the Naval Academy Choir and Band played and sang with Navy fans the traditional song the midshipmen in unison sing at the end of every football game:
(Brigade of Midshipman before the game--click to zoom)
NAVY BLUE AND GOLD
Now, colleges from sea to sea
May sing of colors true.
But who has better right than we
To hoist a symbol hue?
For sailors brave in battle fair
Since fighting days of old
Have proved a sailor's right to wear
The Navy Blue and Gold.
GO NAVY– BEAT ARMY!
(Annapolis Harbor area--click to zoom)
Soon we noticed in a major intersection a gathering of supporters for John Kerry for President passing out literature for the election in three days. “I’m here for my 40th reunion and glad to report many of my classmates, including me, support Kerry for President,” I said to an organizer.
“I’m so happy to hear that. You can’t imagine how many angry swift-boat types are telling lies about his medals in this campaign. Please inform them of the gross distortions they have made of his record. Here’s a leaflet describing the dirty tricks campaign they launched,” she said.
Kerry’s presidential campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that ads from an anti-Kerry veterans’ group are inaccurate and “illegally coordinated” with Republicans and the Bush-Cheney campaign. Swift Boat Veterans For Truth claimed to quote from Kerry's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971: “They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads,” “randomly shot at civilians,” and “razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Kahn.”
The ad deceptively ignored Kerry's preface, recounting that he was reporting what others said at a Vietnam veteran’s conference. An official transcript showed that Kerry had been referring to a meeting in Detroit, Michigan, part of what was called the “Winter Soldier” investigation. He told the Senate committee that veterans had testified to war crimes and relived the “absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.”
In the swift boat commercials, former sailors falsely accused Kerry of lying in order to receive two of his five combat decorations, a Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star. The ad featured a sailor who commanded one of five swift boats in the Mekong Delta during an incident March 13, 1969. Kerry was decorated and that sailor had earned a Bronze Star in that incident, yet said “Kerry's boat fled after a mine crippled another boat and was not under enemy fire when he returned to rescue an Army officer knocked overboard by a second mine that detonated nearby.” In contrast the Navy citation for the sailor’s Bronze Star stated “All units began receiving enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks.”
Kerry also received a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts for other actions the ad overlooked. The Navy's letter awarding him the Bronze Star stated he exhibited “great personal courage under fire” in rescuing an Army Green Beret Lieutenant, who recommended Kerry for the decoration and who has publicly disputed the sailor’s account. He said Kerry wrote the report that was the basis for the citation even though another officer, Lt. Cmdr. George Elliot, signed the document.
In response the Kerry campaign published its own ad that featured the Green Beret Lt., a registered Republican, saying Kerry saved his life, “All these Viet Cong were shooting at me, I expected I'd be shot. When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine.”
I feared the Republican deceptive tricks could detract from Kerry’s campaign and mislead the public. At this time our eldest son was a resident neurosurgeon at Case Western University Hospital and participated in organizing the “Doctor’s for Kerry” group in Cleveland. He and his wife, a resident pediatrician at the same hospital, had first row seats for Kerry’s final speech before Election Day. These hopeful family members with others tried their best to counter the Bush-Cheney-Rove machine ironically in the very city where I was indoctrinated in failed Vietnam policies. I thought our country faced a moment of immense importance. Could these false advertisements mislead enough people to allow the Bush administration to continue ravaging the Middle East and expose our military to more needless death while the depleting the treasury of the reserves the Clinton presidency established with a balanced budget? Isn’t this as bad as Vietnam? Kerry reminded us during his speech before the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations April 23, 1971, “Someone has to die so that President Nixon won't be, and these are his words, 'The first President to lose a war.' We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
How appropriate were those words to the conflict in Iraq? How can the American people be misled by presidents and their administrations who so flagrantly trample upon the cherished principles of honesty, integrity, and the concept that war is always the last resort when all peaceful avenues have been exhausted? I was outraged when I learned that the Gulf of Tonkin resolution fabricated a phantom attack on the high seas to a docile and believing Congress in order to escalate the Vietnam debacle that sent more than 58,000 of our military to their death, not to mention the two million Vietnamese killed. Here we go again in Iraq I thought, unless the American people can withstand the fraudulent Republican campaign that will use any artifice to maintain their hammerlock on power.
Convinced because the Bush administration had committed themselves to “Shock and Awe” in the beginning of this war they were the single most dangerous crowd on earth, I recalled a famous Mahatma Gandhi quotation: “The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles.” Gandhi's words fit the Bush-Cheney-Rove team like a glove. My civil rights background, years of struggling against mean-spirited people and institutions like the military, flashed before me as a reminder that all of us must do whatever we can to prevent powerful forces from destroying values we cherish in our society. If Bush won the election, I thought a most disastrous future awaited the world for the next four years. While I enjoyed the wonderful tailgate party, not even the aroma of garlic, herbs, fresh oysters and clam chowder and Bloody Mary cocktails, deflected me from my feeling of doom hanging over the upcoming election like a tidal wave ready to sweep away the gentle people committed to non-violence.
(Joan , Dan, and Kathy Lyndon at Tecumseh Statue taken by Denny Lyndon--click to zoom)