#204 – Dick Bernard: The "War Parties"?

A recent e-mail conversation on my own e-list has been focusing on the general question: “poll [the others on the list] and see which branch of the War Party they belong to: the Republicans or Democrats…?
So, I asked the question, and got a range of responses.
If only things were so simple as labeling a group and then dismissing everyone in the group because of the label stuck to it….
Since I opened shop on this blog in March, 2009, I’ve identified myself as a “moderate pragmatic Democrat”. So, what does this mean in my own real world?
Tuesday night I attended – and volunteered at – a very successful summer picnic for our local Senate legislative district. It was a gathering for Democrats, and there were several hundred of us there. Every major candidate for Minnesota state and local offices showed up at the picnic and spoke. Those who found themselves scheduled in two or three or more places at once (there were a couple) sent others to represent them. These candidates are impressive people, ready to do the adult work that governing our complex society demands.
You would have seen me around the picnic. I stood out for a couple of reasons: I was wearing my DFL Senior Caucus t-shirt (I’m active in that recognized Democratic Party caucus); and I was also wearing my Veterans for Peace cap (I’m a member of that group as well), on which is affixed a button saying I “vote in honor of a veteran“, in my case, “my vote honors” Uncle Frank Bernard, who went down with the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. At the Secretary of State’s website I have written tributes to two WWII veterans, Marvin Campbell and Lynn Elling.
But in my case, it would be pretty hard to typecast me (and I think I’m a pretty typical person, Democrat, Republican or otherwise.) I’m something of a typical Democrat, I guess.
I would never have learned about Veterans for Peace, had I not been among the 6% of the American public in October, 2001, who challenged our going to war against Afghanistan (I could see no good coming out of the bombing, and I still can’t.) Yes, I was part of only 6%…it was a very, very lonely time.
Yes, most Democratic Representatives in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives supported this War, probably because they were like most people back then. Their decision, while I think it was foolish, was born out of personal conviction that it was the right thing to do at the time. In addition, it was likely a political “death wish” to vote against War then…and even now…people aren’t very well educated for Peace.
Tuesday night, none of the speakers focused on, or even mentioned to my recollection, things like “war”, “terrorists”, the like. Mostly they focused on concerns that ordinary people have today: jobs, education, environment, health care. Things like that horrible catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico tend to divert attention from other issues…and there are a lot of other issues in addition to the War issue.
The next afternoon I visited with a friend who’s been hospitalized a long time, about to be moved to an extended care home for hoped for rehabilitation. While I was there, his sons came in, and talk got around to Peace issues – Verlyn is an old-school peace activist.
One son suggested that the risk of death for American soldiers in Afghanistan is less than getting killed in Washington D.C. and he was probably right. The other said today’s kids don’t have to risk being drafted, and they are constantly entertained, and not easily made to be interested in stuff like killing fields in far away places. Neither son was raising comments to ‘bait’ anyone; they were simply observations, which anti-War folks dismiss at peril. They gave me another insight about justifying war these days. If you can forget about collateral damage: never-ending psychological consequences of being in war, destruction of other peoples, destruction of our own economy, destruction of a sense of global good-will, war can be justified as relatively cheap and even safe. Plus, it is a good source of jobs. The anti-War movements marketing pitch needs to be very seriously looked at. Preaching to the choir is not good enough.
The War issue is, I would suggest, a very, very complicated issue…there are few around now who actively promote War, and similarly very few who think War is a useful way to resolve problems or assure our future.
But that picnic on Tuesday was full of people like myself, who either are veterans themselves, or know people in their own family or other circles who have served in the military.
I reject the notion that the Democratic Party is simply a version of the “War Party”.
The Republicans and everyone else can speak for themselves.
Posts for June 25 and June 27 directly relate to this topic.