It’s not very often that I have political conversations with my father. We don’t see eye-to-eye on many things and far too often the concept of “peaceful civil disagreement” goes out the window and the debate ends in swearing and insults – but shockingly this one turned out fairly peaceful. My father – while smart enough to see through and not support the Republican Party – is most certainly a conservative by every definition of the word, except for the fact that he doesn’t hold mythical beliefs from the late Bronze Age Judea, a.k.a. Christianity. But even though he is not a religious man himself, he will defend Christians in the most random and outright hypocritical ways. For example, it’s ok for him to make puns about religion and invisible people in the clouds, but it’s not ok for a public school to “take Jesus out” of an institution that is supposed to be a place of academics and learning, not religion. No, because then it’s the “liberal agenda” at work. But I digress. We were having a conversation today over the phone about how the mainstream media is not covering the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, and instead covering the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela. I have my own views on this matter which I will discuss subsequently, but the conversation quickly took a sporadic turn in another direction and we began discussing propaganda and the media which led to an entirely different and borderline-frustrating conversation about what my father felt was “Good and bad propaganda” and veterans being used in propaganda to promote a war cause. That hit a nerve with me because my father never served in combat, let alone any branch of the military. He was naive and ignorant from his viewpoint and as a veteran myself, not a combat veteran, but a veteran who has quite a few close friends who are combat vets and has personally seen the effects of war on them, I was completely unable to express any way for him to comprehend why his viewpoint was incorrect, insensitive, and illogical.
Before I get into this conversation, let me give a little background on myself, in order to put some things in perspective. Personally, I hate to categorize myself politically. On many topics I am most definitely liberal; on many others I am conservative. I find that my political beliefs are tuned just right… due to my ability to piss off liberals and conservatives alike. I have a good track record of pissing off libertarians, anarchists, voluntarysts, and agorists as well. All that being said, my outlook on life was not always as diverse as it is today. I was raised conservatively and brought up thinking that there should be “moral” guidelines that we should follow as a society (conservative moral guidelines) and that liberals were the cause of the decline of America. In a nutshell, I was groomed to be overly sensitive and to take offense to everything – a typical conservative outlook. Obviously those views were arrogant, backward, naive, and flat-out incorrect, but being a naive kid who always tried to see the good in people, I was very easily lied to and had a tendency to believe those lies as being correct. People, including my family, often took advantage of my innocent ways in order to get over on certain things. This was a direct result of my early life; of growing up being indoctrinated into ways of thinking that were not – and still aren’t – reality. I do understand those “lies” were not meant to be sinister, but rather to shield me from what my parents deemed to be negative. However it created a deeply naive mentality that I would pay for in spades, not only as a teenager, but when I left my house and became my own person. Luckily for me, I joined the U.S. Coast Guard almost immediately after high school and would spend the next 7 years completely re-molding my outlook on life, based on my own experiences. I can say with complete honesty that even though I loathed the USCG, it is because of my time in the service that I became person I am today, with my own set of ideas and values. For that I couldn’t be more grateful.
So, I get a phone call today from my father. I immediately knew what the topic of conversation was going to be before I even picked up the phone: “Nobody is covering the anniversary of December 7th, but everyone is covering Nelson Mandela.” I see his point and I most definitely understand it. As far as Nelson Mandela goes, I knew only very basic information about the man before he died. Most of what I knew was positive; ending apartheid, establishing a free and democratic government for South Africa, etc. However there were some negative things I had heard from some South African friends of mine who absolutely despised the man. And no it’s not because he was black, they actually did have some fair and legitimate gripes against him, but that was all I knew about the man. It wasn’t until he died and I saw so many strong opinions of the man online that I researched his past and discovered that his past involved the torture and murder of many innocent people. Either way, Nelson Mandela never played a role in my life: I’m not South African, I will probably never go to South Africa and I just have no interest in taking a side, pro or con, about the man. All I want is honesty. If Mandela did commit acts of violence against innocents, no matter how few, they must not be swept under the rug – otherwise the people who claim to be “peace-loving liberals” are hypocrites.
December 7th, Nelson Mandela, My Father and Nuances Between Veterans and Civilians
As I’m talking to my father about the Pearl Harbor attack, as well as what the media is not telling people about Mandela, the whole time I’m speaking with him I am trying to figure out how to put into words: “Well, how many years should we remember December 7, 1941?” – in a way that would not seem arrogant – and would be easy for him to logically compute. I mean, we don’t still hold a grudge against Spain for the sinking of the USS Maine. At what point do we let bygones be bygones? The September 11th attacks happened in my lifetime, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in 70-100 years the events of September 11, 2001 will be completely irrelevant to the future generations. It’s inevitable that the sands of time will one day swallow everything and everyone. Nothing matters given enough time. As I’m trying to figure out how to word this, he takes the conversation in a different direction and starts talking about propaganda and how it’s used in todays media. I tell him that propaganda has always been used in the media (which he knows) and I jokingly start making a quick-talking, emotionless, slightly nasally 1940’s newscaster’s voice saying, “And there’s our boys getting ready to go fight the Japs. Be sure to buy your war bonds, our boys need all the help they can get. Go get ’em boys!” Which got my father defensive, thinking I was talking bad about the veterans, and he began the whole “WWII was a different war and we needed the propaganda” nonsense. I began telling my father just how harmful propaganda is, not only for the people watching it, but for the veterans who come home from some of the most traumatic experiences imaginable and have to deal with naive civilians who don’t know any better and call the vets things like “heroes” and want to hear war stories, and think that the killing these veterans did was this great honor, when in fact, it will haunt some of these men until the day they die. My father did not understand one iota of what I was trying to get across. He began mocking me a little, which is always frustrating to deal with, especially when the person you are dealing with is acting willfully ignorant – on top of being woefully unknowledgable of the topic at hand to begin with.
In a last-ditch effort to see if he could understand, I began telling him about Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle of Guadalcanal. I explained to my father that this man was one day involved in intense combat, and literally a few days later was being paraded around in the States as a war hero. I tried explaining how using him – or any other veteran for that matter – as a prop or poster boy after they had just gotten out of combat days before is psychologically damaging and causes intense feelings of guilt and depression and that it is selfish and wrong to do that to anyone – especially when you are doing it to promote a war that 99% of those witnessing these war-promoting-spectacles will never have to fight. For those who don’t know, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone returned to the Pacific theater upon his own request and was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima. I explained these factors to my father with absolutely no headway whatsoever. At that point it hit me that he was completely incapable of understanding what I was talking about.
I am not a combat veteran, but again, several of my close friends are. I’ve seen them before and after deployments, I’ve heard and seen their struggles with guilt and PTSD, as well as physical wounds. My father has not witnessed this personally, nor has anyone else in my family. And to take it a step further, neither have most of the people in this country. So while it’s frustrating, it makes sense why they could not fathom that which they do not know.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
It would appear the old “out of sight, out of mind” saying seems to be proven true yet again in regards to how people view the world. My father, who never really got to experience the world outside of his upbringing, wants everything to be how it was when he was a kid in the 1960’s. He will never understand, nor care to understand why the world changes – he just wants the world to fit his criteria – and it won’t. He is completely unwilling to adapt to and accept the fact that the world is in a constant state of change and that what made sense yesterday doesn’t make sense today… and what makes sense today may not make sense tomorrow. In closing, this isn’t a hit piece on my father – it is an observation. I don’t consider my father a bad guy by any means, but his stubbornness and willful denial on many topics drives me absolutely insane. But he is who he is, and I know he doesn’t mean harm on anyone, I just wish he would open his mind more – because he actually is quite interesting to speak with when his walls aren’t up.
Author: Jay Gondolfo is a 6 year Coast Guard veteran who has a love for personal freedom, esoteric/occult studies, offensive and intellectual comedy, and music.
Contact Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org