By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE – Go ahead, look up at that picture. Study it closely. It will tell you a lot about who you are and which side you are on in this country strewn by an endless and vicious cycle of subdivisions.
The picture has been making the rounds on Facebook a lot lately. What makes it intriguing in Meme World is that is a missile deployed by both supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and those diametrically opposed – supporters of Donald Trump.
Sanders is on the left — naturally (wink) — getting arrested during a Civil Rights protest in Chicago, where he attended college. Trump is on the right, donning a military-style uniform that has medals attached to the chest (and it is not from his “college years,” as the labeling suggests).
Sanders people will say that their man was standing up for others, instead of attending a folk hootenanny and calling it a college experience. Trump backers will say that Sander was a malcontent while their man must have been in the military – perhaps serving in Vietnam – while hippies hid behind their fake morals and causes.
Well, every picture tells a story, and these two pictures – melded into one – tell a story as well.
And here it is.
While Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was campaigning for segregationist Barry Goldwater at the time, Sanders was fighting for Civil Rights and rightfully wears that past proudly. The picture is real. And the arrest – for disorderly conduct and a $25 fine — is listed in newspaper clippings.
The picture was snapped during a 1963 rally against segregation in Chicago, which was in line with Sanders leading a rally against draconian segregating campus housing policies. Sanders, a student organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), was passionate enough about this cause to be on the front lines on the home front.
Trump, contrary to what a lot of people would like to believe, never came close to a battlefield – whether in Vietnam or on the streets of a nation as divided by black and white as he has helped make it again with his presidential run.
The son of a wealthy Nazi sympathizer and closet Klansman, Trump was so misbehaved that he was shipped off to military school – the New York Military Academy (NYMA) – for eighth grade and kept there in high school.
At NYMA, he played dress up and marched around enough to be called a “captain.” Hence, the above picture – and “punch-me, please” smirk.
While he has arrogantly claimed to have emerged from this glorified reform school for rich kids more prepared for war than “most in the military,” he curiously avoided Vietnam with Houdini-like prowess.
Declared medically eligible in 1966, Trump received four student deferments while attending Fordham. In 1968, when the time came to show off his soldiering skills, he suddenly developed “bone spurs” in one – or both – feet (he can’t seem to remember).
“I actually got lucky because I got a high draft number,” he has since been quoted as saying.
No doubt he did. Money buys a lot in this country. It even buys you the ability to magically “get lucky” – which those who served, or who lost loved ones, should be deeply offended — but then have the gall to turn around and pander to veterans for support with a empty “Make American Great Again” slogan.
The thing is this, though. Who cares?
Our culture tends to judge the man by what war he fought and deduct testosterone points if he didn’t (even if, like Barack Obama, there was no war in which to serve during the “man-up” years).
In case you haven’t guessed, I am supporting Sanders for president. And while his past of being on the right side of history at almost every turn makes for a nice back story, it is more about what he is standing for in the present – with visions of a less dismal future for coming generations — that has made more passionate about a presidential candidate as I ever been in my five decades on the planet.
I believe Trump has appealed to the lowest common denominator among the American populace, ripping some pages out of Adolph Hitler’s shameful playbook, and that’s just unacceptable (Plus, I developed a strong dislike for the guy when he ruined the USFL back in the 1980s.).
I would rather see former Eagles’ coach Rich Kotite elected president over Trump, but it has little to do with what did or didn’t do during the war.
Anyone who served in Vietnam was a pawn in a game, poor kids offering themselves up as sacrificial lambs at the behest of their rich masters. It was not the World War of their fathers and uncles. It was an ugly and needless war.
But in that place and time, in that moment, there was not much choice for some but to go when called. And we have no choice but to thank them for their service and try and comprehend what they endured.
Anyone who didn’t serve was being just as brave, just in a different way. Sanders was a conscientious objector, and does not pull a Fred Astaire – like Trump, with the rotating bone spurs — when asked. He didn’t believe in the war, but does not disrespect those who served. He has a long history in government of standing up for the rights of veterans – often working across the aisle with Republicans – to back that up.
How veterans support Trump but not Sanders amazes me as much as how blacks, especially in the South, can support Clinton over a man like Sanders, who attended the 1963 march on Washington and was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.
Trump? Well, as outlined above, it’s a little murky what he was all about back then. While it should not change to much in the present, we are in some serious perception and reality terrain and we could use a GPS to find our way out of Meme Hell. It should be cause for pause for anyone looking at the picture above with an objective eye.
I admit I don’t have one, but I will tell you what I see.
I see Sanders as the hero here, not Trump. I will choose wisely.
If Trump went to war, and served admirably, different story. He seemingly hid behind daddy’s checkbook and got deferments. If you think that’s OK, what you are really saying is that Civil Rights – Sanders’ war at home — was not a just cause.
And that is why America was not great then, or now, and won’t be until we face that reality and deal with it.