Quotes from the novel “Goodbye Vietnam”

Yesterday, I finished reading Goodbye Vietnam, a firsthand account of the Vietnam War and post-war Vietnam by William Broyles, who fought in Vietnam in 1969-70 as a junior officer, then returned 15 years later to visit the places in which he commanded Marines and also to meet some of the Vietnamese he had first fought as enemies. Goodbye Vietnam comes off as a genuine and honest account of a war that has become a less-than-stellar part of our history. 

This isn’t a particularly long account, but I can say I learned more about the war and Vietnam as a nation than any other source I have ever studied. Following are a collection of quotes that more or less jumped off the pages as I was reading.

Perhaps there is nothing less egalitarian than a Commuinist society, where privilege determines everything.

My men grew up in Vietnam. There are many better ways to do it — but few faster. College, in stark contrast, was a means of prolonged adolescence.

The gap between the task and the means to solve it was ludicrously wide.

Patrol went up the mountain. One man came back. He died before he could tell us what happened.

On neither side did the people win: the war won, and kept on winning. That is the price of a war in which the people, not land, are the battleground. To win that kind of war requires a special weapon—a moral certainty so strong as to make the suffering of individuals invisible.

In defense of Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon has long been one of my political heroes, and it pains me that his name is routinely maligned. Rarely does anyone come to his defense.

When President Trump fired James Comey last week as FBI director, the #fakenews media & Democrats conjured up their trite comparisons the the Watergate scandal and called the maneuver “Nixonian.” But does anyone really know Richard Nixon?

President Nixon is most famous for the scandal which ultimately toppled his presidency, forcing him to resign in the second year of his second term in office.

Richard Nixon was a great American, a brilliant man who pursued communists relentlessly as a congressman. He later served as President Eisenhower’s vice-president. Nixon lost a very close election to JFK in 1960, primarily because JFK presented himself better on TV. At that point, Richard Nixon’s political career appeared over.

But it wasn’t over. He won two landslide presidential elections in 1968 and 1972. And then the bottom fell out.

I’m not making excuses for his actions in the Watergate scandal. We all have our demons, and President Nixon certainly had his. In the end, Nixon’s demons (and two busybody Washington Post reporters) got the best of him.

Watergate is regarded as the mother of all presidential scandals, at least in my lifetime. But it has been overblown. We have had two presidents since Nixon who have made the 37th president seem like a piker.

We had one president accused of rape or sexual assault by numerous women. (He and his wife were also associated with a lot of people who have died from “mysterious causes.”) Yes, President Clinton was ultimately impeached (unlike Nixon) for perjury, but Watergate is still everyone’s favorite scandal. The Clinton impeachment has been largely forgotten.

We also just had a president who corruption was big league compared to Nixon. President Obama did things Nixon could only dream about (using the IRS to harass political opponents, for example). There was also the “Fast & Furious” scandal, which more or less involved the sale of firearms to Mexican drug cartels and resulted in people losing their lives. And there’s also this matter regarding President Obama tapping the phone lines at Trump Tower last year (and sounds a lot like Watergate). Any one of these alone would have damaged, if not toppled a Republican presidency.

The #fakenews media want so badly to relive their glory days of the early 1970’s when they helped bring down a Republican president. That’s why they’re pulling out all the stops to paint the Trump administration in the same light as Nixon. But there’s one thing standing the their way: the truth. President Trump and his administration are as clean as they come. There are no actual scandals, so #fakenews and Democrats have to manufacture them instead. That’s how desperate they are. And in the process, they have become the very monster that Richard Nixon has come to symbolize to them.

The Ogle Place

Situated just a couple of miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee on the Cherokee Orchard Road in the foothills of the Smokies, you will find the homestead of Noah Ogle. Ogle was a farmer who lived here during the late 19th and early 20th century. His cabin and barn still exist, and are maintained by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. His homestead is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Ogle home is an example of a “saddleback,” two one-room cabins separated by a common chimney. In terms of square footage, there isn’t much, but I’m guessing the place was quite pleasant during winter and tolerable in summer. Seeing how ordinary people once lived in these parts is a quick reminder that life used to be a whole lot harder than it is now.

Protecting the ones who pay the bills

One of the books I am currently reading is a biography of James Madison, penned by none other than Lynne Cheney (wife of the former Vice President). It is a fascinating read. Most well-written biographies of our Founders and Framers are. I am not yet a third of the way through, just now getting to the part where the Constitution is ratified.

James Madison was one of the writer of the Federalist Papers, written after the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in order to win support for the newly-framed document as it navigated the waters of ratification. One of the quotes that caught my attention asserts,

“[I]n Federalist 10 he emphasized the owning or not owning of property as a source of faction. A stable and just society required that property owners and creditors, though they be a minority, have governmental arrangements that protected their rights….”

In present-day parlance, government has the obligation to put the rights of the ones paying the bills ahead of the rights of those who are receiving “free” stuff. Except that’s not how it works anymore. Unfortunately, American society has devolved to the point that those receiving “free” stuff are allowed to dictate the terms, with the Democrat Party serving as the vehicle.

Take the Affordable Care Act. Republicans just won an election partly on the premise of repealing this behemoth. Democrats are hosting rallies in various cities where protestors are demanding that Donald Trump and the GOP not take away their health care. This is the victim class that is continually paraded around as justification for keeping the “free” stuff in place.

No thought is ever given to the family that just saw its health care premiums double or triple, with a corresponding decrease in benefits. No thought is ever given to the employees who have had their hours cut or entrepreneurs who have had to shutter their businesses because of the prohibitive cost of ObamaCare.

This is immoral. If you are a taxpayer who actually pays for the entitlement programs Democrats have dreamed up, your voice really ought to be heard before the voices of the ones who don’t pay. Even if the ones carrying the load are a minority, their rights and the products of their labor ought to come first. If you are a recipient and you don’t like this mindset, then figure out how you can become a producer. Otherwise, your voice ought to be heard last.

It turns out the Stoics have gotten a bad reputation

I stumbled upon a recent article in the UK Guardian regarding the ancient Stoics. I remember briefly learning about the Stoics in high school, probably when we read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar my sophomore year. About all we were told about the Stoics was that their philosophy told them not to get too optimistic during good times and not too pessimistic during hard times. And that was it. So I’ve always stereotyped the Stoics as being humorless, emotionless robots completely devoid of passion (sort of like your average liberal).

How wrong I was.

Stoicism is a school of philosophy which was founded in Athens in the early 3rd century and then progressed to Rome, where it became a pragmatic way of addressing life’s problems. The central message is, we don’t control what happens to us; we control how we respond.

The Stoics were really writing and thinking about one thing: how to live. The questions they asked were not arcane or academic but practical and real. “What do I do about my anger?” “What do I do if someone insults me?” “I’m afraid to die; why is that?” “How can I deal with the difficult situations I face?” “How can I deal with the success or power I hold?”

Leave it up to the foreign media to come up with a decent article. Also, soon to be added to my reading list is Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

Our vanishing veterans

A little more than 5 years ago, on February 27, 2011, a gentleman by the name of Frank Buckles died at the age of 110 years. He was the last living American veteran from World War I.

It has been sixty years since Albert Henry Woolson passed on at the age of 106 years. He died on August 2, 1956 and was the last undisputed veteran of the Civil War, having fought on the Union side.

Lemuel Cook was one of the last remaining Revolutionary War veterans when he passed on May 20, 1866 at 106 years. He lived long enough to be photographed as an old man. He was one of only four Revolutionary War veterans to witness both the start of that war and the end of the Civil War.

We are now quickly losing our World War II veterans. A man who turned 18 in 1945, the year that war ended, will be turning 90 years old next year.

And our Vietnam War veterans are the age my grandparents were when I was a child. (I am now 46.) A man who turned 18 in 1975, the year we pulled our last troops out of Vietnam, turns 60 next year.

Gulf War veterans are now my age. Although we aren’t disappearing yet in large numbers, thankfully, we are old enough to be parents of grown children, and some of us are no doubt becoming grandparents.