"The War" and the greatest generation
This rant has turned out to be something completely different than originally planned. I planned for it to be about "liberal hipster" straight slacker white boys/girls who think they have the right to use words: homo, fag, dyke, lez, etc. in their blogs and on their bulletin boards and every other place this type congregates. But then I thought, "Jeez, why do I want to waste space and time giving them exposure, when that's exactly the kind of thing they love since they're all about putting everything about their lives online minute-by-minute so they can then discuss how clever they think they are?" Not bloody likely!
Therefore, I will not contribute to the madness. Here it is short and to the point: Hey, you, straight slacker boys/girls: you know how you think it's okay to use words like fag, and homo and dyke and lez and queen, and make jokes about gay sex, because you think you're liberal, and—SCORE—you might actually even know a genuine homosexual? (The straight white liberal badge of honor.) Well, sorry to burst your collective bad-hair/bad fashion bubble, but you can't. You're not a member of the club, so you simply do not have the right to do this.
It's not clever and it's not witty; it's offensive. (Whether you mean it offensively or not, that's not the point.) How do I know? Because I AM a dyke—something I can refer to myself as, but you can't. Get it? So stop it. Stop doing it on your blogs and bulletin boards and myspace pages and facebook entries, bars in my neighborhood, etc.
And if you DO have gay friends who see/hear you do this and they don't tell you to stop it? They should be ashamed of themselves and deserve to have their cards taken away, because they're traitors who should be calling you out on it every single time and trying to make you understand why it's wrong instead of doing nothing. Like France.
Oh, one last point: leave Elton John alone. Yes, he's a complete overblown mess now, but he's OUR mess. So lay off—unless you just want to talk about his music, and not refer to his gayness in any way, shape or form. (No, not even the cover of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," sorry. Again, club-membership-only privilege.) The End.
Since that's out of the way, and I have more space to fill, as an homage to Ken Burns' totally bitchin' documentary about World War II, "The War," I'm reprinting an edited entry I originally did on the 60th anniversary of the first atomic bomb being dropped on Japan. The original title was "Broken Hearts and Atomic Bombs," as I managed to relate having my heart broken to having an atomic bomb dropped on you. A tad overdramatic, but hey, what else is new? Besides, I was thoroughly heartbroken at the time. But now I'm not, so here's a reworked version, focusing on my parents and their generation. Consider it a real-life-type appendix to "The War."
I'd like to talk about the generation that fought and won World War II 60 years ago. Tom Brokaw calls them "the greatest generation," and while I agree, I think he's kind of a wanker so I don't want to use that term. But the fact is, this generation--my parents, who I spent much of my life disdaining--went through more, endured more, and did more for the world than I think any other generation has since then. Or may ever do.
The depression hits not long after most of them are born. So if they did have money all of sudden it's gone, and pretty much everybody's poor. Things looked like they might be getting a little better, and then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. (Without declaring war first, the fuckers.) So after having eaten mayonnaise sandwiches for dinner much of their lives, they now have to go fight and die in a long and brutal war, the last justifiable one, I might add, to rescue the world from, well basically from evil, as trite as that sounds.
I think I'm one of the few people who had two parents who were in the service in WW II. My mother was from a fairly wealthy family, who--even if her father hadn't dropped dead from a heart attack a few days before the depression hit--basically lost most of their money after the Crash. With college out of the question, she instead became a nurse. (Back then you didn't need a degree to be an RN.) The war broke out during her training, and as soon as she was an RN, she joined the Navy.
She served at Pearl Harbor from early 1942 to the end of the War. Judging from her pictures (many are here), this wasn't exactly what you'd call "hard duty" for her. She spent a lot of non work time going to parties and dances and getting engaged three times; the last time to my father. But she did work hard, and she had to find out men she knew, men that maybe she had danced with the month before, had been killed or were now missing.
My father went to the Naval Academy and graduated before (probably 1934 or 35) America entered the war. After graduation he joined the Marines and became a pilot. Unfortunately he died before I had a real interest in what he did when he was in the military so I never spoke to him about it. I have been able to piece together some facts from old photos, press clippings and his "souvenir" books.
I do know that back when America was supposed to be neutral (a result of the large isolationist movement after WWI) during the second Sino-Japanese War, my father was flying huge cargo planes in and out of China. Loaded with what? I have no idea, and seeing as the American military was not supposed to be helping the Chinese at all, I'm not sure this may even appear on his service record, after I try to order it from the department of defense.
He spent WWII as a pilot, for the most part flying huge DC3 cargo planes. I know that in 1943 he was flying in and out of Henderson Field—something they talk a lot about in "The War," or anything that refers to the war in the Pacific—when and after the Allies had retaken the Solomon Islands. Cargo included everything from vegetables to casualties to hand grenades. (Yeah, I'd like to be behind the wheel of a flying behemoth loaded with explosives of any kind.)
Here's a quote from his hometown newspaper, a story dated June 24, 1943: "...His Marine group suffered heavy casualties in their first six weeks of operation in the war zone, but the survivors carried on. . .The group was the first ever to carry casualties from a combat zone in a commercial-type aircraft. Walsh flew 91 wounded out of Guadalcanal in a single day."
My father was only 28 years old, and he was flying wounded soldiers to safety while people were trying to shoot down his plane. Do you know what I was doing when I was 28? From what I remember, going to clubs, working crappy jobs to try to keep a band together and surviving partially on infusions of cash every now and then from my father. I would venture to guess that, except for people older than me who fought in Vietnam, most of my generation would have variations of this same fairly lame and non-earth-shattering answer.
I mentioned previously that I spent many of my teen/young adult years disdaining my parents, which I think was normal. And while I did get over that a long time ago, and I have started to understand more about them and what they did, I still never thanked them. So on this 60th anniversary of the end of WWII, I'd like to thank the greatest generation. For what they did for me and for what they did for our country and for the world as a whole. (You can see more pictures of my parents in and out of the military here, in "Family Gallery.") Thank you.
So next time you find yourself whining as I have this week about how people really suck (seriously, don't even get me fucking started...) or how you hate your job, remember to keep it all in perspective. Sure, maybe things aren't great, but at least you're not seeing your friends get blown up, you're not flying a huge plane while people are shooting at you, you're not on a death march from Bataan. Chances are you still have it pretty good. I mean, you're sitting at a computer wasting time reading this, right?