When the last colliery in the Region closed in 1954, my father borrowed several thousand dollars to pay the bribe necessary to gain entry to the Steamfitters Union. The nearest construction work was far away in Westchester County, New York. My father worked on various construction jobs in Westchester, commuting home only on weekends, until he retired in the late 1970s.
When I got to be a teenager, my father was able to pull strings to get me work as a helper on construction. One of the regular journeyman plumbers I used to work with was a thin, depressive Polish guy, named Walter Something-ski.
Walter was always complaining about how rough he’d had it as a prisoner of war in WWII. Walter had been an infantryman in the 28th Division. The 28th Division was roughly handled and finally overrun during the Battle of the Bulge by Hasso von Manteuffel’s 5th Panzer Army, and Walter was one of many Americans who surrendered and became prisoners.
Walter felt that former prisoners of war, like himself, deserved greater recognition for their war-time sufferings. He thought there ought to be a special POW medal. And he was always talking about his terrible POW experiences and complaining about the POW’s post-war lack of status and recognition. Walter felt he ought to be getting a special pension for having been kept in captivity by the Germans behind barbed wire.
My father was the wrong guy to ask for sympathy. And when Walter would start bitching, my father used to rib him mercilessly in response. My father would tell Walter that, “In the Marine Corps, we were told we were not supposed to surrender.” Or, he’d say, “What are you complaining about? You were safe, being fed, living indoors, and nobody was shooting at you.” Or, my father would say, “If you didn’t like it there, why didn’t you do what you were supposed to do and escape?” Walter would exhibit frustration and do a visible slow burn of indignation but, as I expect WWII proved, Walter was not much of a fighter, and my father was a very tough hombre, so Walter never dared to express his resentment of my dad’s remarks in any more direct way.
I was, of course, reminded of my father’s lack of sympathy for poor old Walter by Donald Trump’s unkind recent remarks concerning John McCain.
In Ames, Iowa, Republican pollster Frank
Luntz had asked Trump about his reaction to McCainâ€™s comment that Trump had stirred up the â€œcraziesâ€ with his candidacy. When Trump attacked McCain, Luntz asked if Trump was comfortable with that kind of criticism of a war hero.
â€œHeâ€™s not a war hero,â€ said Trump. â€œHe was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who werenâ€™t captured.â€
Commentators on the left and on the Right, Republicans and democrats, responded by jumping gleefully on the Donald, declaring his candidacy over on the basis of this particular remark.
Of course, nobody, except possibly Donald Trump himself, has ever expected Trump to become the Republican Presidential Nominee in 2016.
And, despite all the old ladies of both sexes throwing up their skirts over their faces at such an outrageous and unseemly exhibition of indecorum, I expect a lot of Americans find it more than a little refreshing to have one candidate out there who shoots from the hip, who says what he thinks, and who refuses to be careful not cross any controversial politically correct lines.
Yes, I think Trump was being a bit unfair to poor old John McCain who did suffer all sorts of genuine torture and abuse at the hands of those communist bastards in North Vietnam but, after all, a few unkind words from Donald Trump are pretty small potatoes compared to being turned down for the presidency in favor of a community agitator state senator with no actual record of accomplishment whatsoever whose claim to the chief magistracy of the nation was based purely upon the color of his skin. I’d say 69.5 million American voters insulted John McCain a lot more seriously in 2008.
And, then, too, points for John McCain’s Vietnam prisoner-of-war sufferings eventually run out. McCain used them up extravagantly over the years by being the US Senate’s leading Republican sell-out and by betraying Conservatism and the GOP again and again and again in every major legislative confrontation. Personally, I’m pretty much out of gratitude for John McCain’s Vietnam services.