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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mutual Sacrifice

Bob Herbert in today’s (11/23/10) NY Times reflects on the meaning of JFK’s candidacy, inaugural and presidency, as short as it was.

Herbert: “What Kennedy hoped to foster was a renewed sense of national purpose in which shared values were reinforced in an atmosphere of heightened civic participation and mutual sacrifice.”

As so many have pointed out over the years, we are currently engaged in fighting two wars that directly affect only a small percentage of US citizens—those doing the fighting--troops, support forces and commanders-- and their families, relatives and friends.

Nobody has asked us to do much of anything to support these troops. They were hardly mentioned during the 2010 mid-term elections. No controversy?

At this time of Thanksgiving I like to remember what my parents did during WWII:

1. Used ration stamps for food and gasoline

2. Flattened tin cans and contributed them

3. Conserved water, especially in the bathroom

4. Dug and cultivated Victory Gardens

In addition, my mother, Elizabeth Barell, knitted black watch caps for sailors on the deadly convoy runs from NYC (or Norfolk) to England and/or Russia. Remember these were convoys of cargo vessels carrying much-needed war supplies that were stalked by Nazi U-boat wolf packs. Thousands lost their lives in terrible explosions from torpedoes.

She donated blood on 26 January 1944 and 27 June 1945.

And, finally, like her father, she became what we might today call an air-raid warden, trained to spot enemy planes over her community, Hartsdale, NY. She became an “authorized member of the Air Defense Command Filter Center Staff” in White Plains, NY, not far from our home. This card was “Not Transferable,” which means, I guess, that she had special training that could not be passed on to my father or others.

Today, what have we been asked to do?

Former-President Bush said he thought we were sacrificing because we have to take off our shoes in the airports, and now we go through full body scans to reach our destinations.

President Obama hasn’t asked us to do anything in terms of “mutual sacrifice” that I can identify. We hardly ever hear about these wars.

The point, I think, is that we have men and women implementing our foreign policy in two distant countries where in one, Afghanistan, we’re spending upwards of 1.6 billion a week and we’re not paying for it.

Former Senator Alan Simpson (Co-Chair of President’s Debt Commission) said we’ve always paid for wars even back to the Revolutionary War with revenue enhancements, call them taxes. Today, we’re using other peoples’ monies.

What can we do? Follow the lead of Betty Barell and millions of others.

I leave specifics up to our imaginations.

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