Sunday, July 29, 2012

107. Respect

C.W. and I were resting in a park across the street from where we live. We sat on a bench watching cars speed by in an exercise he calls “random observation.” He had assumed the form of a World War Two navy enlisted man. He was drawing more than a few stares as Americans are no longer used to seeing military personnel in dress uniforms.

I had, however, forbidden him from wearing most of the medals he had proposed, particularly a copy of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“But your supreme court has ruled that my right to claim that honor, whether I received it or not, is a free speech right protected under Amendment One of the Constitution.” He was continuing the argument.

“One,” I said. “I don’t care what the Supreme Court said. Two, some amendments are more important to us than others.”

“You mean the first amendment is not as respected as the second, for example.”

“Not by a long shot,” I said, smiling at my weak pun. “The first is under attack because it protects us from religion, not a proper protection in the view of some.”

“That doesn’t make sense …” he began, but I interrupted.

“And three, the Constitutional provisions don’t always apply to aliens.”

“Well I’ll be keelhauled,” he said.

Two teenaged boys walking along the sidewalk stopped and stared at him.

“Man,” one said. “You sure dressed up. Who are you?”

“I’m a Bosun’s Mate, Third Class, United States Navy,” C.W. replied.

“For real?” the other youth said. “You in the Navy?”

“For real,” he said.”

“So why ain’t you on no ship?”

“I’m on leave,” he said. “I took some time to visit this museum,” he motioned to the historic building in the background. “It is featuring an exhibit on the Vietnam War.”

“The what?” one said.

“What do it pay to be in the Navy?” the other interrupted.

“I earn $78.00 per month,” C.W. said.

“Sheeeit,” the youth said. “F**k dat. I made twenty bucks this mornin’ in fifteen minutes just standin’ on the corner watchin’ for the police.”

With that, they moved on down the street. I turned to C.W.

“It’s actually a lot more than $78.00 a month now,” I said.

“You know,” he said, reverting to his character. “I remember standing on the foc'sle of our ship as it came through the Golden Gate in San Francisco after the war in the Pacific ended.”

“I imagine that was a welcome sight,” I said.

“Oh, you don’t know the half of it,” he said. “The folks in Marin County had taken huge boulders, painted them white, and placed them on the hill on the port side so they spelled out the words ‘Welcome Home Boys.’”

We thought about this for a moment.

“They didn’t do anything like that for you fellers when you came back,” did they?”

Here's one of my favorite passages from
Matthew Arnold for you. - C.W.

I, on men’s impious uproar hurled,
Think often, as I hear them rave,
The peace has left the upper world,
And now keeps only in the grave.

I thought back. “No, about 30 minutes before our plane landed, they gave us a briefing on how to avoid confrontation with the war protesters at the gate of the airport.”

“Tell me something,” he said, effecting one of his classic changes of the subject.

“What?” I said.

“Why does your state honor the birthday of a man who murdered so many people in an attempt to keep the peculiar institution of slavery alive in your country?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “They say it has something to do with honor.”

“Sheeeit,” he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment