Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"What a man, my hero, my brother."



     The hypocrisy of some people can really be breath-taking. Perhaps "suffocating" is a better word. Here conservatives fulminate for seven years against Barack Obama, inveighing against him as illegitimate in every regard: not an American, not a Christian, not commander-in-chief, not someone whose word carries any weight or meaning. No Supreme Court justices for this joker.
    And then Muhammad Ali dies. And these same conservatives cavil against him for ... ready? ... being a draft dodger. For failing to comply with government orders regarding Lyndon Johnson's undeclared war in Southeast Asia.
    One of many examples from my mailbag Sunday:
    "What in the HELL is wrong with everyone?" Fran Borowski cries. "M. Ali was nothing more than a FREAKEN DRAFTDOGER !!!!!! END OF DISCUSSION."
     For her, perhaps. And I guess for me, too. Either you see Muhammad Ali as the American hero he is. Or you're lost in past ideology.

     There's a lot of that going around. I tried pointing out, for all the good it did, that Ali did not "dodge" the draft. He stood up, refused induction, and took the consequences for his actions, which we were very steep—loss of millions of dollars in boxing purses, sentenced to five years in prison, excoriated by the armchair chicken hawks of the day.
     The passing decades did allow most to see Ali as the hero he was. But many seem stuck in 1967. Dick Esgar begins:

     I am not going to read your article today.  I read Morrissey's and thought it was very good, I would expect yours is also. I enjoyed Ali a lot, he was the greatest fighter that has lived. But he is not 'KING OF THE WORLD', or he would have went into the military like he was suppose to. I was never drafted, but if I would have been, I would have gone.
    And fought bravely, no doubt, and won medals, if not the war itself, single-handed. We always rise heroically to the challenges we never face, in our own minds.
Esgar continues:

My brother in law, was drafted, and died at Fort Polk, La., in basic training, 26 years old, from blood poisoning, he got from a cut on his hand that did not heal, and crawling around in the dirt. There is no place for anyone that does not answer the call or respect our Flag. And as I have told you before, it has got worse since Obama took office
     Sounds like an argument for avoiding the draft, not obeying it.  A military that valued its soldiers would have cleaned that cut. I wrote to him:
     Muhammad Ali served his country better than 100 men who went sheeplike to their deaths. Sad that, after all this time, you don't see it.  
    Let's not end on that note. I believe the Muhammad Ali story ultimately says something good about America, and so let's give the final word to John W. Wilson.
     It was June 1965 when I received a letter from the President of the United States of America. It was an impressive letter in bold italics and gold embroidering around the border and quite intimidating. It said "greetings from the President of the United States of America, you will report for induction no later than 08:00 hours on 06/15/1965. Failure to report as instructed may result in a $10,000.00 fine or imprisoned for 5 years and or both". I knew when I registered for the draft at 18 years of age that this could happen, but the army had not entered my mind. I did not want go because of the civil rights struggle and the disrespect and abuse by Chicago Policemen and the not allowing Black men and women the right to register to vote. I was not protected by the constitution why should I have to serve. But I went and turned out that I was told by my company commanders that everything I did was outstanding. Fired expert with the M-14 rifle hitting 75 targets in 75 attempts, running 10 seconds off the world record in the mile in army combat boots and fatigue pants, missing expert with one of the most difficult weapons the army .45 caliber pistol by one shot. Unheard of at that point in time. I was offered on 5 different occasions during my two years of active duty to go to officer''s candidate school which I refused each time. Years later after serving in Viet Nam and back home my cousin who served was berating Ali as a coward for refusing induction into the service, I replied no he is not a coward, I am the coward because I did not want to go into the service, but I was too afraid of prison and the fine I would have to pay for not reporting. I loved Ali for being a man that took on the powers of the US Government. I met Ali many times in Hyde Park and he would always greet me and others with genuine concern and a warm embrace.What a Man, my hero, my brother I am so glad that I was blessed with the good fortune to have known this great leader, great warrior and wonderful human being. 

19 comments:

  1. I agree.

    With no Illinois budget: schools may not open, state employee health claims not being paid, and Chicago violence bleeds on the streets.

    But yes, a man who purposefully gets hit in the head for cash should take up this much ink. No wonder the state senate's minority leader says this week she won't tax pensions because so many are on the edge of leaving the Land of Lincoln.

    Focusing on Vietnam and jails seems to be a sad commentary on how twisted the state (and its thought leaders have become -- how many more on the city/state payroll? Don't get me started. Always a gov't job/benefits/pension for a friend of friend.)

    As for those who served in Vietnam, thank God for their service. I know the people of Vietnam in 2016 are better off today because of the sacrifices of war, or perhaps China would be a preferable overlord? Tibet, anyone? War sucks but despots are worse. No matter whether they wear a Mao suit or a U.S. flag lapel pin.

    Clay/Ali wasn't a hero. He was a pro fighter and show-boat, like Trump, he'd just juiced the quotes to get the press. Saying no to the draft is fine, but try doing that in Russia or its satellites.
    One-way ticket to Siberia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And how do you know that? Vietnam, still a communist state, is one of the southeast asia countries we are working with to form what is basically an anti-Chinese trade alliance. There are plenty of despots in the world who we support and who remain our good friends. And many now wonder if it was worth the cost of getting rid of two who weren't, Sadam Hussein and Khadaffi.

      And as Neil pointed out, and reiterated, Mohammed Ali didn't flee to Canada. He accepted the legal consequences of his act.

      Tom Evans

      Delete
    2. I know the people of Vietnam in 2016 are better off today because of the sacrifices of war

      I would love to see you go over there and tell that to the family of someone who was mutilated or killed in the war.

      Bitter Scribe

      Delete
    3. Like from Pol Pot/ Khmer Rouge perhaps, Bitter Scribe?

      Delete
  2. Exactly when is hagiography week going to end?
    From all the articles in every paper, every website & every TV network, you'd think he cured cancer, ended poverty & caused world peace to finally happen. Any bets that at least two networks carry the funeral live?
    He did nothing but bash other men's brains in & get his bashed at the same time.
    Not my idea of a hero!
    Enough already!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Certainly agree with your viewpoints, Clark and David. The media is doing the usual going overboard in these cases.

      Delete
    2. Regardless of what you think of boxing (personally, not a fan), to reduce Ali's achievements to that seems woefully short-sighted.

      "His good works in the last three decades of retirement defy summary. He delivered food and medical supplies across the world and supported the Special Olympics and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

      “Muhammad Ali has perhaps raised more money for American charities than any other living person,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

      Sounds pretty praise-worthy to me.

      Delete
  3. Even though I find the Ali bashing ridiculous, at least I learned a new word: hagiography. That applies more to books drumpf has written about himself (with ghost writers, I'm sure) than ANYONE else in the universe.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm amazed at the vitriol. Not regarding whether Ali was a hero or not (he was), but rather the coverage he's receiving. Chill people. It will be over soon and you can go back to obsessing about other concerns you shouldn't be obsessing about. My God, what does it matter to you? So petty, bordering on envy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My guess is that complaining about the media coverage about Ali is a tacit confession to watching too much TV, or surfing the Internet too much. Surfeited on the shallow noodling of CNN and Buzzfeed, they blame Ali. They forget you're allowed to monitor your own media consumption. Having written the obit, and done the research to do it, I didn't even bother with the NY Times obit after the first few graphs. Knew it already.

      Delete
    2. Nope! Not too much TV watching, as I rarely watch TV news. Not too much internet either. But I went to sites that had at least more than a dozen articles on him. Ridiculous!
      As for the claim that he raised more money for charities than anyone else, I call bullshit on that one!

      Delete
  5. John W. Wilson's remarks about being a coward by joining the military bring to mind Tolstoy's Sebastopol notes, in which Tolstoy shows how bravery really works.

    john

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great book. People forget that before he was a novelist, Tolstoy was a reporter.

      Delete
    2. So was Trollope for that matter. Though I guess the reporting came after the novels with him. Just now reading about Australia in 1871 or so. Apparently, in his wordy way he got in a few really good digs at the Australians and was roundly hated in the antipodes afterwards, even though he heaped a lot of praise on them as well.

      john

      By the way, I have to admit I read Tolstoy's book only after hearing about here a couple years ago.

      Delete
    3. Also Dickens, who gained fame as a crime reporter, mining his journalism to creat characters and events in his fiction. Famously, Inspector Charles Fredrick Fields, an early police detective who's exploits were memorialized in articles written by Dickens, showed up as Inspector Bucket in "Bleak House."

      Tom Evans

      Delete
    4. Didn't read Bleak House until it was on a list for prospective law students. So now I bore people at real estate closings with bleak references to Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.

      Delete
  6. I am one of those dinosaurs who think that a society which cannot raise up men and women willing to defend it is due for the dustbin. I do not see Ali as a hero for his refusal to serve in Viet Nam. What we know today about what happened when the communists took over the country ought to make all who opposed the war hang their heads in shame. Ditto for the chickenhawks who wouldn't go to war themselves and our leaders both in the military and government who failed the test. I'm particularly thinking of Robert McNamara who knew that the way we were fighting wouldn't win the war but kept silent while tens of thousands of good people died.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I once worked for a manager who was an expert of Charlie Brown basic leadership. One day she'd give an "unequivocal possibly;" the following an "inconclusive maybe." But more often than not, it was "I'll consider it and hit you up." obviously, she never did and no measure of subsequent created an answer. http://www.mordocrosswords.com/2016/06/reuniongoer-maybe.html

    ReplyDelete