The purple finger

Take a good look at it; purple indelible ink right down to the first joint of their index fingers.  It's the new 'Don't Tread on Me' symbol.  The people who proudly wear it and flash it for others to see are the new Minute Men.  They are the latest in the legions of those who have come to value freedom and liberty, concepts some in our nation have lost a thirst for, above life itself.  They stepped up and faced down death at the hands of masked cowards.  How puny our own voting and election problems appear to be when compared side by side to their courageous determination.

I watched the lines they formed on Sunday as they patiently waited to freely and without duress complete that precious piece of paper known as a ballot.  No secret police would visit them late at night to apprehend the trouble makers and the dissenters.  No anguished cries would come from the bowels of some torture room as sadists carried out their gruesome orders.

Elders were pushed forward in wheelchairs to make their choices.  Small children clung to their parents as long lines snaked down the streets surrounding the polling places.

Suddenly, the Iraqis were no longer some veiled, Middle East, secret society of people I knew little about.  Suddenly, Iraq was no longer a country wrestled from a brutal despot by the blood and sacrifice of young Americans and their allies who willingly stepped in and made incredible sacrifices for people whose language they could not even speak. 

Suddenly, these scenes gave me the Cliff Notes, the primer, the executive summary on what the most cherished ingredient in our nation really is.  Suddenly, I got it.  Suddenly, I saw that the most important thing we must export to those nations willing to shoulder its great burden is that of freedom: the right to call your own shots within a national structure that values debate, discussion and self determination...and basic respect for the individual.

Who can say now that it was not worth it?  Who can say that the price was too high?  Who can say it was all about oil and nothing else?  To be sure the fight is not over.  Elections are not the end game.  In fact they are just another important milestone on the long continuum toward full liberation.   But...they are significant and their symbolism will not be lost on others whose lives are oppressed in that region.

As I watched some of the video feed from the elections on Sunday, I couldn't help but remember how many times, I had thought this day would never come.  I should have known better when I heard so many young men who had been wounded and evacuated voicing their desire to get back into combat again.  Yes, they had friends they didn't want to let down, but more importantly, I think, is that they saw a cause worth the fight, worth the sacrifice and worth even the loss of their own lives.  How poorly all this was reported.

Inevitably, my thoughts also turned to the parents and families of those whose sons and daughters lost their lives there. What thoughts went through their minds as they watched these historic events unfold?  Would the elections mitigate the suffering and loss they feel looking at the pictures of those gone from them now?  Would pride in the service of a loved one who had helped give an oppressed nation a chance to experience a new way of life be enough to wipe tears from eyes that see now only sadness?  I hope so. I pray for them.

This whole episode reminded me of the steel our nation needs when many turn against us and question our motives and intentions.  It showed beyond a doubt that we needed strong, clear minded leadership at the highest levels whose words were bold and unambiguous. How many times had I suffered through the interminable insignificant sound bites delivered by weak and self serving politicians on both sides of the aisle?  Men and women, who when it comes right down to it, had neither vision nor commitment beyond their own re—elections, agendas and self serving partisanship.  Their positions seem to me to be as insignificant as plate scrapings floating in dirty dishwater about to be flushed down the drain in the sink.  When you lack the courage others around you demonstrate, change the subject by blaming and criticizing them.   It works for a while.

I remember Ronald Reagan's comments when asked about how he viewed his critics.  He said something like he knew that history would treat him and his accomplishments kindly and he was right.

These are momentous times filled with global accomplishments that are unequalled in scope, reach and speed of delivery.  We have rewritten the rules for a game yet to be fully understood, invented or even named.

In a world filled with stunning, creative technical symbols along special effects that dazzle our senses, the one scene that says it all for me was contained in one of the network's election coverage last Sunday showing an aged, veiled, smiling Iraqi woman outside a polling place displaying her most precious possession for all to see; the purple finger.

God bless America and the men and women who serve and protect her.  We owe you much.

Semper Fidelis,

Dave St. John, Capt. USMCR, Vietnam Veteran, Chu Lai, RVN, '66—'67

Take a good look at it; purple indelible ink right down to the first joint of their index fingers.  It's the new 'Don't Tread on Me' symbol.  The people who proudly wear it and flash it for others to see are the new Minute Men.  They are the latest in the legions of those who have come to value freedom and liberty, concepts some in our nation have lost a thirst for, above life itself.  They stepped up and faced down death at the hands of masked cowards.  How puny our own voting and election problems appear to be when compared side by side to their courageous determination.

I watched the lines they formed on Sunday as they patiently waited to freely and without duress complete that precious piece of paper known as a ballot.  No secret police would visit them late at night to apprehend the trouble makers and the dissenters.  No anguished cries would come from the bowels of some torture room as sadists carried out their gruesome orders.

Elders were pushed forward in wheelchairs to make their choices.  Small children clung to their parents as long lines snaked down the streets surrounding the polling places.

Suddenly, the Iraqis were no longer some veiled, Middle East, secret society of people I knew little about.  Suddenly, Iraq was no longer a country wrestled from a brutal despot by the blood and sacrifice of young Americans and their allies who willingly stepped in and made incredible sacrifices for people whose language they could not even speak. 

Suddenly, these scenes gave me the Cliff Notes, the primer, the executive summary on what the most cherished ingredient in our nation really is.  Suddenly, I got it.  Suddenly, I saw that the most important thing we must export to those nations willing to shoulder its great burden is that of freedom: the right to call your own shots within a national structure that values debate, discussion and self determination...and basic respect for the individual.

Who can say now that it was not worth it?  Who can say that the price was too high?  Who can say it was all about oil and nothing else?  To be sure the fight is not over.  Elections are not the end game.  In fact they are just another important milestone on the long continuum toward full liberation.   But...they are significant and their symbolism will not be lost on others whose lives are oppressed in that region.

As I watched some of the video feed from the elections on Sunday, I couldn't help but remember how many times, I had thought this day would never come.  I should have known better when I heard so many young men who had been wounded and evacuated voicing their desire to get back into combat again.  Yes, they had friends they didn't want to let down, but more importantly, I think, is that they saw a cause worth the fight, worth the sacrifice and worth even the loss of their own lives.  How poorly all this was reported.

Inevitably, my thoughts also turned to the parents and families of those whose sons and daughters lost their lives there. What thoughts went through their minds as they watched these historic events unfold?  Would the elections mitigate the suffering and loss they feel looking at the pictures of those gone from them now?  Would pride in the service of a loved one who had helped give an oppressed nation a chance to experience a new way of life be enough to wipe tears from eyes that see now only sadness?  I hope so. I pray for them.

This whole episode reminded me of the steel our nation needs when many turn against us and question our motives and intentions.  It showed beyond a doubt that we needed strong, clear minded leadership at the highest levels whose words were bold and unambiguous. How many times had I suffered through the interminable insignificant sound bites delivered by weak and self serving politicians on both sides of the aisle?  Men and women, who when it comes right down to it, had neither vision nor commitment beyond their own re—elections, agendas and self serving partisanship.  Their positions seem to me to be as insignificant as plate scrapings floating in dirty dishwater about to be flushed down the drain in the sink.  When you lack the courage others around you demonstrate, change the subject by blaming and criticizing them.   It works for a while.

I remember Ronald Reagan's comments when asked about how he viewed his critics.  He said something like he knew that history would treat him and his accomplishments kindly and he was right.

These are momentous times filled with global accomplishments that are unequalled in scope, reach and speed of delivery.  We have rewritten the rules for a game yet to be fully understood, invented or even named.

In a world filled with stunning, creative technical symbols along special effects that dazzle our senses, the one scene that says it all for me was contained in one of the network's election coverage last Sunday showing an aged, veiled, smiling Iraqi woman outside a polling place displaying her most precious possession for all to see; the purple finger.

God bless America and the men and women who serve and protect her.  We owe you much.

Semper Fidelis,

Dave St. John, Capt. USMCR, Vietnam Veteran, Chu Lai, RVN, '66—'67