Thursday, September 4, 2008

Republican Convention 08 - Tuesday

I really had no intention of watching the Tuesday evening republican convention.

At some point though I found myself watching a man named Tommy Espinoza delivering a speech in support of John McCain. He said "Good evening, my name is Tom Espinoza ... I'm CATHOLIC ... HISPANIC ... and a DEMOCRAT ... and I'm proud to call John McCain my friend." That caught my attention. He went on to talk about meeting John McCain about 25 years earlier and asking him what had sustained him during his imprisonment. He said McCain's answer was "MY Faith in GOD ... My COUNTRY ... and My FAMILY" and that "From then on we were Brothers ... 'HERMANOS'."

I've thought about being a prisoner of war. In a war game once when I was in the National Guard I was taken prisoner. I was standing guard duty and a jeep pulled up and I demanded the password and it was given correctly so I relaxed my vigilance.  Then  a 45 was stuck in my side and they made me get in the jeep and we drove right up to my commanding officers tent. There they grabbed some other guy and put him in the jeep with me and vamoosed out of there.

They held me for a few hours and really didn't treat me too harshly. The lesson was that the enemy is at least as smart as we are and probably smarter and they can find out our passwords and they can look just like us, too.  Another lesson was that the enemy may not play by the rules during war time.

So I wasn't tortured or waterboarded or anything like that. When I was in basic training we had some pretty rough treatment. I didn't like it at all at the time. Looking back I can understand the reason for it.

War is a terrible thing. People do awful things to each other even without a war but war seems to bring out both the worst and the best. I think many of us have wondered how courageous we would be if we were held as a pow.

Those of us who do wonder about it think things like: would we remain honorable under terrible pain and torture?  How long would we hold out before breaking? Would we try to protect our fellow soldiers as much as possible?  Would be deny our Savior?  Would we dishonor our family and our country?

Even though I never served in combat I had just a taste of being forced to do things against my own will and instincts in Basic Training.  I knew I could be broken.  And I knew it didn't really take all that long.

I knew a man once who was Jewish and had been imprisoned in the Nazi death camps as a child. Somehow he had survived that. He told me he didn't really know how he survived and didn't think he should have but he did. He lost nearly all his family and his own country was the very agent of his own torture. But he held on beyond reason.  He wasn't a man of faith particularly.  But somehow he survived.

That's some of what all I was thinking while stuff was happening on TV and I was only barely paying attention.  But I noticed when a new speaker took the podium. His name is Orson Swindle. He began recognizing certain people. There had just been a video clip about a Navy Seal, Michael Monsoor, who had been killed in Iraq. He had thrown himself upon a grenade to save his comrades.

I cannot even imagine such individual bravery.  I know it happens.  I don't doubt it at all.  I would love to think I might be that brave and willing to lay down my own life for the sake of others.  It seems to me that kind of selflessness is just the epitome of valor and courage and honor.  But it just astonishes me.  And when I think about it the tears well up in my eyes.

Mr. Swindle introduced Monsoor's sister and everyone stood and applauded.   They weren't applauding her but using their hands to honor the memory of her brother and to try to express to her how much they appreciated her own loss.

I was still trying to comprehend that when Mr. Swindel introduced the Medal of Honor recipients in the hall. There were six of them there and they stood and, again, the crowd stood and applauded them.

Next he introduced men who had been POWs along with McCain. Finally he recognized all who had served in the military.

Practically the entire group was standing by that time.

I was touched by this recognition of these amazing individuals on every level: emotionally and spiritually and intellectually. President Bush (the older) was there and it must have touched him, too, because he got up and went over to Michael Monsoor's sister and embraced her.   I have no way of knowing how other viewers might have felt but I know how I felt and it was a moment of intense emotion and pride and thankfulness for me.

I was surprised at how much President Bush had aged since last I saw him. He was definitely having a little trouble getting up and around and seemed measurably more frail.  I could not help but wonder about his acuity.  But I do that with anyone near my dad's age. 

Fred Thompson gave a good speech. I don't know where that Fred Thompson was during his campaign.  If that one had showed up he might have been the candidate instead of McCain.

Then Joe Lieberman spoke. I like his style of speaking.  To me he is always measured and steady and calm and yet there's a playful, almost mischevious quality, that I suspect is a part of his persona and kind of oozes out when he speaks.  His wife, Hadassah, was there sitting by Mrs. McCain. Hadassah's father survived the holocaust.  I sent Senator Lieberman a note of congratulation when he was nominated as Mr. Gore's vice presidential running mate.   He gave a good speech as well.

I didn't intend to watch the convention but I did and I'm glad.


dave said...

I was the wrong age for service. Just missed the Korea war and had too many kids by the time Nam came around.
Don't know how that might have played out in my life.
I do admire those who did serve and did with distinction.


Lori1955 said...

Although I served in the Army during Vietnam, I was never in a combat zone. I doubt that I would have done well under torture. It is hard for me not to tear up when I see those medal of Honor recipients. That kind of bravery is beyond my comprehension.

Yes, Fred Thompson was on fire. I too wondered where this man had been during the primaries. I have always admired Joe Lieberman but I thought his speech lacked passion. Of course I have to remember that he was in all likelyhood commiting political suicide.

~Betsy said...

These fine men who withstood years of unimaginable torture have my utmost respect.