Muhlstein: "War in Iraq no joking matter"
"Published: Sunday, November 5, 2006Senator Kerry has been a victim of hate and scorn throughout his life because he has been the bearer of bad news. Somebody had to say what he has been saying; John Kerry has not shirked from the task. Whether in the Winter Soldier testimony, or more recently his tough criticism of the failures in Iraq, his criticism has been twisted to suggest he was criticizing our soldiers. While critical of a misguided foreign policy and not willing to cover-up for anyone's misdeeds, Senator Kerry has devoted himself to supporting soldiers, supporting veterans, and working tirelessly for veterans campaigning for public office.
War in Iraq no joking matter
By Julie Muhlstein
Joke? A botched joke? I'm sorry. I know you're sick of this topic. There's no way I can let my thoughts about Sen. John Kerry's idiotic comments of last week go unsaid.
First off, that word. "Joke." A "botched joke" is what the Massachusetts Democrat called it when he first tried explaining away why he'd said this to college students last Monday:
"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
It was supposed to be a joke about President Bush, Kerry said. There's nothing funny about the Iraq war. Nothing.
Someone sent me an e-mail suggesting I check out http://theleftshue.blogspot.com, a site with video of Bush, in a tuxedo at a fancy dinner in Washington, D.C., telling jokes about the search for weapons of mass destruction.
The Bush quips are interspersed with pictures of young Americans killed in Iraq - a 22-year-old private, a 26-year-old infantryman pictured with his new baby, and a 19-year-old woman soldier.
I repeat: There is nothing funny about the Iraq war. Nothing, not from either camp in a debate so contentious that one side can barely stand to listen to the other.
Now, about that Kerry comment - not the one he supposedly meant to say about Bush, but the one he did say.
At the risk of taking just the sort of heat now scorching Kerry, I'll admit this: In conversations with my 19-year-old son, I have linked academic achievement with finding oneself not necessarily "stuck in Iraq," but certainly joining the military.
My stern talks began with "If you mess up in school, you're joining the Navy" and continued to include the following points: He would grow up, get focus, possibly find a career and earn a salary and benefits.
The options I talked over with my son were in no way meant to discount military service - it was a way of pointing out a serious alternative.
With today's all-volunteer armed forces, serving our country in the military is a choice, and a noble one.
Young people make that choice for all kinds of reasons, from family tradition or strong support for the nation's current foreign policies to an interest in learning skills taught in the military. Those reasons are huge.
There is also economic need.
It's needing a job that would send my son to the Navy or the Coast Guard, if he didn't do well in college and was unable to support himself.
I suspect that money - which Kerry and Bush both have in abundance - is a driving force for thousands of people who find themselves "stuck in Iraq."
What's true for some is certainly not true for all. Among the many reasons Kerry's thoughtless words were so offensive is the broad-brush stereotype - you're not very smart, so you join the military.
On Wednesday, I went to church for the observation of All Saints' Day. There, I saw a mother whose three boys have all gone to the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. The oldest son was in my daughter's grade school class.
A 2005 West Point graduate, he recently left for Army duty in Iraq. There's no doubt in my mind that this young man could have chosen any career path. He chose the toughest one.
That's courage, and nothing less.
On a day when Kerry's remarks dominated the news, I watched his mother in church. I imagined how furious her family must be over those "stuck in Iraq" comments.
I started to approach her, but didn't.
What would I have said? That I pray for her son? I do.
Instead, I went to the Everett Station, where I cast my ballot Wednesday afternoon.
That done, I am now tuning out both political parties' talking points, ugly name-calling and belittling barbs.
In a time when there's little cause to joke and so much to disagree about, we need to listen carefully before marking our ballots.
I suggest listening, but not to the politicians. Listen to your own head and heart."
Anyone who hasn't seen that hasn't been paying attention.
Meanwhile, let us realize that Iraq is not a joke. It cannot be reduced to slogans and simplified and misleading comments. Vote wisely on Tuesday. America deserves voters who can sift through the lies and see the truth that is blazing in our direction.