Beating the Drum, Slowly

My pen pal Bill sends some back-of-the-envelope encouragement:


I’m told kids are no longer taught cursive. In case they were never taught to read it either, here’s what it says: “Here’s to vintage watches, fountain pens and friendship!”

I’m the watch in this particular friendship, he’s the pen. Bill writes in cursive with a fountain pen on heavy bond paper, refilling from an ink pot when it starts to run dry, then seals his envelopes with wax when they’re ready to post. I too have a fountain pen, a retirement gift from my father. When Bill and I started exchanging letters I tried writing mine with it, but my cursive, almost illegible to begin with, became positively doctor-like when my hand cramped from gripping the pen, so I reverted to typing. There’s so much to be said for exchanging letters via post, just as there is for appreciating watches and pens. Friendship, though … that’s best of all.

My Father’s Day was lovely, as, I hope, was yours. Donna (I know, I’m not her father, but she’s not my mother either and yet we always do something for one another on these Hallmark days) let me order a new watch display case, which came a couple of weeks ago but didn’t get unwrapped until yesterday. I spent a good part of the morning loading it with watches and spare straps, and now it has pride of place on a corner of my office desk.

Note the empty slot. You all know what that means!

My old display case, which has five slots, is now our daughter Polly’s. She has four or five watches of her own and seems to have inherited the collecting bug from me. Donna too has watches, probably just as many as Polly, but with her it’s like shoes … we all have more than one pair of shoes, but that doesn’t make us shoe collectors (I’m paraphrasing a line from the article I wrote about in my previous post).

What else? Well, I had a great phone conversation with my son Gregory in Las Vegas, who had a great Father’s Day of his own, with in-person visits from both of his children. Donna offered to cook a special meal, but I wanted to grill ribs and corn on the cob, so she made a potato salad and I did the rest, with lots of help from the dogs. All that and a fresh episode of Joe Pickett on streaming TV after dinner, and it was one of the best Father’s Days ever.

Turning aside from consumerism, domestic affairs, and cooking, here’s a Twitter thread on a subject I’m invested in. Please do click on the part that says “Read the full conversation on Twitter,” which will take you to the entire thread. Yes, it’s important, damn it.

I started beating this drum back around 2009, for the exact reasons detailed by Mr. Stevens in his Twitter thread. At the time I was still getting medical care and prescriptions at the local air base, where public area televisions (like the ones in lobbies and waiting rooms) were invariably set to Fox News, which broadcast an unending stream of anti-Obama propaganda. I was also working as a defense contractor, frequently at Air Force bases in Korea and Japan, where Armed Forces Radio broadcast Rush Limbaugh, who on a daily basis encouraged U.S. troops to disrespect and resist President Obama, their commander in chief. This, to my simple mind, was pretty much the same thing as treason. You can say what you want to civilians on AM radio at home, but to go on the military-sponsored radio station for U.S. soldiers, airman, and sailors stationed overseas and encourage them to disobey their boss? Well, that’s another thing entirely, and it just plain blew my mind military leadership didn’t put a stop to it.

When my letter to the local base commander went unanswered, I wrote my Arizona senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake. When they blew me off I wrote to the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ignored by one and all, I finally turned to newly-elected Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. At last, someone cared. Representative Giffords made an official inquiry into the concerns I raised, writing to my local commander, the joint chiefs, and the secretary of defense … she will always be my hero.

You may or may not know this, but when a member of the House or Senate writes to a military leader or cabinet secretary, an answer is required. And they did respond. We didn’t prevail, Gabby and me, but at least we got responses, which amounted to pussyfoot mumbo-jumbo about giving troops a taste of home and how they couldn’t control what Armed Forces Radio and TV chose to air (an outright lie). But tell you what, I haven’t seen Fox News on a public area TV at my local air base since, so at least something happened.

I’m glad to see the fight continue; I remain baffled as to why military leadership hasn’t done something about hate speech on Armed Forces Radio & Television, and not a little fearful as to why they haven’t. All I can conclude is that they have their fingers crossed behind their backs when they say they want to stop the radicalization of U.S. troops, just as they do when they say they’re doing something to stop the epidemic of sexual assault in the ranks. And I’m tempted to take up the fight again, this time with a letter to my new senator, Mark Kelly (who can ask his wife about the time she took me up on it).

One thought on “Beating the Drum, Slowly

  • I remember you bringing this up back then, and it stuck with me. It was a great observation and was illuminating in terms of the information and propaganda wars.

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