08:24:35 am on
Friday 20 Oct 2017

Patriots
AJ Robinson

The first reunion I ever attended was for my dad's old army unit. I think I was about five. I had no clue. “Who are all these old men?” They sure seemed to enjoy each other's company and laugh a great deal.


I learn a few valuable lessons that day.

I'd never seen old men so full of life. Mind you, at that age, the only old man I knew was my grandfather. Over the course of the reunion, I learned a couple other things about them.

First, they were all pretty much Republicans. Again, at that time, I had no idea what that meant. I only knew that whenever the subject of politics came up, which it did, often, they used words my parents forbade me to say; some words I didn't understand.

All of their vitriol aimed at Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill and even President Johnson. They seemed to feel that these men were too soft on the commies. That word had no meaning for me, either.

Second, only one idea eclipsed their loyalty and devotion to each other. That was their loyalty and devotion for America. It was clear they would kill or die to protect the nation from any enemy.


Absolute devotion to America.

This was yet another idea new to me; that is, absolute devotion to something intangible. I certainly loved my mom and dad, my family and friends and my home; Martha's Vineyard, too. Yet, most anything beyond the limits of Arlington and Boston was, for lack of a better term, ethereal. It was just “America” and that had little meaning to me at that age.

It was a few years later, at a Memorial Day Parade, that I found my first true clue as to what our nation and its flag truly meant to some people. We were standing along Mass Ave, in downtown Arlington, watching the parade, when an army colour guard came into view.

My dad, as always, snapped to attention. Movement on our right caught my attention. An old man was rising out of his chair, he'd brought a wheelchair so he could sit while he watched the parade; he leaned on a cane to help steady himself.

I recognized the old fellow as rose from his chair. He was one of the old vets in town, a veteran of what my dad called the "Great War." Today, we call it "World War I."


He couldn't walk, but he would stand for America.

Here was a man who couldn't walk without help. He could only stand with something to lean on and he was so thin, his clothes seemed to hang on his bony frame. Yet, when the symbol of America came into view, he found an inner strength and devotion that compelled him to stand at attention and salute.

It was on that day that I learned what patriotism was.

I also learned it was something the Republicans did not have an exclusive lock on. The man was a Democrat and he and my dad had a deep mutual respect for each other. They could agree to disagree on politics, but when it came to the country, there they were in total agreement: nation first, forever and always.

I have to say, I feel sad that some people in Washington don't seem to share this view. I hate to use the phrase "the good old days," but, in my day, no politician would dare brush aside even the remote possibility that the Russians were interfering with our country. It’s sad to see republicans willing to ignore such a thing merely to hold power.

My dad and his comrades, of both political leanings, would be outraged.

 

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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