Memorializing a wrong and worn out narrative

Memorializing a wrong and worn out narrative

It was an eventful and amusing week along this exceedingly conservative stretch of Old Route 66 in the run up to the Memorial Day weekend.  The justly earned “Tempest in a Teapot” award goes to the local ABC affiliate KTUL for their coverage of a Politico article posted to the Tulsa County Democratic Party Facebook page last weekend.  As the article points out, demographics are indeed changing as the Republican Party membership is older in terms of median age than that of the Democratic Party.  With GOP membership dying off (literally, per the article), those members are not being replaced.  Now this may very well mean little at the moment in Oklahoma where GOP membership surpassed that of the Democratic Party last autumn for the first time in the history of the state but it carries heavy significance in terms of national presidential politics.  As the Tulsa County GOP spokesman in the KTUL interview alluded, waiting for the other party’s members to die in numbers that matter is not going to be a winning strategy.  That said, I say that a winning strategy will be one that takes into account the nation’s shifting demographics.

A winning strategy will also be one that respects the service and patriotism of Americans who do not subscribe to ideologically extreme values and views.  Such a strategy will allow its subscribers to agree to disagree with other Americans who do not wear their patriotism on their sleeve.   It will also not denigrate the character of others by writing them off as being unpatriotic malcontents or assume they do not appreciate the service and sacrifice of those who have died in defense of the Constitution from the founding of the Republic to date.

Ever since I learned to read I have had an interest in the military history of the United States.  This was one of the factors pushing me to enlist in the Navy at age 18 and it is an interest I still possess.  In this month of a lot of down time for me I have done a fair amount of watching History TV particularly the cable channel now known at the American Heroes Channel.  There have been many programs aired commemorating V.E. Day and WWI among other noteworthy historical topics.  Earlier this past week I saw an ad which aired for the first time on AHC.  It was a spot for an outfit by the name of Conservative Tours.  The founder of Conservative Tours is one Kenneth G. Chase, a Massachusetts conservative and 2006 GOP nominee for U.S. Senate who lost to the late Ted Kennedy.  I did a brief online search of Ken Chase and found this article from the Boston Globe from November 2009.


Joanne Gardner, president of the Illinois-based Midwest chapter of the American Society of Travel Agents, says by e-mail: “People always like to travel with like-minded people,’’ citing faith-based tours by religious groups. But “what makes somebody think that only conservatives are interested in the beaches of Normandy and the history of our country?’’

Chase replies that, in his experience, conservatives enjoy visiting D-Day beaches or the Battle of the Bulge site; the left, “in the main,’’ doesn’t. “I’ve never, never heard a liberal say, ‘I want to make a pilgrimage to Normandy.’ . . . A liberal knows what Cannes is. You’re never gonna see a conservative saying, ‘We’ve got to go to Cannes.’ ’’

Duly note that the biography of Kenneth G. Chase reveals that he has done some very commendable and scholarly things but he did not provide a response to the military service query.  What I find objectionable to Mr. Chase’s reply to Ms. Gardner’s above question is I do not know nor have I ever met any voter of the conservative persuasion who has made a pilgrimage to Normandy a mainstay of a European vacation, well, at least among those who have traveled to Europe.  It is safe to say that Mr. Chase’s assertion is flawed at best given that I know many liberals who are acutely aware of the history of American military involvement in Europe in both World Wars and the subsequent Cold War.  As it turns out Mr. Chase, who lives in Cambridge, Mass, seems to have an ax to grind on angry Cambridge liberals and oozes contempt for them and anyone who may share any of their values in this more recent interview with the travel publication, OutsideThe Apolitical European Tour That’s Only for Conservatives.


American Military Cemetery, Normandy, France

(Photo by Stephen Crowley/New York Times)

There is one fact of the matter I would like to impress upon Mr. Chase and anyone reading this who might share his viewpoint.  The majority of the Americans resting under those white crosses in that neatly manicured Normandy military cemetery in the above photo were conscripts.  They were killed while in the service to their nation which at the time possessed a strong sense of shared sacrifice.  I would venture to guess that among those dead who old enough to vote when they were killed that most were registered Democrats. I would also bet that most had their youth shaped by the liberal policies of FDR’s New Deal.  The take-home message here is that conservatism did not invent patriotism.  It has merely capitalized and profited heavily on stoking the base nationalistic emotions it elicits for the purpose of selling elective conflicts and things like Conservative Tours.  It appears Mr. Chase has tapped into a lucrative vein of emotion.

Fort Smith National Cemetery

Fort Smith National Cemetery

We here in the nation’s heartland and especially those of us residing along this stretch of Old Route 66 don’t have to travel to Europe to find national cemeteries.  We have many nearby and many of us have war veteran relatives interred in them.  Any assertion that liberals don’t care about the cost of the human resources to feed a war machine, be the conflict just or unjust, is patently false.

My late uncle of my real namesake.

My late uncle of my real namesake.

 Mr. Chase is the sort of conservative who is likely more offended by middle fingers, F-bombs and crude vernacular terms for the human genitalia than he is by homeless veterans freezing to death in the cold, a single mom working two jobs who gets her health insurance canceled because she got diagnosed with breast cancer or a college kid getting sentenced to eight years in prison for smoking weed.  Patriotism is not so much a state of mind, it is a way of life and if you are living right then you should never need to wear it on your sleeve.

I have always had a hard time taking people seriously that never served a day in the armed forces who like to ride on the coattails and achievements of people that did.  As much as I would like to believe that Mr. Chase is an aberration, he sadly is not.  I have met too many like him in the course of my post-military life.  It is very telling about the state of the Republican Party when so many of its former members are now Democrats.  They pay a lot of lip service to those who serve but so many never deigned to ever don a uniform themselves in spite of being able bodied and otherwise available.  This is consistent with the fundamental defect of modern conservatism, they demand the benefit of everything and the liability of nothing.

As we prepare to honor the nation’s war dead on this Memorial Day it is my hope that some things still transcend politics.  That is a huge hope that springs eternal.


1 Comment

  1. Paula Pratt
    May 24, 2015

    My father and his two brothers fought in WWI; one was injured, but all survived. I grew up with stories from all of them. Someday, I thought, I want to visit the battlefields in France. Meanwhile, both my mother and father were diehard Republicans, but somehow I evolved into a Democrat, who often votes for the Independent candidate. Last summer I was fortunate enough to attend a conference in Lille, France, which is near several WWI battlefields. I did not have the time nor the money to join the tour of two battlefields organized by the conference. However, I did spend an afternoon at the WWI Museum in Lille, which is beside the town’s monument to those killed in both World Wars. It never, ever occurred to me that I was doing so as a “liberal Democrat,” or that my father and his brothers had gone to war as Republicans. They were farm “boys” from northern Michigan. My dad later became commander of our local (small town) American Legion Post. He was very low key, and never wore his patriotism on his sleeve. I marched in the “Decoration Day” parades every year as a Girl Scout, and my dad was there with the Legion. It was life in America, and should never be seen as the “property” of any particular political party!