Cumberland Times-News

Columns

November 10, 2012

Don’t thank me for it ... this was a privilege

Long before Election Day, I predicted what the results would be. I also am writing  this before the votes were counted and we got to see who won, and who lost.

I was right, too. (Pause.)

One result would be that on Wednesday, half of the country would be irritated — to put it mildly and printably — and the other half would not. And they’ll stay that way.

That’s like the old story about the fellow who told his buddy, “Betcha 50 bucks I know what the score of the West Virginia-Maryland game will be, before it even starts.”

His buddy says, “You’re on. Fifty bucks. What’s it going to be?”

“Nothing-nothing,” says the guy. “Pay up.”

As Jimmy Hatlo used to say, That’s When The Fun Began.

I also predicted there would be whining, crying, recriminations, second-guessing, trash-talking and — regardless of who won — people who were far more thrilled than they really ought to be, plus claims by others that, “This country can’t survive four years of that (four-word Anglo-Saxonism).”

Of course, it can. And it will. Some of us may not like what happens over the next four years, but the Republic will endure.

I’ve heard people say America has never been as divided as it is now (actually, people say that before every presidential election), and I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would think about that. During the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln said, “If there is a worse place than hell, I am in it.”

George Washington might have had similar thoughts during the American Revolution, because it also was a civil war — Englishmen against Englishmen. Some of my relatives came here with aims of putting down the rebellion, and others came back in 1812.

Most of the participants were citizens of the British Empire. The colonists’ loyalties were divided between the Crown and Independence — Tories and Patriots — and they visited hideous violence upon each other, just as their descendants did during Lincoln’s Civil War.

There’s a lot to be said for being an American. We will have reprisals in the wake of the election, but they won’t consist of people dragging other people out into the street and beating them bloody before turning machine guns on them.

They will take the form of woofing and “I told you so,” and similar banter, as well as finger-pointing and a bit of gloating.

Under the First Amendment, such things are perfectly within our rights, unless they involve threats of violence or other actions that aren’t legally considered free speech.

(One fellow I know said he watched the TV commercials about Maryland’s casino question and noted their contradictory nature. He asked, “How can they say those things if they’re not true?” Some phenomena you can’t explain to people who don’t already understand them.)

Freedom of religion, speech and the press, and the right of the people to peacefully assemble or petition the government for redress of grievance are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Even people in what are considered free countries don’t have all of those rights. Englishmen and Australians have more restraints on speech than we do, but Canadians do not.

Americans have the right to say, “I don’t like the (offspring of an informal liaison), I didn’t vote for him, I don’t believe a word he says, and I’m not going to support anything he does. He’s going to ruin the country.” (But don’t threaten to kill him. That’s a no-no.)

Say that in some countries and — as I said — you may wind up being beaten bloody before having the machine guns turned on you.

I can join with the congregation and our visitors for worship and fellowship in my church whenever we feel like it, and nobody is going to kick down the door and drag us off to jail.

I can write whatever I want in my column — subject to reason, the approval of my publisher and managing editor and the laws that govern libel — and nobody will send the secret police for me.

My friends and I can gather by the busload on a street corner with signs that say “Vote For (fill in the blank) Or The Country Is Doomed!” Nobody will try to stop us — legally, anyway.

If I have been wronged in a way that violates our laws, I can hire an attorney — or not — and ask the courts for justice.

I also can vote, which I did  Tuesday. The poll workers were my friends and thanked me for coming.

“No,” I said, “thank you. It was a privilege.”

That I can do all of the above and more is due to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers.

I also can do them because of people like Beverly Hayes, Abe Goldsworthy, Ed Kelley, Jim Bosley, Craig Haines, Richard Ellsworth Vincent, Sam Umstot, Bobby Taylor, Grady Cooke, Bill Gunter, Carl Davis, Bill Menges, Harold Walters and Theodore Field.

All of them have passed from this world, but the collective impact they had on it while they were alive was significant.

Bev, who was my second cousin, died when his B-17 bomber was shot down over Germany.

Abe was an Army medic who was seriously wounded during World War II. The fact that the doctor who treated him was from his home town of Keyser may have been the only thing that saved his arm. (Abe was a barber).

Ed graduated from Keyser High School 24 years before I did and received the Medal of Honor, posthumously, during World War II.

Jim, Craig, Richard, Sam, Bobby and Grady died in Vietnam. Bill Gunter and Carl survived that war, but not what it did to them.

Bill Menges was a Marine on Iwo Jima, and we used to bowl together. Harold was a crewman on a B-29 that bombed Japan, then came home to be a high school science teacher and my Sunday school teacher.

Theodore was the first sergeant of Battery C, 1st W.Va. Volunteer Artillery. As a living historian, I wear a Union Army uniform that bears his rank and crossed cannon badge to honor him.

There also was Elmer Colin Goldsworthy, a  professor from California who was wounded twice during World War I, once as an infantryman and again as a fighter pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. By then, we and the Brits were on the same side ... and there we’ve remained.

Today is Veterans Day, and I am grateful for what those people and millions like them have done for me.  You should feel the same way.

When you meet an American veteran, or those who are now serving on active duty, do what I do: Say to them, “Thanks for what you did (or are doing). Thank you for my freedom. Welcome Home.”

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