Pedal On, Pedal On, Pedal On

The other day as I was straightening up the musty attic that constitutes my brain, trying to keep the cobwebs down and to make some sense of the arrangement of the boxes once again, I found myself remembering the military draft. It came up when I was eavesdropping on some men who were of at least one generation younger than mine and thinking … these guys have no concept of what it was to be an American male before 1975.

To them, trying to imagine stopping your life and putting everything on hold for two years while you had your head shaved and your clothing and location assigned to you would be as impossible as pondering what an alien abduction might really be like (except for the probing … anyone who has ever had their temperature taken rectally can imagine that). Add to this the very real possibility, depending on world politics, that you might be sent to a war zone where your chances of coming back alive might be only 80%, and your chances of coming back unchanged in a significant way would be zero.

The sword that once hung over our heads had been removed, and was no longer a fact of life. And who was the crew that broke the draft? It wasn’t our political leaders, who we all know rarely lead, but have to be forced into constructive activity. It wasn’t the Viet Nam Vets for Peace with their 1000 yard stares, although they made a strong contribution.

It was the moms.

The soccer moms, the middle-of-the-road moms, the housedress moms, who saw how careless our government had been with the lives of the boys they had birthed and raised. When those sensible shoes hit the streets in peaceful demonstrations, even good old President I Am Not A Crook looked out the White House window and said “We’re done here,” and the war and the draft became history.

Of course, the United States now has an all-volunteer army, but it hasn’t abandoned conscription altogether. At the age of eighteen, males are still required to register with the draft, just in case on some bright day in the years ahead we run into a situation where the country thinks it needs more bodies in uniform than have volunteered. So the door is open just a crack, one so small that it is almost invisible. But put the wrong guy in charge, or give a good president a bad idea, and that door could swing wide.

Can you imagine what a hoorah there would be if the government started actually calling up non-volunteers once again? The last several years it couldn’t even get all of us to wear masks or vaccinate ourselves against a very real threat to our health.

I will put the question to you. If you found a draft notice in your mailbox and your presence was demanded in a war zone somewhere in the world, and we were being led by a man as bereft of anything resembling morality or common sense as Donald Cluck, would you answer the call?

Myself, I think that I might take off for one of those extended Canadian vacations. I have a couple of beautiful and serene lakes in mind up there where I could live off the land as long as I was content to eat only lake trout, walleyes, and pine needles. (Of course, by the time the U.S. got themselves around to drafting people of my age, we would be in some serious doo doo for certain, and maybe Canada wouldn’t let me in.)

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Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain

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From The New Yorker

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It is such a treat to go looking for quotations in the Mark Twain section of the digital library. There are good reasons why his words are borrowed so often to employ in speeches and essays. He realized that we (Americans) are a colorful mixture of heroes and villains with a goodly number of b.s. artists in each group. All the keen observer has to do is wait for a day or two and a pomposity balloon will rise up just begging for someone with a hairpin and a strong right arm to pop it.

Someone might say: Well, he could say things like he did because he didn’t live in the toxic atmosphere that we do, where to speak your mind invites attack. But Twain was 26 years old when a little thing called the Civil War broke out, and I suspect that there were some very lively discussions at social gatherings during the years preceding the conflict and for a generation afterward.

After all, when more than 2% of the nation’s population were being killed in a confrontation, I imagine that it got people riled up in a rather forceful way.

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From The New Yorker

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Robin and I are presently watching the series “The Bear” on Hulu. You might like it.

We do.

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This song really belongs in an earlier post, when I gave the month of August a nod. But since 1967 it has been (for me) the essential summer tune. Here’s a clue – if I ever miss a whole season without playing and laying back and just going with it – well, momma, you can take this badge off of me ’cause I won’t need it anymore.

Brown Eyed Girl, by Van Morrison

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Robin is out of town, so yesterday I fired up the e-bike and took what is a long ride for me, close to forty miles. I went from home to the Black Canyon National Park, and then rode the park road to its conclusion. The route is basically one long uphill all the way there, and (why, you guessed, it you clever ducks), downhill all the way back.

For the first seven miles or so, I was also pedaling into a headwind which fell like 50 mph but was probably around 25. I mention these numbers because there is a small meter on the bike that tells me how much battery power I have left. By the time I reached the foothills leading to the park entrance, I had only a little more than half-power left to me already, with more uphill to go.

And then the motor quit in the middle of a hill. Just stopped altogether. And the bike’s computer screen flashed an error code – E 26 – which meant nothing to me. I sat there on the road for a couple of minutes and then tried again. The bike caught fire and off I went for another mile or so before it quit again. It was then that I remembered reading a review of this particular bike before I ever bought it and the writer talked about the electrical system protecting itself by a temporary shutoff whenever it felt it was overheating. Although this was a cool morning, I had been asking the machine to carry me uphill and into the wind for an hour straight, and it had finally asked for a break.

Once on top of the mesa I experienced no more shutdowns, but by the time I reached the far end of the park I had only two bars left (battery power) out of the ten that had been on the display at the beginning. And one of those two soon went away. But all praises be to the saints and the power of gravity I made it all the way home without having to get off and walk. All that downhill on the return trip did the trick.

But by that time my body’s own computer screen was flashing its own error message, which went something like this (and which was accompanied by a large amount of rubber-leggedness): Go in the house, you old fool, and don’t ask us to do one freaking thing that requires physical effort for the rest of the day. We’ve had it with you.

And that’s exactly what I did.

The Acoustic Motorbike, by Luka Bloom

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2 thoughts on “Pedal On, Pedal On, Pedal On

  • Regardless of my age, the fact that I am needed at home to assist a very independent but challenged spouse, were my country to even suggest it needed experience, I most certainly would volunteer. Some of that that I regret not reenlisting in 1971, some of that that Uncle Chuck gave me opportunities I foolishly refused, but I am still mom, country, and apple pie. Many jokes are told about sending us old farts to war, with short fuses and shorter life expectancies, but I’d not have to think about it at all because I already htat thought it all through. Great read this morning. Thanks.

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  • Thank you for your comments, SP. They are a good read in themselves. Here’s my problem. I did accept being drafted in 1969, and did not take off for Canada or Sweden or any other of the available hiding places. I hitched up what I thought were my big-boy pants and dragged my former wife and our four children with me as I served two years in the USAF in a non-combat role. After I was discharged I read books including “The Best and the Brightest,”and followed that up with the bombshell of watching Robert McNamara’s interview in The Fog of War.. At that point I started thinking much more about what I saw as truly my country’s call and one involving primarily the machinations of a small bunch of very fallible men, many of whose motives were suspect or even hostile to the best interests of what I believe my country to be.

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