Friday, April 03, 2009

Golf and Politics, Yesterday

I played golf yesterday with a 30 year old wounded veteran of Iraq War #2. Jake, an army ranger non-com, entered an Iraqi building in 2004 and took an AK-47 round in his thigh, fired by a guy who was hiding in a closet. The guy was deceased shortly afterward. Jake, fortunately, is doing fine. He has a decent job and a family.

Jake and I met as I was walking to the first tee, alone. As he walked by to the pro shop to pay his fee, I asked him if he would join me on the course. That's one of the good things about golf - it's not unusual to play with perfect strangers. I always look forward to meeting new people and seeing the world through their eyes as we golf together.

The subject of the war was not broached until we had played for quite awhile and apparently established a trusting relationship. Jake was unscathed during his tour in Afganistan, but Iraq was a different story. Also, his best friend was killed there. Jake was proud of his personal bravery, but he had no illusions about war being glorious. People who have fought know that fighting is ugly.

Much of Jake's identity relates to his service, which is understandable. (Although not a combat veteran, I also see myself as very much shaped by my military service.) He feels that his sacrifice must be validated by the U.S. achieving a reasonable outcome in Iraq. He doesn't want to have suffered in vain. He makes me think about the hundreds of thousands of American boys who fought in Viet Nam, only to receive few accolades upon their return and no satisfaction about achieving a worthwhile objective.

Jake was shocked to hear that I voted for Obama. He's believes that Obama is for those people who want something for nothing, the "freeloader class". From his reaction to me, I got the feeling that he seldom runs into people who support Obama. Jake personifies the class of average people who, in my opinion, have been pandered to by the republican party. He loves the unqualified verbal support he gets from the right-wingers, and he doesn't think about the idea that he might have been sent to war on false pretenses. Yet, Jake is a good guy and a solid citizen who I respect a lot. Obama will have to earn Jake's support - a tough order, but possible.

We're at the cusp of spring in Rochester. No daffodils, yet, but the shoots are coming up. The grass is beginning to turn from brown to green. The golf course fairways and greens have been mowed only once, and are still pretty rough. Another year is beginning; the cycle of life continues to turn. It's a miracle every year.

Jake and I exchanged cell phone numbers. Our schedules are such that we share times when we are both free to play golf. Isn't it great that two people of such different ages and political beliefs can find common cause in punishing a little white ball? I'll keep you posted if anything interesting develops out of this.


Dave said...

Tell Jake that there's hope for all of us, though I'm less optomistic than you are.

Ron Davison said...

Call me cynical, but it really does seem as though there is something almost hard wired in people in regards to politcs. I've known lots of "jakes" and I can't ever recall any of them changing their political viewpoint.