Monday, November 12, 2012

I miss Walter Cronkite

I may miss a lot of things – miss in the sense of omit, not in the sense of longing for. I might forget to commemorate a birthday or an anniversary. I might overlook a holiday or maybe forget an event… but, Dear Readers, you will never catch me missing Veteran’s Day.

I suppose that, deep down I am a patriot. I firmly believe that our Veterans’ efforts to preserve all that is right and good about America deserves to be recognized, even more than it already is. Think about it: they give their lives, or at least what innocence they held before being faced with the possibility of having to take a life, dying or witnessing death on a battlefield. We only give them one day, and grudgingly at that. One whole day to acknowledge everything they’ve done for us and our country. 

I can’t let that day pass by without writing about it.

Now, in my third year as a blogger I wonder what else I can say that I’ve not already said about Veterans. I don’t know very many of them personally. And, I wonder what I could write that would be as poignant, heartfelt and meaningful as what I’ve already posted for the past 2 Veteran’s Day entries. Tonight, while cooking my dinner it came to me.

I miss Walter Cronkite.

I didn’t know him very well. In fact I didn’t know him at all. While he was in his heyday I was a selfish young tyke. Later, as he mellowed into a journalist of the highest caliber I was only just becoming aware of world events. But, at twenty some-odd years old, who really cares about what is going on in the world?

The reason I miss Walter Cronkite is because, during the Iran Hostage Crisis, he signed his news broadcast off with “And that is the news on this, the Nth day of the hostage Crisis in Iran.” He made it his personal mission to never allow the American people to forget that there were Americans being held against their will in hostile territory.

Again I assure you that this blog is not, nor does it aspire to be political in nature. I do have to mention the politics of the Iran Hostage Crisis, but only briefly, so that you can get a sense of why that time was so impactful to this then-young woman who was trapped in a bad marriage and had two children to raise.

I blame nobody but myself for my poor selection of a mate, and I don’t blame him wholly for the quality of our marriage. We were both simply too young. Sure, there were other factors involved that ultimately led to the dissolution of our union but our youth played the biggest part.

Another big part of what was wrong in our lives was his job: he was an infantry soldier in the U.S. Army. At the time I did not realize it – how could I have, young as I was? – but being a grunt is not exactly easy work. Being a grunt in times of world turmoil is even more stressful.

When Ronald Reagan took the presidency in 1981, he was determined to send military troops to Iran and ‘get our people home’. President Carter had tried various means to get the hostages freed, mostly by applying economic and diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government. His attempts yielded nothing but political strain between the two countries because the hostages were captured by a rebel group, not by the mainstream government. In fact, President Carter called the hostages "victims of terrorism and anarchy", adding that the "United States will not yield to blackmail".

When Ronald Reagan took the oath of office my then-husband whooped with glee. He was going to see some ACTION!!! He was going to WAR!!! He was going to KICK IRANIAN BUTT!!! (except he did not say it so mildly.) He danced around the living room, spilling beer and spewing other such nonsense. I huddled in my baby daughter’s room with her in my lap, terrified.   

I did not wholly understand what was going on in the world but that frisson of fear left me disquieted and disturbed. The drunken outbursts from the living room did nothing to assuage my anxiety. Only Walter Cronkite, with his mellow baritone, gravely reporting the nightly news and signing off with his tribute to the hostages lent me some comfort. His voice gave the impression that, no matter what, things would turn out alright.

Do we even have a Walter Cronkite reporting the news these days? Has any news anchor made it a point of reflecting how long we’ve had troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or how long those ‘actions’ have been going on? Do the deaths of our soldiers get reported anymore? Do we even know how many have died during the past ten years our troops have been over there?

Our government has spent trillions of dollars maintaining a military presence in those lands. Our troops have quietly been ferried in and out of their Stateside duty assignment to bases everywhere from Tehran to Tikrit. Some of those soldiers have completed 3 and 4 rotations overseas. When they come back they try to resume the life they left behind. Hard to do when the memory of sleeping on gritty sand is more prevalent than the feel of a comfortable bed. Even harder to do when psychologically fractured.  

From my admittedly challenged viewpoint, these goings on get absolutely no media coverage. China doesn’t exactly allow for comprehensive news reporting from other lands. 

This year’s presidential race has been run and won. For better or worse our country is subject to another 4 years of a democratic president. The newscasters, once again reporting with a gleam in their eye or mock sorrow etched on their faces talk about what could be considered trivial doings: the Kardashians and the Honey Boo Boos that apparently merit more airtime and more media attention than do our troops.

Will any of those news hawkers discover within themselves the integrity to close his or her broadcast with “… And that is the news on this, the Nth day of military action in the Middle East.”?

No wonder I miss Walter Cronkite.        

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