Jewish World Review Feb. 11, 2005/ 2 Adar I, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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The big hand for a few real heroes | The churls, knaves, blackguards and other aging lobberheads who long for the days of their vanished youth, when the proper '60s salute for an American soldier was insult and spittle, are having a hard time adjusting to the times.

That Super Bowl commercial, of American soldiers getting a round of applause as they walked through the passenger lounge of an airport somewhere deep in Middle America, is squeezing tears from the eyes of millions.

But it's driving some folks nuts.

Internet Web sites are seething with the anger of dingbats who ought to be grateful for a little relief from the fatigue of their full-time jobs of hating George W. Bush. They're getting encouragement from the usual suspects, such as Teddy Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi with their ritual sneers at good news from Iraq. A columnist in the London Guardian, searching the ladies room for a fainting couch, sums up the anger on the looney left:

"Pass the sick bag, Alice," writes one Stefano Hatfield. "I was too stunned by the [commercial] to really take in the full import of a beer company waving off 'our boys' (and girls) to battle. But battle? Where? The war in Iraq's over, isn't it, or so they keep telling us? ... Pure propaganda, and it picked up on one of the themes of the night: patriotism."

The contents of one knave's spleen does not a consensus make, nor the racket on the Internet an anvil chorus of any size, but it brings into sharp focus the reality that's driving the anvil chorus crazy. A certain kind of nut imagines he's a hostage at the Nuremberg rally every time he sees the flag on the breeze, or hears the sweet and innocent notes of a hymn to the home of the brave and the land of the free. But these scamps and skeesicks had best get a life, because it's true, patriotism is back, and with it the traditional appreciation for the sacrifice of the soldier.

The news gets worse for the haters. The TV commercial, unlike a lot of television, actually reflects real life. One traveler tells the Wall Street Journal Online: "Last Thursday I was on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Portland, Ore. There were four soldiers returning home for a two-week leave from Iraq. As the plane arrived at the gate in Portland, the pilot mentioned and thanked them for their service and asked that they be allowed to disembark first. As each of them walked toward the front of the plane, the rest of the passengers erupted in spontaneous applause."

Another traveler reports a similar experience: "In the past two weeks I have witnessed American Airlines giving empty first-class seats to soldiers and an entire terminal in Denver giving a plane full of disembarking soldiers a standing ovation on a busy Friday night." Still another traveler: "I, too, was spit upon and called a 'baby killer' in September 1971, in the San Diego airport, while wearing my Navy uniform. ... The Super Bowl ad brought me to tears, not of pain remembering my experience, but from pride in today's American patriots."

My cousin Chris Sarris died the other day in New Orleans at 80. The most momentous four years of his life were reduced to a single line in a modest obituary in the newspaper: "He was a Marine Corps veteran of World War II." Five decades afterward he reluctantly told me about a single night of terror in a foxhole on Okinawa. Two Marines who shared the hole were killed within a single hour. He was haunted ever afterward by the question of why them and not him. "They carried photographs of wives and children, but I never knew their names."

When I told him what a hero he had always been to me, he mumbled embarrassed thanks and left the room to get more coffee. When he returned he said: "The only mark I got in four years was a small burn when a piece of shrapnel hit my hand." Enough, maybe, for a Purple Heart for John Kerry, but he was chagrined to talk about it.

Americans make lousy imperialists. We don't do Nuremberg rallies. Americans make pretty good soldiers, as a lot of men in Valhalla could tell you, but when the shooting stops the American GI only wants to come home, marry the girl next door, pop the top on a cool one and watch the Patriots clock the Eagles. It's what makes him distinctively American.

So here's another round of heartfelt applause for the lousy imperialist: This Bud's for you.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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