A 101st Airborne Vietnam vet writes to me about the controversy over the Obama campaign ad which suggested that Mitt Romney wouldn't have gone after Osama bin Laden:
I really don't want this to just be a bitchfest by an old fart about the good old days. However ...
There was an ethos among the men of our childhood that:
· a man was going to have to do a lot of tough things, and it didn't make him a victim because that's just the way life is.
· If you did what you were supposed to do, that didn't make you special, it just meant that you hadn't failed at being a man.
· If you did something that was tough to do but you knew was the right thing, you deserved to feel good about it. But none of your male friends, who had probably done similarly good things, would be impressed if you tried to brag about it. And you wouldn't have anyway—any more than they would—because not letting people know about something you did [that was] worthwhile enchanced the act, while bragging about it diminished it.
· And you certainly wouldn't say something along the lines of "I'm great because I did this thing, and you're terrible because you wouldn't have done it if you'd had the chance." The day you did that would be the day you would sink a notch or five in the eyes of your male acquaintances.
Can you imagine Ike saying, "I pulled the trigger on D-Day but Stevenson never would have had the guts to do that"? Or Truman saying, "I dropped the bomb, and Dewey wouldn't have"? The response from men in that day and age would have been "Shut up and act like a man." And there is the irony: What Obama and his campaigners are doing to bolster the public's perception of him as a strong president is something that would have had the exact opposite effect 50 years ago.
My, how times have changed.