provocative article

This came to me from a lawyer in The San Francisco Bay
It is  thought provoking to say the least.
You have to read to the end to get the meaning right.
If you do not like the Patriot Act (I don't) as it
stands, you should read it.  If you like the Patriot
Act, you can ignore it.
david ingram
taxman at
          Why I'm Voting for George
          By Dave Joyce
          t r u t h o u t | Letter
          Wednesday 20 October 2004
          This is going to be a mite long winded, but
by the time you get to the bottom, you'll understand,
so lean on back, take your shoes off and sit awhile.
And ah ... no peeking.
          Many have asked where I am in Maine. And
while I don't have the GPS co-ordinates handy, I can
say a little something about my place in the backwoods.
Our town's name is something the local natives once
said. Not the guys that came over on those rickety,
leaky sailing ships, I mean the ones who answered the
doorbell and met the boats. The word, quite frankly,
has just too many c's, k's, t's, p's, and w's for one
human mouth to even try to muckle on to. And as far as
spelling it, as a former systems analyst I know that
certain combinations of keystrokes can unlock hidden
programs that will wipe your hard drive faster than a
skunk can raise his tail and say "Hello," so that ain't
gonna happen. But what the dang thing means, well
that's another story.
          Not too many of the original inhabitants are
around anymore, so the current natives aren't sure what
the thing really means. Ed down at the corner claims it
means "Moose too damn heavy," because for the original
folks here, when a hunter killed one, rather than drag
it back to camp, they dragged the camp to it. Nowadays,
during the one week when Moose hunting is allowed, we
currents use backhoes, skidders, and the like (I've
heard tell of a chainsaw or two being involved) to
bring them out of the backwoods. To me, seeing these
sizeable critters on an almost daily basis, the
originals had it right.
          Dalton, down the road the other way, says it
refers to some sort of ritual the originals had, a
religious thing involving gourds and riverbank mud.
Don't know as if I buy it, because, to be honest, I
think Dalton's opinion on the matter might be a tad
tainted by his father Sam, and that man was a bit
peculiar when it came to the originals that once
inhabited these parts.
          A few decades back, when a ruckus broke out
between the originals and the currents over who owned
which part of the state, Sam made his opinion known on
the matter. He attended one of those public discussion
meetings on the various land claims that occurred
around this area during that time. Seated in the room
were not only the town elders of several towns, but
representatives of those originals, and a large number
of local citizens who also wanted to be heard. The
meeting went back and forth all night, each side
presenting its case and neither making any sense to the
other. Finally, Sam couldn't take it any more and got
recognized to speak. He got up and proceeded to calmly
explain with his loud booming voice how no finer friend
of the originals existed here in the valley. Why, he
boasted, as a young lad, he had acquired his very first
hunting rifle by trading a pint of store bought whiskey
to Old Indian Joe who lived out by himself on an island
in the middle of the river, and that out of the
goodness of his heart it was a full pint except for
that small sip he had taken to make sure it was indeed
the "real stuff," so as far as he was concerned, all
this talk of who owned what was a bunch of crap that
stank just as bad as the black gunk the mill flushed
into the river out where Old Joe used to live. Barely
pausing for breath, he then proceeded to go on with his
version of the area's history in which, while the
originals had fought bravely to hang on to the land,
they lost because there were more of "us folk than them
folk" and therefore it had all been decided way back
when anyways, so we should just all go home and be done
with it. The silence that greeted Sam's message was
such that Sam figured he had single-handedly stopped
what would later become a landmark Supreme Court ruling
dead in its tracks, and deciding to set an example by
his way of thinking, he promptly left the meeting.
          On the other hand, I think Carl, over on the
south side of the hill, has it about right. His
translation is "Place Too Small for Post Office and
Therefore Does Not Exist." You see, a while back we
were an independent town. We weren't big, just a few
square miles in the woods. We had a post office, a
general store, and with a couple of two-story buildings
at the crossroads, we considered this our "downtown."
But a couple of decades ago or so, the Postal Service
decided our Post Office needed to become undeliverable.
When that happened, the general store went under, and
our town was absorbed into a bigger town nearby. Most,
but not all, folks at the time voted for the
consolidation and while it passed, it was not without a
struggle. And the tale of that struggle involves a now
deceased relative of Carl's, his uncle Barney.
          Barney had fought WWII in the navy, and had
gotten into UDT (Under Water Demolition). He'd been
part of a team clearing obstacles on various Pacific
island beaches prior to the Marines going ashore. When
he came back, he bought himself a parcel of land out in
the woods, set up a cabin, got hitched, and raised a
packet of kids. But when talk of consolidation started,
Barney would have none of it. So on the night of the
big vote, Barney didn't bother to go. He decided,
instead, to strike a blow for Liberty and Independence.
          Our town was separated from the larger one by
a small bridge crossing a small rocky creek. The middle
of the bridge was the dividing line between us and
them. About a mile or so upstream exists a dam owned by
a local sawmill owner whose mill was, at that time, on
the other side of the bridge in that other town. Now,
the dam had been built a few years after Barney had
built his place, and the resulting 150-plus acre pond
came close to Barney's land, but was not actually on
it. Barney didn't mind the dam and pond - its pickerel,
bass, and other fish were a good addition to his
family's diet.
          But Barney was a stubborn cuss and no way, no
how, was he going to allow the place where he was born,
grew up, lived, and was going to die, to just up and
disappear. Plus he was not about to let some "big city
types" tell him what size to make and where to put his
outhouse. And if he had to make another sacrifice for
his independence, so be it. Being a former UDT man, he
figured half a stick of 40% would be about right. So
while everyone else was at the meeting, Barney was out
by the dam reliving his youth.
          Barney figured that by blowing the dam, a
resulting wash of water would take out the bridge
downstream, cutting us off, and as a by product, giving
the owner of the mill (and one of the biggest
supporters of the consolidation movement) an extra kick
in the pants. Things didn't quite work out that way.
The pond was lower than normal that year - dry summer -
and the frothing churning mass of rushing angry water
he envisioned smashing into the bridge was a single
wave just barely able to wet the upper supports.
          None the less, he was proud that his mission
was accomplished, and rather than hightail it back to
his cabin, he stood by until the Sheriff arrived,
accompanied by the local Game Warden (who thought
someone was night fishing), and thus managed to parlay
his deed into a county-paid vacation trip. But, in
spite of Barney's valiant attempt to defend his
independence and his way of life, the outcome of the
vote was never really in doubt. Our small place with
the weird name disappeared; we lost our autonomy, our
independence, and our "dot" on the map of Maine.
          Fighting for independence is strong up here.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that many of the
families in this area have direct ties to veterans of
the War of 1812, who, as pay for their service during
that war, were given land grants up here. And as each
generation passed, folks in this area contributed sons
to all the different fights that followed. Back in the
woods, there are old graveyards, some tended and some
forgotten, with members of entire families listed on
the headstones. In just about every case, you'll find a
name or two of someone in the family that died during
the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Indian Wars or some
such. In a lot of cases, it's just the names; the
remains are buried somewhere else.
          A lot of veterans live in these parts. And if
you travel the back roads a bit, sooner or later you'll
come across a VFW or American Legion hall. It's usually
a larger than normal building, either a remodeled
farmhouse or a spec steel frame structure of some sort.
There'll be a parking area, tarred or dirt, and flag
poles that proudly fly both the American and State of
Maine flags. Sometimes there'll even be a cannon or two
out front between those poles. And pretty much at most
times of the day there'll be a couple of cars or a
truck or two in the parking lot.
          One such hall I would pass by occasionally
when I was working for a nearby paper mill. My commute
to and from work was about 45 minutes each way, and
there were a number of slightly different routes I
could take depending on the weather, time of day, or
season of the year. A couple of years back, my choice
of travel that day took me by this particular VFW. As I
drove past, I noticed the 37mm anti-tank cannon between
the poles had been replaced by a US Army surplus M48
Main Battle Tank. And because such a tool of war seemed
so incongruous on a peaceful back woods road, I pulled
in and stopped.
          After getting out and walking around to the
tank, I stood there trying to figure out its pedigree,
when out from the VFW hall stepped an older gent. He
saw me standing there and came over. He was dressed
typical backwoods Mainer style: green work pants, red
and blue checked flannel shirt, open so that the frayed
upper front rim of his whitish undershirt peeked out.
His shirt was covered by a blue windbreaker with a
faded Red Sox emblem on one side and a shoulder seam
that was torn open, a tuft of white insulation exposed,
on the other side. His shoes were brown work boots,
badly scuffed, the right shoe's tip showing a bit of
steel cap through the worn leather. In his right hand
was a polished wooden cane (I had noticed a limp as he
walked over).
          He was a little shorter than my 5' 11"
height. The white hair on his head was topped with a
grease and oil stained, faded, well worn green John
Deere baseball cap. Brown eyes, set in a wrinkled,
weathered face, complete with grayish stubble and
silver wire frame glasses, looked me over.
          "Nice tank," he said.
          "Sure is, just trying to figure out what
version it is, A1 or A3"
          "A1." He paused, "You know who the tank is
named after?"
          At first I thought he was talking about the
personal name combat crews sometimes put on their
vehicle, and then I realized he was talking about the
official name.
          "George S. Patton, too bad he never had a
chance to take these babies up against some Mark V's or
T-34's," I said.
          He laughed, "Yeah, George would have enjoyed
that rumble." Then tilting his head and cracking a
smile, he asked, "You a tanker?"
          "Nope, never had the honor, got 4F'd by the
draft board on account of my legs."
          That was true. As a young lad, my legs tried
to occupy a point in space-time that was also occupied
by a moving car. The result of this experiment in
quantum mechanics was a fast trip to several medical
establishments and a long period of recovery. So when
my turn came for a draft physical back in the days of
LBJ, old Doc Bessin, who had been treating my colds,
sniffles, and other assorted childhood illnesses and
was well aware of my leg's reassembled condition,
didn't bother with a thermometer, a tongue depressor or
any such, he simply looked at me, looked at my legs,
wrote "4F" on my form, and told me to go home and have
a long and healthy life.
          "So how come you know tanks?" he asked.
          "Been a World War II buff ever since I was a
kid," I said. "Grew up on tales from my relatives that
fought in that war."
          "Yeah, what part?" he asked.
          "My uncle Bobby was a bombardier on 17s over
Europe. Got shot down during the Schwienfort raid and
spent 2 years as a POW. My other uncle Frank served in
the Marines and fought in just about every Pacific
battle from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima, where he got
wounded and shipped home. I got a second cousin that
fought in France, but never made it back."
          His smile widened, "Well it sounds as if your
folks did ok, then." He shifted the cane to his left
hand and stuck out his right, "George Akers is the
          I grabbed the offered hand and shook it while
saying, "Dave Joyce, pleased to meet you George."
          "Likewise," he said. Then, dropping the
handshake, he switched hands on the cane once again and
turned towards the tank.
          "Yup, ol' Blood and Guts would have loved
this one. Did I mention I served under General Patton
during WWII?"
          "No. Really?"
          "Yup, came ashore with the Third Army, chased
the Krauts across France, Belgium, and clean into
Germany. That's where I got this." His hand struck his
right leg with a soft dull thwack.
          "You saw a lot of history then," I replied.
          "And a lot of good men die too," he said
sadly, then brightening up he added, "You being a
history buff and all, you might want to take a look at
my collection of photos and stuff from the war up to
the house," and pointed towards a trailer with an
attached shed, a type of homestead common in these
parts, perched on the hillside just above and a short
distance from where we stood.
          Since I had left work a few hours early that
Friday fall afternoon, I was in no real rush to get
home. It had been a long week of late nights as we
computer geeks finished updating the mill's inventory
system. The job was finally done, the programs doing
their thing seemingly without a hitch, and the boss was
in a good mood, so a slightly longer than normal
weekend awaited me. And the offer did intrigue me.
          "Sure," I said and pointed at my truck parked
nearby. "Hop in."
          We drove across the parking lot, around the
right side of the hall, and crossed over on to George's
driveway. His trailer sat in a small clearing on the
hillside, overlooking the VFW hall and the nearby
tarred road. The trailer was a single wide that had a
fairly new wooden roof supported by posts at each
corner. What had appeared to be an adjoining shed from
the parking lot was in fact a large addition that was
cleanly affixed to the trailer's side wall. An
insulated chimney pipe with cap jutted above the
roofline, lazily discharged a thin stream of wood
smoke. A couple of rusting lawn chairs sat outside,
placed around a small circle of stones, the inside of
which contained the cold charred embers of a past
          As we pulled into the yard and he was
directing me where to park, the door to the trailer
opened and a short, white haired woman stepped out and
walked towards the truck.
          "Well, George," she said, "how many this
          "Just one like I promised," George said as he
swung himself out of the truck and on to the ground. It
took him a few seconds to get his land legs and steady
himself with his cane before turning and pointing at
me. "This young fella was admiring Bessie down there
and I invited him up to take a look at my collection."
          She looked me over. She stood there wearing a
faded blue and white house dress, its floral print long
ago washed into obscurity. Around her waist was a lime
green apron whose tint hinted of a brighter past.
Covering her shoulder and arm was a dark blue sweater,
unbuttoned, but held together at the top with a gold
chain clipped onto the sweater collar. The face was
wrinkled and well worn with a hint of youthful beauty
and grace. What was most remarkable were the two bright
blue eyes that shown out from behind a pair of slightly
tinted frameless glasses. Those eyes had the same look
as a Mother Bear with cubs spotting a potential threat
for the first time: situational awareness. And standing
there, with her short stocky frame and hands on hips,
the resemblance to such a critter at such a time was
          "And you being?" she said, in a tone that was
both defiant and friendly.
          "His name's Dave and he works up to the mill,
Martha. Just stopped by to look at my collection,"
George said and headed off towards the trailer.
          I introduced myself a little more proper,
shook hands, and turned to follow George, all the while
answering her questions of where I lived, what I did at
the mill, as we strolled up the short walkway and into
the trailer. I could sense an ease in her attitude
towards me and my intrusion into her life as we talked.
But there was still something about her voice that
bothered me, something that still did not quite click.
          Inside was the typical single wide layout. A
kitchen to the right of the front door with a half bar
wall dividing it from the living room. Off to the left,
a narrow hallway ended with the door to the master
bedroom. Two doorways along the hallway's right side
showed where a spare room and the single bathroom lay.
          The living room and kitchen were clean, neat,
and dust free. A three person sofa sat against one wall
with a recliner on the right hand side. A coffee table
sat on an oval, green and yellow braided rug in front
of the sofa. Upon the table's shining surface sat
framed photos, both new and old, of young children. In
one corner of the living room was a small television.
The other corner, the one closest to the front door,
contained a small table with a vase of colorful but
artificial flowers. The trailer had that comfortable,
lived in look.
          Where a normal single wide rear entrance
would be - the upper left corner of that living room -
a darkly stained, highly polished six panel wooden door
with a gleaming brass doorknob now stood.
          I stood inside their home, feeling a little
awkward, when George walked over to the wooden back
door. Flicking a light switch on the wall and opening
door, he turned his head over his shoulders and said,
"Here it is."
          As the flickering light from a couple of four
foot florescent strips took hold, I could see another
room, this one slightly larger than the living room,
through the doorway. As I came across the living room
and into this new space, I could see it was filled with
shelves of books, framed photos, newspaper clippings,
flags, pennants, and other memorabilia. A leather
recliner, a smaller sofa and a couple of small tables
filled the rest of the room. In one corner sat a small
TV with an attached VCR, a rack of tapes perched on the
wall above.
          One wall, however, was nearly unadorned -
five framed photos, one centered, with four others
aligned to its corners surrounding it. Below, a small
table stood against the wall. A miniature flagpole with
a granite base and American flag lay on top towards the
back of the table. Just in front of that was a highly
detailed scale model M4 Sherman tank and in front of
that, a small rectangular velvet box displaying a
Purple Heart.
          George motioned me to have a seat on the
sofa. As I sat down, he asked, "So what d'ya think?"
          I smiled and said, "Impressed."
          Just then Martha put her head in the doorway
and asked, "Would you care for a cuppa tea or coffee?"
It was the way she said it that caused me to realize
what it was that had bothered me about Martha: she
wasn't from Maine, she was British.
          George and I talked for several hours that
day. He told me of growing up on a farm up in potato
country and his handiness with farm machinery. When
Pearl Harbor happened, he wanted to join up right away,
but his mother made him promise to finish high school.
So the day after graduation, he hitch-hiked down to
Bangor and joined the Army. After Basic, the Army, in a
rare fit of sanity, assigned him to tank school because
of his mechanical abilities. He trained in Texas and
California before being shipped to England, and ended
up as the assistant driver/hull gunner in a Sherman
tank assigned to Patton's Third Army.
          "There were five of us in that tank. Sergeant
Bill Puller was the commander. We just called him
Sarge," he said with a smile. "And there was Corporal
John Nast. Nasty was his nickname. He was our gunner.
Bob Swan, the loader, was called Swami, 'cause Bob
always seemed to know which kind of shell to grab
before Sarge or Nasty could tell him. Dan Black was the
driver; "Shifty" we called him because he could never
get comfortable in his seat, always moving around
trying to get set whenever we were on the road."
          Pointing towards the wall with the five
pictures, he said, "That's them over there, the lower
left hand one."
          I got up and looked at the pictures. They
were old, faded from black and white into a brownish
white. The picture George directed me to displayed 5
uniformed individuals standing along side a Sherman
tank festooned with sleeping bags, knapsacks, shovels,
and spare treads. Across the turret were the words
"Squirrel Huntin' II." The three other photos
surrounding the center one showed pretty much the same,
but in those photos, the tank and the items strapped to
its sides, as well as the men in the photos, were caked
with mud or covered with snow, unlike the pristine
condition that had existed in the first photo.
          As I looked at the photos, George said, "See
the one in the middle?"
          I looked. Two GIs were standing side by side
by a large river. The far bank could be seen in the
distance. Both men had their backs to the camera and
were looking back over their shoulders. "Yes," I
          "That's me and Shifty pissin' in the Rhine
just after we crossed in March of '45."
          As I stared at the photo, he added, "That was
taken about a week before I got hit and Shifty bought
          I asked him if he minded telling me how it
          "No, don't mind at all. We had crossed into
Germany and at that time a lot of Germans were just
plain giving up. We had fought our way across Europe
and them Nazis (he pronounced it like Churchill did,
"Nazzis") had put up a hellva fight. About 3 or 4 days
earlier, our tank platoon commander had been killed and
we got a freshly caught shavetail (2nd Lieutenant) as a
          He paused to take a sip of tea. "We got word
from some German civilians that there was a group of SS
up the road wanting to give up. Sarge tried to talk
this new LT into not going right in, with bands playing
and all, to accept their surrender. But the young kid
wouldn't listen to any of the more experienced guys,
and besides, he was in command and orders are orders.
So we headed up the road, the Lieutenant in the lead
tank, us second, with a couple of half-tracks carrying
a platoon or so of GIs in each behind us. No sooner did
we round the corner on this narrow road, when an 88
anti-tank gun opened up, nailing the lead tank with his
first shot. The crew of that tank got out before she
blew and we fired at where we thought the gun was, but
missed. The Germans fired a second shot, hitting us. It
was a dud, went right through our armor like a hot
knife through butter, in one side and out the other,
clean as a whistle. But rather than argue the point
with the other fellows, Sarge, because knew we were
out-gunned, ordered us to bail out. I went out the
hatch above my head, fell to the ground and scrambled
behind a nearby tree. The third shot the Krauts fired
wasn't a dud; it blew our tank to hell and back. That's
when a piece of shrapnel just about took my leg off. I
lay there on the ground screaming like the dickens,
bullets and what all flying around me, when I realized
I wasn't the only one screaming. That first 88 round to
hit us had done some damage after all, it had jammed
Shifty in his seat; he couldn't get out and was
screaming as he burned in the remains of our tank."
          He paused, wiping a tear from his eye.
"Sorry, even after all these years...." He took a deep
breath and a sip of what was now cold tea.
          "I got hauled out of there, back to an aid
station, and then back to England. They took what
remained of my leg off, and taught me how to walk with
a new one. That's where I met Martha. When came time
for me to go back stateside, I didn't want to leave
her, so I upped an' married her. She's been taking care
of me ever since."
          After a couple of minutes, he said; "Dave,
you know why we won?"
          I wasn't quite sure what George was getting
at, but before I could answer, he pointed to the video
tapes in the rack. "Ever see Frank Capra's 'Why We
Fight' movies?"
          I said I did and owned a copy of the series
myself. He smiled. "Kinda figured you had seen it.
Actually Capra didn't quite get it right. Look over
there," he said, and pointed to a spot on the wall
between two bookshelves. Three framed documents hung on
the wall.
          "Those are why. The one on the right, that's
my enlistment papers, the one on the left is my
discharge papers. In the middle is a copy of the United
States Constitution. You see when you swear into
service, you're swearing to defend that document, the
Constitution, against all enemies foreign or domestic.
Them Nazis, they swore an oath to a man, Adolf Hitler;
we swore an oath to an idea. That's why we won."
          At this point Martha stuck her head in the
room and said that dinner was almost ready and I was
welcome to stay if I wanted. I begged off and said I
had to be going. We exchanged pleasantries and I
promised to come back.
          I did too. Over the past years I've visited
George and Martha, spending hours with George listening
to him relive his youth, his tales of the good fight
and the men who fought it with him. But when I stopped
working at the mill, my times over there were fewer
than they should have been. I'd come on by after a
fishing trip and drop off some of my catch, or just
drop by when I was in the area and usually end up
visiting for a couple of hours or so.
          As the years have gone by George and Martha
have endured. George's leg started to give him some
pain and in the past few months he started to have some
trouble with his heart. About a month ago, I stopped by
and was greeted with an offer I couldn't refuse, a
chance to join him in his one and only, if Martha had
anything to say about it, daily beer down at the VFW
          We sat at the bar sipping our brew, with a
television softly playing in the background, and it was
then that I heard George make the only "political"
comment I ever heard in the short years since I first
met him. A commercial for the ACLU was on; you know the
one, the one that talks about the Patriot Act. It has a
line in it that goes something like "The government can
search your home without ever telling you."
          George heard that, shook his head slowly and
said, "That's plain just not right."
          My wife and I returned from George's funeral
a few days ago. He died before the VA could get him
booked into Boston for a bypass. The service was at a
church down the road from his trailer, and his resting
place is up the road from it, in one of those small
cemeteries that will someday be hidden back in the
woods. The small procession from the church to the
cemetery passed by the VFW hall, and they stopped the
hearse carrying his flag-draped coffin directly in
front of the hall and its tank for a moment. While we
waited there for the procession to continue on to the
burying ground, I made a decision. I'm voting for
          When I make my mark for John Kerry, it won't
be so much for his positions or plans for America. It
won't even be to get Bush out of office. It will be for
George ... and Shifty. For Uncle Bobby, and Uncle Frank
and even stubborn ol' Barney and all the others that
left homes and farms, gave blood, sweat, tears, limbs,
and lives in order to protect our Constitution from
enemies foreign and domestic. They did their duty; on
November 2nd, I'll do mine.
          Dave Joyce is a retired systems analyst
living in the Great North Woods of Maine where he
enjoys all of nature's bounty except the black flies.
He can be reached via his moose and squirrel powered
backwoods dialup connection here:
drjoyce_301 at
Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
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