As a grieving eulogist, Ted Kennedy was forgiven for ascribing to his late brother Bobby the George Bernard Shaw quote, “Some men see things as they are, and say, ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?'”
Great quote, but I can think of better hobbies.
In any case, the other day I was reflecting on my own essay on my dad’s WWII experience, and his distrust of old men sending young men to war—and a similar statement by WWII-veteran Mel Brooks in an NPR interview last week, with Terry Gross:
GROSS: I will say you got a Kennedy Center honor from Obama, but you were offered one from President George W. Bush, and you declined because of the war in Iraq. How public did you want to be about that? How much of a public statement did you want to make about that? And how much did you just want to quietly decline?
BROOKS: I wanted to quietly decline. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. And I just didn’t – I thought that pursuing that war in Iraq, I thought, was all wrong. I’d been a soldier myself. And I said, why are these guys going? Why do they – why? It just didn’t make sense to me. And when I got the one from Obama, I asked – I said, Can I get two? I turned the – last year, I turned the other one down. Do I – can I get two? And Obama said one to a customer.
I wondered what if Brooks and his generation had made a big deal of it. I wondered what might have been achieved around 2002, by an organization called:
“The Greatest Generation, Against the Latest War.”
Seems to me the GGALW could have had some prominent members, some pretty good numbers—and some real persuasive force.
But these were not guys who believed in protesting, by and large. They felt they’d run their race—and who could blame them? They won their war, and now they were supposed to prevent another one, six decades later?
And yet, you do wonder in hindsight at a difference these venerated men might have made if they’d gathered and aimed themselves once more unto the breach—and used their rhetorical and political best in the middle of a pitched debate—and you say, “Why not?”
And then a sure charter member of the GGALW replies:
So it goes.