Monday, August 12, 2013

Matt Rommel and the Palace of the Legion of Honor

Matt Rommel and the Palace of the Legion of Honor

I wrote Brand Loyalty not only as a mystery, but as a study of two groups that no one in America cares about very much, military veterans and single mothers.  We'll talk about single mothers and the damsel in distress in another post.  This one is about my military veteran.

Matt Rommel is an attempt to dispel or at least challenge some of the stupid conclusions I have heard about the American military veteran, i.e.  they're not too smart, they are violent, they like war.  That last one is, for me, a real corker (American vernacular for a big fat lie that only a stupid person would believe).

My father spent a career in the military, as did my uncle.  Both my grandfathers served in the First World War.  Some of those men saw combat, got a first hand look at dead young men.  None of them were violent.  My uncle Ted, who was at Normandy beach and the Battle of the Bulge, was also a fifth degree Judo black belt and one of the two strongest men I ever met.  Still in all, a gentle soul.

They had seen violence.  They could engage in it.  They were not violent men.  After their respective wars, none of them had trouble with the law or their neighbors.

I served for five years and never heard a shot fired in anger and I am just fine with that.

Not too smart:  Military people absorb a lot of training and staying alive in a hostile environment involves luck, training, awareness, and adaptability.  Those veterans who were able to use the GI Bill became doctors, lawyers, and founded and ran many successful business enterprises.  Among those who were admitted to West Point (but did not finish), Edgar Allen Poe and James McNeill Whistler.

Love War:  God, on the face of it, this canard is beyond stupid.  Military personel fight the wars that come along.  Far and away, their preferance is peace.  On the other hand, to paraphrase Daniel V. Gallery, if a war comes along, they don't want to leave the work to someone less able.  Who are your war hawks?  Typically draft dodgers.  It's a shame they get elected to public office.

So what happens to the veteran when the time for service has passed?  Often, they seek peace both within themselves and in their surroundings.

Which brings us to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, a fine arts museum built after the First World War.  In the old days, people of all walks of life in America served in time of war.  WWI was an industrial war and the savagery and carnage shook everyone.  The wealthy lost children in that war just as the poor did.  This museum began as a monument to them and a reminder of the things they fought and died to protect.  This is why Matt Rommel chooses to spend his days there.

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