RIOT IN THE REFORM PARTY
Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota, recently gave an interview to
Playboy magazine that has the talk show hosts and media acting like junk
yard dogs. In it, this ex-navy SEAL, former pro-wrestler, talk show host,
ringside wrestling color announcer, sometime movie actor, former mayor of
Brooklyn Park, MN, and extroverted male human being, said two things, among
numerous others, that deeply disturb a lot of people. Somebody better
provide a different perspective than the one I caught on TV, and I'm
qualified to write this one.
Jesse's remarks, made within the friendly context of a magazine that was
once unabashedly written for males, was sexist and male ascendant in
nature, and contained what I consider male intellectual horse-play
sandwiched around salacious pictures of nude and scantily clad young
females, were delivered with little or no gravitas. That is, they were not
particularly statesmanlike in nature, nor had Jesse carefully considered
that a portion of both the religious right and America's career women were
part of Playboy's readership. It probably wouldn't have mattered if he
had, since I believe he'd have said them anyway. Most people will admit
Jesse is not the embodiment of political correctness.
Off the top of his head, Jesse remarked that organized religion was
composed of people who had difficulty standing on their own and needed a
crutch. Speaking of the decade-old, career-ending, naval officer wreck
called Tailhook, he said these guys defy death all the time, and without
justifying in any way their totally juvenile conduct, he supposed they
didn't consider groping a woman's breasts or buttocks that important in the
great scheme of things. Neither remark was particularly astute or
calculated to improve his poll ratings, but it wasn't fellatio in the Oval
Let me lecture for just a bit. I don't know Jesse, though I know former
SEALs who do, but several decades earlier, I went through the same basic
underwater demolition school training course, BUD/S, that he did. In it,
for four months, the instructors do everything short of killing you, and
sometimes even that by mistake, to get you to quit, or to make you so full
of pain and so weary you can't continue. One could sum it up as a
prolonged, unusually severe test of human will and the voluntary acceptance
of pain. There is nothing humane about it, and I wouldn't work a mule as
hard as they did my class 17 teammates and me. The purpose was and still
is, to sift out and send to SEAL teams men who will persevere under any
circumstances, men too stubborn to fail, men with the self-confidence and
stupidity to take any amount of punishment and continue on an operation.
They don't quit. Graduates become a brethren of sorts, and the old frogmen
and younger SEALs hang together tightly. Their outlook on life, vast
tolerance to little, unimportant things, and insensitivity to the nuances
of hurtful conversation transcends age, and their sense of humor, developed
as a defense mechanism to endure considerable pain, strongly bonds them.
Take it from me, because I know what I'm talking about.
>From the common sense, pragmatic point of view developed by a SEAL in
living his life as a supra-surviving, resourceful, self-reliant, and
independent man, Jesse's comments represent one side of the truth. I will
admit there is a case that can be made for the other side. If, as he later
clarified, Jesse was speaking of intolerant ultra-right religions, such as
the 900 capable of committing mass suicide at Jamestown, the smaller group
whose souls are now safely aboard that neighboring comet, or even those who
insist on labeling abortion, as reprehensible as it is to most of us,
nothing but murder one, I see his point.
Looking at the Tailhook miscreants, I served aboard the aircraft carrier
Boxer during a nine-month cruise to the Far East. Living next to two
pilots in the ship's air group, talking with them, observing them take off
and land on that pitching deck in full daylight or darkest night, I
developed a healthy respect for men who would face that kind of danger.
One of these two pilots, who became our friends over the months, was good
enough to later apply for and become a Blue Angel. I subsequently heard
while I was a frogman that he'd been killed in an air show or training
accident. They lived hard and played hard, had liquor aboard our ship,
which was a no-no, and when their air ops were completed for a month at
sea, they hosted parties right next to us. The noise made it impossible
for my roommate and me to sleep, so if we weren't standing watches, we
simply joined them in the fun til they got tired or passed out. If you
can't beat em', join em'! There were no women to grope, but nothing was
reverent in our conversations. These jet pilots felt it was great to be
alive, relieved to put in all that flight time and live through it. I
think you have to live close to the edge of death to fully appreciate life.
Happy is an understatement. Jesse was right on again about the crudity
that was Tailhook. Injudicious though they might have been, his remarks
were not intended to hurt anyone, and they would not make any remotely
normal man gasp and hold his breath in indignation.
What has bothered me most about the Democratic, Republican, and Reform
Party members who claim to have been scandalized by the intemperance of
Jesse's remarks, is their pompous attitude, certitude, and righteousness.
They are acting as though he dishonored America and the Reform Party. One
of them even suggested he resign as governor. While I would expect that
kind of a reaction from a Pat Schroeder or Gloria Steinham, observing it in
a man makes me wonder how a guy can get that stuffy. Does anyone still
remember America is the land of free speech! Jesse roamed the swamps of
Vietnam as a navy SEAL at his government's request to protect that right.
Where then were the faint-hearts who today bellow for his scalp?
To paraphrase a lovely line from William Shakespeare's King Lear, "Politics
is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!
Sam Orr firstname.lastname@example.org