The other night I was watching a video of Bob Hope visiting us in Vietnam for a Christmas show. It brought back warm memories....of a large brotherhood, of the lighter moments of war time. But, as I watched Bob flirt with Miss World, dance with Raquel Welch and sing duets with all the girl singers, I realized that I'm witnessing a history that will never come again, at least in any way familiar to me.
Bob Hope's flirting with Hollywood dollies, his sexual innuendo, his sexy growls simply do not fit the new America. Bob would begin bantering about the G.I.'s Playboy centerfolds posted on latrine walls or in our hootches. Bob would leer and say something like "well, I see you guys haven't forgotten what you're fighting for".
That time has come and gone. Just last year I read that the Air Force raided the barracks rooms of our bachelor Air Force quarters, confiscated suggestive covers of Maxim and Playboy, then generated thousands of letters of correction, citing sexual exploitation of the opposite sex. Long feminine legs and deep cleavage is now considered offensive, not only to the female persuasion but to the openly gay troops who do not find the female sexually attractive.
At the conclusion of each Bob Hope Christmas show the entertainers always asked us to join them in singing "Silent Night". The lights would dim and ten thousand G.I.'s would retreat from the hoops and hollers of seeing Raquel in a mini-skirt, and as they sang the childhood Christmas song, the tears would flow as the waves of loneliness rolled over them. They sang a song of peace amidst the fury of war...and somehow achieved a few moments of peace in their hearts. As the final notes of the song were sung Bob and Raquel and Johnny Bench and Chris Noel and Les Brown and Miss America would have tears in their eyes, sorry to leave such an enthusiastic audience...and sad because they knew many of those boys in green would never come home again.
Today, the singing of Silent Night in such a large and diverse gathering is no longer possible. Atheists would be offended, Muslims would scoff at celebrating the birth of Jesus, who in their religion was no more than a minor prophet. Most likely the civilian bosses at the Pentagon has advised that a "holiday" song is more appropriate. Just as we have driven religion from our schools and boycott the Boy Scouts for valuing tradition, we must embrace liberalist principles and disregard 230 years of tradition in the new American military.
In watching that forty year old show I realized that we all write our epitaphs a day, a month, a year, a decade at a time. What was right for us forty years ago is no longer right. So we must bury those memories now because they are abhorrent to someone who is now offended by the rites of even the recent past. The brief moment of spirit and unity derived from singing an ancient Christmas carol is no longer deemed acceptable. Cleavage is now pornography. And we must now "walk gently, as if on eggs" lest we exercise any form of humor that might be offensive to even one.
So, as the years go by, we write our epitaphs as we bury, and condemn the practices that once kept us going, things that stimulated us, things that inspired us, and things that once brought us all together, united in some common generational belief.
The older generation must move along, and make room for the next one. And scratch another cautionary note on our epitaphs.
Sorry Bob Hope.