I was disappointed that my local paper today failed to report on the fashion accessory of choice among some RNC convention-goers: adhesive band-aids with purple hearts on them. Widely reported in the national press, the band-aids are essentially a “joke” about John Kerry’s decorated service in Vietnam. The band-aids imply that Kerry did not legitimately earn his bronze star, three purple hearts, or the other decorations he brought home from the war. As a joke, the bandages are, at best, tasteless and, at worse, an example of the mocking of injured troops during wartime. The implication that Kerry received his military awards for minor injuries, however, goes beyond tasteless mockery into the realm of the ridiculous. Do Republican conventioneers really think the U.S. military hands out purple hearts to undeserving soldiers?
GOP leaders have dismissed criticism of the band-aids, suggesting they can’t control delegates. This seems reminiscent of Bush’s “aw shuks—I didn’t say it” response to the smear campaign by the now-discredited “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” a group led by Texas Republican fund-raisers and attorneys (a group Bush is usually quick to criticize), not veterans. Once again, Bush’s inner circle has failed to take responsibility for the misdeeds of its campaign. Not even convention speaker John McCain—like Kerry a Vietnam veteran—would denounce the bandages from the platform. Instead he joined the rest of the Republicans in (mis)using 9/11 imagery and memories to rally support for Bush. How ironic that while convention-goers mocked injuries incurred during the bravest of public service, McCain (as well as the night’s headliner, Rudy Giuliani, who is still connecting September 11 to Iraq, a connection even Bush has abandoned) spoke of heroism. I guess it’s not surprising from the party that uses in tv ads September 11 images of firefighters even as many of the fraternal organizations and labor unions that represent those firefighters give official endorsements to John Kerry.
At any rate, I wish the local paper had at least mentioned the band-aids, if for no other reason than because some local veterans may have missed the story on CNN, since the Republicans’ slashing of V.A. benefits may make affording cable tv difficult.