In the fall of 1959, I started to Virginia Tech — hoping to become a chemical engineer — and promptly flunked algebra and chemistry. I dropped back five and punted — on Feb. 16, 1960 I joined the U S Army; passed some sort of geometry test and was assigned to artillery survey school in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. When I graduated I was given the choice of Korea, “The Frozen Chosen,” or going Airborne, which I chose ... The second week of Jump School, I made the required five parachute jumps and became a forward observer with the Mortar Battery of the 327th Airborne Infantry Battalion, part of the historic 101st Airborne Division. This was not my original idea..
I came from a very segregated farm country in southern Virginia where my family raised tobacco and my father was a brakeman on the Norfolk and Western railroad. The Army was where I was first really thrown together with Black folk; fellow soldiers who were also jumping out of planes and training to go to battle for the good ole US of A. I realized quickly that I had to change a lot of beliefs I had long held, and to rid myself of certain “biases” against people of color. Wow! They were just as brave and just as intelligent as I was. What a concept!
In 2016 my wife and I were Republicans – Marco Rubio was my man. Here came the bombastic Trump, a rich playboy who had dodged Vietnam by claiming a bone spur in his foot.
When he won the election, being in the right place and saying the right things that we all wanted to hear, I almost cried. I soon realized that any good Republican in the same spot could do everything that he did. I bet one fellow golfer $20 that he would not last a year – and then I made the mistake of betting one of my brothers the same bet, except that we made it for $1,000. I tried to convince him that Trump was a complete idiot who did not read and who thought he knew more than any of his four and five star generals and had no compunction about criticizing anybody he disagreed with ... but I had no success.
Needless to say, I lost both bets. I was glad when my brother gave my check to the cemetery fund of our old country church.
Today I live in the middle of “Trump Country” among some really great people. I have been amazed at the attitudes and beliefs of all of my friends that are Trump fans. (How on earth can they be so stupid?) I will be 80 years old in December and I think I have finally figured it out. Everybody has biases – even myself. What you believe is who you are. It appears possible that a lot of people have never been forced to evaluate their beliefs and biases and nothing dramatic has happened to force changing them – therefore, they will be “taken to the grave,” so to speak.
Maybe COVID-19 will be the agent of change.
Jim Foote is a resident of Spring Lake. Guest columns are the opinion of the writer, not necessarily that of the Highlands News-Sun.