Patriotic jewelry and the meanest guy I ever knew
Vail, CO, Colorado
Billy Nelson and Barack Obama have nothing in common. One is running for president, the other is the worst person I’ve ever known.
I could easily use all my allotted words for this column just chronicling Billy Nelson’s (fictitious name) faults. But just so you get an idea, I’ll list a few ” violent bully, pathological liar, thief, con-man. And that is just on Sundays.
Take every nasty thing I just said about Billy, find the antonym and that would describe his brother, Tommy. Tommy and I were friends.
Tommy Nelson and I worked together, off and on, loading trucks during the summers of our late teens and 20s. At that time Billy was in and out of jail.
Though Billy’s transgressions were legendary, Tommy and I seldom spoke of his older brother.
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But one time after hearing about a situation when Billy did something particularly awful ” a deed that would likely land him back inside (if the victim’s father, a local thug, did not find him first) ” I could no longer hold my tongue.
We were driving home from work and I blurted out, “I’m sorry Tom, but your brother is the biggest @##%$^$%%^# I’ve ever met. Why do you still have anything to do with him? I know you don’t condone his behavior. If he were my brother, I’d disown him and write him out of my life.”
Though this happened three decades ago, I remember the song that was playing on the car radio. Tommy turned down the volume and said, “I know what type of person my brother is. But, right or wrong, he is my brother. I’ll always love him and always support him. I’ll never turn my back on Billy.”
By the look on his face I knew that the conversation was finished; we never spoke, other than in passing, of Billy again.
Almost three decades later, there are varying rumors regarding Billy Nelson’s whereabouts or whether or not he is still alive. One thing that I do know is that Tom became one of his eventual victims.
I learned this from Tommy himself when I saw him at a wedding last summer.
After a few drinks I inquired about Billy and reminded him of our conversation many years ago. I asked him if he were to do it over would he have been less inclined to support and bail-out his brother with unconditional love.
Tommy traced a scar that ran along his jaw line with his finger and said, “Billy and I had a bad upbringing, a bad home life, you knew that.”
He added, “I’ve only told my wife some of the stuff. But of the five kids, only Billy hurt people. Now that I’m older, I can see better why it might have happened. But now that I’m older I think by not standing up to him, I offered an implied approval. My love of my brother clouded my judgment; had I spoken up I might have saved others from him and him from himself.”
“Silence gives consent,” he said.
Just as my friend’s silence offered a sanction of his brother’s behavior, it could be argued a citizen’s silence in regard to government policies is an implied endorsement. The ethic of “My country right or wrong” flies in the face of the principals on which America was founded, namely public participation.
The reason I bring this up is because it has been suggested that “national loyalty” will be a campaign issue during November’s presidential election. Some voters will reserve their support for the candidate who they feel is the most patriotic.
Obama’s patriotism has been called into question. He has been criticized for not wearing an American flag lapel pin. It is unbelievable that anyone would equate nationalism with jewelry. If wearing an American flag lapel pin means you are patriotic would wearing three at once mean you are a super patriot?
Obama also has been faulted for some remarks he has made which some deemed critical of this country.
When I think of patriotism, I think of loving and supporting the ideals of which this country was born. You can love and hold those ideals dear and still look at our government and its policies with a critical eye. I assume both our candidates love America, where they differ is with the direction they want to take it.
I’m not sure anything would have changed had Tom Nelson not offered his sibling blind loyalty. But I do know that love doesn’t have to be blind, and dissidence is not a privilege, it is an obligation.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.