I don’t know the man personally but I like the man from afar. The man I’m speaking of is Donald Miller. Miller is the author of Blue Like Jazz,which earned him a cult following among Christians. If you haven’t read BLJ yet, get it now. It’s a terrific book. Donald’s a fine writer. And he’s a decent person, or seems to be, who really knows how decent any of us are in any given moment?
Donald is a Texas native and Oregon transplant. He tells you all that in his book. And although we are both writers and Christians who grew up in the south and now live in the great Northwest, we aren’t like pals or anything. I suppose we could be but it’s not likely to happen given our schedules and age gap and well, Donald is closer to my kids’ age. Not that that makes any difference. Jenny Lynn is younger than some of my kids and she’s still a good friend of mine. But Jenny Lynn worked for Laura Bush, too. She’s unconventional in all sorts of ways.
Ever since we met, back when she was 14, Jenny Lynn and I have had these spirited conversations. We can talk about anything, frankly. She calls me for advice. I call her for advice. Yes. A mature (by that I mean menopausal) woman can take advice from a younger woman, and probably should do so more often.
There are times when we know to back off the conversation and return to our core values — like during this last election. As you can imagine Jenny Lynn is a huge Bush fan. She was respectful about Obama but we simply could not have a discussion about politics. Every now and then we’d wade into those waters, but not often.
Whenever we did, we’d remind each other how much we love each other and that it’s okay for good friends to disagree. I don’t want friends who only agree with me. (When it comes to MY kids, I feel differently. Then the mom in me comes out.) I love that Jenny Lynn disagrees with me and can articulate why she does and I don’t ever feel like I have all the right answers and she doesn’t know anything because she’s young.
I don’t feel that way about Donald Miller, either, even though he is young. The Vietnam War probably feels like ancient history to him. I’m married to a high school history teacher so I figure if Donald grew up in Texas he spent more time studying the Alamo and the Civil War than he did the Vietnam War.
I might be wrong. He might have read dozens of books by Stanley Karnow or Joe Galloway or David Halberstam or any number of writers who’ve dedicated their careers or at least a few years of it to dissecting the Vietnam War. Myself included.
But I was surprised by a recent post on Donald Miller’s blog in which he refers to Robert McNamara as doing something noble. That is just not a word that I would ever apply to McNamara. I said as much in the comment section of Miller’s blog. I said plenty, in fact. Maybe too much, given that Miller and I don’t have the luxury of being friends first.
I mean no disrespect but I am still conflicted over Miller’s post and several of the responses to it.
I don’t think that person can go through their life abusing the hell out of others and then, when they are old and lonely, just up and decide, hey maybe I ought to have behaved better and just because they say that, everything is hunky-dorey.
I’m not sure that’s what Miller means either. But he did say that he thought McNamara had done a noble thing because he admitted he was wrong. And even cried over it, apparently, in that Fog of War flick of his that I refused to see.
My buddy Joe Galloway would likely call those tears of McNamara’s crocodile tears and I’m prone to side with Joe on this one. One of Miller’s blog readers referred to McNamara’s confession as “radical honesty.” That makes my heart hurt. Physically hurt.
I don’t think Bob McNamara was noble. I don’t know whether he was truly repentant or not. That’s between Bob and his Maker. I don’t hate the man. I don’t feel anything toward him one way or another, except sad.
Sad that so many thousands of lives were destroyed because of Bob McNamara and his deceitful ways.
If I had to choose a word to sum up McNamara it wouldn’t be a nice word and Mama always said if you can’t say something nice, just don’t say anything at all.
I still like Donald Miller. I just think his characterization of Robert McNamara is more fiction than truth. But then that was always the case for Robert McNamara, wasn’t it?