On the road… again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Some Things You Can Make Up
People get bored quite easily. To counter that, many a youngster with an active mind tries to attract attention with their own personality traits that shout out, “I’m different….I’m not your run of the mill dullard that doesn’t know what to do or say.” In fact, the desire to attract attention and impress others starts much earlier than adolescence. It starts in infancy and it’s called showing off.
Most toddlers get a pass when showing off, because most toddlers are adorable. But as children grow and start to mix with others their age, they find out that not every episode of showing off gets the attention they seek; in fact, sometimes they get called out by others in their own peer group, or by adults who know the score. Nevertheless, the desire to be the center of attention never quite goes away. Virtually everybody craves attention on one level or another, thus our individual personality traits are shaped, to some extent, by how we go about fulfilling that need.
On the one hand, obvious extraverts may seek the lens of a camera, or chatter long and loudly with those who they perceive as friends, one of many ways to remain the center of attention. At the other extreme are the introverts who may seem quiet or withdrawn, and seldom speak out in a forceful way. But they also have a need to be recognized for who they are; hence to seek a modicum of attention. Most of us fall into the middle range of personality stereotypes. Most of us self-describe ourselves as average, or normal people.
During the decades of growing up and becoming who we turn out to be as adults, most of us have experimented with ways to get the right amount of attention we seek, so that everyone is clear about who and what we are, or hope to become. And sometimes we make things up! That statement need not be an indictment suborning fraud or deceit. Comedians make stuff up all the time, indeed; the typical joke has hardly a grain of truth in it. Somewhere in between, the raw truth is lurking. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have made a living by exposing the truth in comedic ways.
The plain and simple truth is often so boring, however; that we would not find much of interest in the person who is the butt of a joke if a story told about them is just as plain. A punch line of a joke is usually the product of a simple circumstance of a simple person who was critiqued for an act that they themselves did not find at all funny. So, we tend to stretch the truth, embellish it, and tell it in such a way that the person or the event gets remembered as an amusing story. That is, if we wish to be thought of as comedians.
On the other hand, there are those who are in the public eye who occasionally stretch the truth because of their celebrity status. Or is it a case of being celebrities because they have stretched the truth? There are several painful examples that come to mind.
The Donald Needs No Introduction*
The choice of the above photo of our current president has nothing to do with his long history of making things up. A timeline of this chronicle publication date shows that the chronicle was written and published in February 2015, long before our POTUS was even a candidate. His was a familiar face, but he is no stranger to making things up to suit his message. There are many others in various walks of life who makes things up to polish their personal images.
Many years ago in Pennsylvania, there was a weather forecaster whom we watched on the nightly news program. His name was Ron Klink. Due to his TV exposure as a “meteorologist”, Ron Klink ran for public office and was elected to Congress as a Representative from Pennsylvania. He likely got elected to Congress because his name was well known. The problem was, he got elected on name recognition; furthermore, he got his previous job as a TV weather forecaster because he said that he had a degree in Meteorology. Ron Klink never went to college, and he did not have a degree in Meteorology. He made everything up but managed to foist his bogus résumé onto the TV station that hired him.
There was another bogus “meteorologist” who reported the weather on TV in the Pittsburgh area at about that time. He got found out sometime after Ron Klink was exposed when his producers decided to check his college credentials. He also did not graduate from college; the University of Buffalo with a degree in Meteorology, as he had claimed on his résumé. But he was a minor celebrity because he was on TV. And there are others.
One of those others is a woman named MariLee Jones. She was Dean of Women Admissions at MIT until it was discovered that she had falsified her résumé.
Ms. Jones told her story live on National Public Radio on 8 March 2015. She had claimed to have three degrees; but she had none. In my humble opinion, she got the job because she was a woman applying for an open position at a noted institution where women were underrepresented; and because she lied about having three academic degrees which are normally required for consideration.
A late addition to the pantheon of people who make things up is the October 2017 story of a US Navy veteran who claimed to be a Navy SEAL who served in Viet Nam, earned two Purple Heart medals and many other medals. It was all made up, but the man got away with the lies for many years until he was exposed by a genuine Navy SEAL.
A former Navy serviceman who made up a bogus story about being a decorated Navy SEAL
This chronicle was intended to be a humorous one, and destined for the file in which you should not believe everything that you read. The Footloose Forester was angling for a story based on fact, but without the evidence that he could use to justify it, it was not going to qualify as non-fiction. But somewhere between the time that NBC News anchor Brian Williams was exposed for misrepresenting personal facts about his reporting on the Iraq War; and Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly was called out regarding his own reporting on the Falklands War, the Footloose Forester decided that he should turn this story into a humorous parody. Let’s begin the parody with the next paragraph.
Been There, Done That
The modest credentials as meteorologist that Footloose Forester might use in his next résumé should include the time he calculated the daily Fire Weather Index during his summer job on the Kootenai National Forest in Montana; and his research of 1880s weather records of Java, as he drafted his dissertation in Hawaii; and by checking the daily weather conditions in Hanau, Germany; so that our sensitive weapons systems would not go off operational scale. If all goes well, that should be enough, and if he can gin up enough sophistry, he might get a shot at being a TV weather guy.
Brian Williams and Bill O’Reilly are big-time TV celebrities, now that they have weathered the storms (no pun intended, honest) of reporting news as war correspondents. The Footloose Forester was also a war correspondent but in a much less conspicuous way. In fact, most times he only reported to his buddies. On one occasion, he told them he found an unexploded mortar round in a river outside of Hanau, Germany where he was stationed. OK, World War II was over some 21 years earlier, but it was a war zone, was it not? And what about that SS Waffen knife handle that he dug out of the ammo dump? He was there and he did that. Signs of the Nazis were everywhere. You had to be there to believe it.
Not enough war stories to convince you that the Footloose Forester was a seasoned veteran and war correspondent? How about the time in Haiti when the local police force took sides in the drug war that was going on? For a day and a half, the bullets were flying as rival groups shot it out to gain control. Although the Footloose Forester reported by radio only to the office to tell them that he was still alive, the thousand or so rounds fired during that time made it into a combat zone. Thank you, Bill O’Reilly…for giving me the hint that I might yet embellish my résumé even further. The sophistry just might fly. “Yeah, there I was… in a combat situation…with bullets and tracer rounds flying in every direction.” Been there, done that.
And then there was the time we were on vacation in Kashmir when there was an attack on a local police station by a Pakistani Islamic group. Another war zone, and another combat situation. The Footloose Forester didn’t report that one, but maybe he should have, and claim a service medal or battle ribbon, at the very least. We stringers have to have street cred.
Speaking about stringers, the Footloose Forester ought to mention Matt Franjola who was a real API stringer in Viet Nam. As a war correspondent and only part-time reporter, Matt worked in the same company as the Footloose Forester when he wasn’t reporting on the war. So, would it be legit to say that Matt and Footloose Forester were API stringers when we chatted around the water cooler about the mortar attack that night, long ago? Street cred earned in a combat zone? What do you think, Bill O’Reilly? Is “been there, done that” really going to work?
The Footloose Forester shouldn’t forget almost being bombed in Pakistan. OK, it was only one RB-66 bomber from the Indian Air Force, on their way to Multan Air Base in Pakistan. OK, Multan was at least 20 miles away, OK, we were never in any real danger; OK, the Footloose Forester went back to sleep after the bomber flew over his house. But it was a war zone and a combat situation, right Bill?
Do you think that the Footloose Forester can get away with it if he looks into the TV camera and says, ever so smugly, that he was there, in his own boots on the ground in war-torn Germany, in the gunfire of Haiti, in the line of fire in Viet Nam, under the bomb bay doors of an Indian bomber on a raid in Pakistan? Will the unqualified bit of braggadocio known as “been there, done that” get him where he wants to go, to be a celebrity with an agenda of sophistry suborning mendacity? Nah, he is having too much fun being an iconoclast and a third-rate satirist. And he doesn't have the chutzpah.
* The choice of a photo of The Donald had nothing to do with politics because this chronicle was written on 25 February, 2015, well before The Donald showed any interest in campaigning for elected office.