I am not touchy about many things — I was in the Navy a long time and got used to putting up with things that Navy men described only in short words that they put aside when in polite company.
I, myself, am perhaps overly touchy about things concerning 1. My family and 2. My country.
When I was a lad, our country was my big family to love, to honor and protect.
Even today, woe to him who speaks ill of my family or of the great United States of America. Those sentiments will never wane in my heart.
Of late, I have politely suffered patiently through diatribes against the moral valor of the U.S. that rudely contradict the history of this uniquely generous nation.
Such belittling is even less tolerable when coming from the mouths of those who have joined the one-way traffic to the U.S. from other lands to enjoy the riches and the safety courtesy of our valiant forebears.
I don’t think that one must have fought for this country in order to hold it close to his heart.
It was purely coincidental to me that my family fought in all the wars since this country began — my father was an officer in both world wars, the second time as a much over-aged Naval officer.
I joined the Navy the Monday morning that followed the Sunday we now call “Pearl Harbor Day” — as men in my family were expected to do. I was trained as a gunnery officer and was quite conditioned mentally and emotionally to kill any enemy of the United States.
Once World War II was over, I put away my uniform and never wore it again except when I was singing Lt. Pinkerton in Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly.” That old uniform hangs useless now, in the back of a clothes-closet, as I no longer sing Lt. Pinkerton, and I would need a uniform two sizes larger if I did. (My weathered face would now fit only an admiral.)
Since WWII, the American government, we hear, has stationed uniformed women aboard our warships. I have sometimes pondered what a woman’s life would be on the kind of destroyer where I served if she were captured and taken aboard an enemy ship. But that is a matter which is not for me to decide. Correctness and realism are not guaranteed ideally to coincide.
For many years I lived and worked as an opera star in many different countries — primarily France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Switzerland — and at all times I carefully refrained from making slighting comparisons between those countries and the United States.
The Germans were best, in my opinion, at running opera houses. (But, God knows, you don’t tell the Germans something like that!)
During WWII, American super-patriotism was in the air wherever Americans, uniformed or civilians, gathered.
“The service” was a sacrosanct subject, whether Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine. Those services were, at great cost of life, protecting our loved ones at home.
Fewer and fewer veterans of WWII are still living, and more and more present-day Americans are ignorant of the crucial days of WWII, when heroic young men made terrible sacrifices to protect what we enjoy today as “the American way of life.”
Who is Roney?
Harvard’42—Distinguished Prof, Em.—UCF
2004 Fla. Alliance for the Arts award
(Assisted by beautiful wife Joy Roney)