If You Prick Us, Do We Not Bleed?

Or, If the Dice Say No, You Gotta’ Go!

Warning, this article lands in the inflammatory, political and anti-religious camp. Don’t come complaining after you read this. You were warned! (Then again, this is akin to telling a Kender to not open something, isn’t it?)

After 8 years in the United States Navy, I joined the Air Force reserves and stayed there for 2 years. During my total time in the service, I met a large and diverse group of individuals, in spite of the variety, one trend kept the Geek in me smiling. The military is a haven for Role-Players (and Roll-Players alike). It was not uncommon to wander through the berthing on ship and hear the loud cries of “20! Critical Hit!” right alongside the cries of “Domino’s MotherF*!$er.” When you have been out to sea for 3 months straight, it is nice to have the chance to escape to strange worlds where you can kill Orcs and befriend kindly dragons. (Or, you know, get burned to a crisp).

No matter what service you look at, you will find dice throwers who are as passionate about gaming as they are about their love for country…

The US Armed Forces are typically a conservative group. During an election year, it is almost guaranteed that the Republican will win the hearts of the service members. While my wife was in the Air Force she caught a lot of flak for being a Democrat (don’t even get her started on the torment she went through when Senator Kerry made a derisive comment about the military’s reading and writing abilities!). In spite of the standard military love for Republican leadership, the current administration has stretched the armed forces to the limit by propelling the US into heated arguments with Russia, potential conflicts with North Korea and Iran, oh and two simultaneous wars!

Our service members have to do more with less because the military secretaries (put into office by the president) choose purchasing bigger and better weapons (like the Joint Strike Fighter) rather than providing better support to the human element of the military. The Marines have had to deal with 36 to 48 month deployments (pretty sad for a small military branch whose sole purpose is being the first in and the first out, at which point the Army moves in to “hold the fort”). The Army is so taxed by maintaining a presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq that they have to rely on supplemental help from the Air Force (believe me, seeing the airmen try to play the role of soldiers is as much a shock to the Air Force airmen as it is to the Army soldiers).

The Air Force has both coerced and forced thousands of discharged Airmen back in, so they’ll have more money for purchasing new aircraft, in spite of an increasing amount of the military budget going towards the Army. Overtaxed as well is the Navy, as they try to provide support for the Marines, the Army, and the Air Force. Through it all, the volunteer service continues to do their job with pride, continuing to respect their Republican leadership, even though they realize (as most rationally thinking individuals must) that there will never, ever be an end to the “war on terror” – if you don’t believe me, go research how long terrorism has been a tool for the human race. Still don’t believe me? Ask a Brit what their history books teach them about the actions of the Colonists during what we now call the American Revolution. Given the enormity of the stressors our military faces, I’d bet my last dollar that a hard core group of military role-players are finding a much needed escape in the world of fantasy where a few brave heroes can quickly make a difference even in the face of insurmountable odds and incalculable evil.

Apparently, the McCain camp missed these important facts when Michael Goldfarb (Deputy Director of Communications for the McCain campaign) was permitted to comment on the First of August about the bloggers who contribute to The New York Times.

“But in their new role as bloggers, the paper’s editors seem to have all the intelligence and reason of the average Daily Kos diarist sitting at home in his mother’s basement and ranting into the ether between games of dungeons and dragons. They also have about as much care for the facts…” – Michael Goldfarb – LINK TO ARTICLE

It seems like the first statement was not enough to fill Goldfarb’s ?Nerd Bashing Quota.’ On August 18, Goldfarb decided to post a second comment even more inflammatory:

“It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.” – Michael Goldfarb – LINK TO ARTICLE

Is Goldfarb attempting to say that no role-players would ever have the courage to join the service? Is he trying to imply that no role-players are capable of surviving the horrific trials that McCain went through? Thousands of the “Dungeons & Dragons crowd” currently risks their lives overseas in a war zone, and many thousands more who are here in the US helping to support those troops. If my ten years of military experience can be used as an average, then I would guess that at least 40% of those who have participated in this war had at one time played RPG’s. I am willing to bet that for every service member who throws dice, there is a group of civilian friends who were a part the original gaming group. There is no way a military member, current or prior, would ever disparage McCain’s POW experience; however, having been a POW is not an automatic endorsement for being given the reigns of our country.

On a side note, the reference to living in “mom’s basement” is a hell of an invitation for attack; perhaps Goldfarb can extend a little thought to the possibility that maybe, just MAYBE, adults living with their parents has something to do with the housing crisis plaguing the US under the current administration? Or, is he upset that the “Dungeons & Dragons crowd” isn’t contributing enough to the economy because role-playing sessions limit expenditures on gasoline, high-priced entertainment, the restaurant industry, sporting events, and tourism? Finally, to everyone who does happen to live with their parents, do you like the idea of someone making political statements and jokes at your expense?

Now please correct me if I am wrong but most of the “Dungeons & Dragons crowd” has a strong desire to understand the truth and want to know the facts before they make a decision; it’s what we’ve done from the moment we take an interest in role-playing. Gamers tend to view everything with a critical eye, earned from years of having to deal with the horrors of a creative, yet dangerous Game Master. (To say nothing of rebuttal remarks from people that live to mock to dice-tossers). Goldfarb does he think that we are only able to relate to our fantasy worlds. This is ripe, considering it comes from a party that believes in Intelligent Design.

Perhaps he’s intimidated by the fact that many bloggers and the loosely associated role-playing groups actually do research? Maybe he is intimidated by the fact that gamers read enough to recognize when a political candidate uses rhetoric from others who have come before them. Or is there a generational gap wherein the McCain campaign does not understand that the younger working class will not simply accept a candidate based on his political affiliation or on his prior military career?

With that said, there are several links to the Ace of Spades that show an apology from Goldfarb that was supposed to have been issued on the first of August, just after his first D&D comment. I find it hard to believe that this apology is actually from Goldfarb, mainly because he apologized, and then the second comment came out just weeks later. In addition, I find it pretty telling that I have not found this apology on any official site.

“If my comments caused any harm or hurt to the hard working Americans who play Dungeons & Dragons, I apologize. This campaign is committed to increasing the strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma scores of every American.” -Michael Goldfarb – LINK TO ARTICLE

Is it just me, or does that last sentence seem to be more like a bully poking fun at the hard working role-playing crowd? And if this apology is actually from Goldfarb, then it just raises my ire even more. Don’t insult us by trying to speak our lingo when you obviously don’t understand our culture. It would be an unforgivable political error if Goldfarb used similar language when referring to a racial or a religious matter; doesn’t his insensitivity when dealing with such a large social group indicate his inability to avoid mistakes in the future? Sure, McCain did not say these things himself, but his endorsement of Goldfarb does not help my opinion of his race for the office.

Please understand that my focus is on the military because of the specific comments made by Goldfarb, and the gaming community I grew up among. Having said this, I know dedicated role-players exist across every group and I invite all of you to share your own response to these comments.

Mr. Goldfarb, like them or hate them, bloggers are a reality in our country. Someone like McCain, who spent an inordinate period of time in isolation while he was a POW without being able to communicate openly with another human being, should have a passionate respect for the rights of Americans to communicate freely. Even if their opinions differ from your own. But, when you decide to make a political commentary about Role-Players, you need to tread lightly. I am sure that McCain will not be able to make a completely successful political saving throw after these two comments, and I am sure he will suffer from this. If you continue to alienate more Role-Players, you singlehandedly open a volume of Grimtooth’s that McCain’s political career will not recover from.