I started a conversation with Charlie by sending him one of Fred’s (of Fred on Everything) columns titled “Jane Fonda’s Wall – Thoughts On The Chatter Of Candy-Asses.” I thought he might appreciate the dark humour. I guessed wrong. Here is the last paragraph of it that triggered some of Charlie’s response.
“If I were designing a memorial to my own taste, I would want an enormous bronze hand rising from the ground, making a rude gesture — no flag, no inscription, just a raised finger. Some might think it vulgar, but soldiers are vulgar. It would perfectly express my feelings about the war, the country, Washington, and the commission that designed Jane Fonda’s wall.”
I see the point. I have been to the wall three times and I have been to Arlington National Cemetery and I am always awed by the place. I feel a bond with the names inscribed on the wall. I have found guys I knew, my flight commander is there. I don’t think the way the writer thinks. War is the culprit; the soldiers aren’t vulgar at all, they are usually very young and they are doing what an adult told them to do.
As for Barbarella, she was pretty cute and fell for a line or two and got to have her say. Some hate her, some don’t. For awhile I wouldn’t go and see her films but got over it, freedom of speech I think it is. John McCain was in the Hanoi Hilton for many years, he could have gotten out any time he wanted. His father John Sr. was Commander of all Pacific forces. All he had to do was say the thing they wanted him to, but he wouldn’t. John McCain’s grandfather launched his planes in the Battle of the Phillipine Sea knowing they didn’t have gas to get back to the carriers, but they had to save the invasion force in the unprotected ships heading for Luzon.
War is interesting and it is amazingly enough always going on. Today there is a war brewing in Somalia and Ethiopia, and in Nigeria, the Sudan, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Nepal, Georgia, and Bosnia isn’t done, Turkey will have its way with the Kurds. China will eventually do in Taiwan and North Korea is a fun idea, and that leaves out three that the Americans are in. The Canadians are in Cyprus and in Afghanistan. And maybe Mexico will blow up and Nicaragua again if the elections go the way I think they will go.
I’m reading “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.” The journalist, Chris Hedges, wrote it in 2003 after reporting in the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Iraq, Central and South America, and every other place where war has been for the past 35 years. He says some rather powerful things in it. FWIW, it’s an anti-war book. And the notion that you seem to maintain, that war is a grand and glorious thing, never did, and never will, fly with me.
–the soldiers aren’t vulgar at all–
I think that’s debatable. Especially in Iraq right now, there have been some incredibly vulgar things that have happened. The rape and murder of that girl in Mahmoudiya (and the murder of her entire family to try to hide the fact,) the massacre in Haditha, Abu Ghraib, and the numerous other atrocities. Hedges actually argues that war brings out these vulgarities, and perhaps that’s true. It makes them no more acceptable.
But you’re absolutely right that war is always going on. The mystery is, “Why?”
About the vulgar comment, soldiers are a cross section of society and mostly the poorer of that. Rape and murder are quite common on the streets of Seattle and San Antonio and I presume that Canada is not immune.
I think this debate is one that is good. As to the “Why?” Well, I can’t tell you why. I have some ideas, but that is a long book.
A soldier who has been sent to a place, Iraq, and told he will serve for six months and has been there a year and is still not going home can become psychologically demented. I saw it in the returning soldiers from ‘Nam — they were nuts, but no one seemed to pick up on it.
The enemy has no uniform. There is no front line. Anyone from anywhere could be coming to kill you and they really do want to. The Iraqi soldier might not be an Iraqi soldier. He might be a bomb. The lady might be a bomb, too. It is stressful. Why do so many of the guys I see at the VA hospital where I volunteer at times seem crazy? In group sessions they burst into tears and collapse in a heap. They have been mind-fucked, if you will pardon that expression. The best of the real guys have been hurt in ways we can’t conceive, so when they do things like Abu Ghraib, it doesn’t suprise me.
John Charlie, my son, was a Navy medic for four years; he is out now. He was at Gitmo and he went to Haiti, where they set up their small clinic and the line of patients was more than a half mile. The bad guys would beat up the patients to get their meds and so forth. It was horrible. The bad guys were the Haitian police who were supposed to make things safe. One night the Marines (Navy medics are Marines) blew up the police barracks. No one ever knew except them and the patients were safer.
He was on the USS Guadalcanal when they deployed to Liberia. The Marines set up a perimeter around the embassy. The enemy were naked kids spurred on by adults. They were doped up and naked except for their AK-47s. They were 10 and 12 years old. It was totally nuts. He then went back to Guantanamo. He is crazy on one level even today and there is not a damn thing that meds or anything can do. It is like a branding iron has marked part of his brain with this evil that can’t be removed.
My father, who flew B-17s in WWII, was afflicted by the syndrome, too; for years and years he would go into a sort of state of contemplation, which is what we thought, but when I turned 30 he told me one night over a bottle of Jack Black that he was guilty of murder. He had dropped tons of bombs on people he never saw. He was a POW and he also saw that side of the war after the Germans shot his plane out of the sky. He could not resolve the crisis in his mind, no matter how honorable the press, president and all made that war against the Nazi machine.
Hedges suggests that it hardly takes an extension of the tour of duty to make these guys crazy. I would tend to agree – it is the constant death and destruction that they must dole out that does it.
After I went to Canada, Mom always said that if I’d gone to Vietnam, they never would have seen me again. She believes I would’ve died. She’s probably right. I don’t think I would raise a weapon against another human, Charlie, no matter the consequences to me. I tried to explain that to the Selective Service Board in Austin, but they were some of the most closed-minded people in existence.
It is likely the same today. Look at what they are doing to the Seattle fellow who has principled reasons for refusing to go on a tour of duty in Iraq. He offered to go to Afghanistan, but they said, “No, you have to go to Iraq.” And now he refuses, because the US is in violation of international law, and they’re going to throw him in the brig for nine years.
I appreciate you relating your father’s story to me. I’m sure you recall that I knew him, even before I met you. He was my student teacher in grade four or five. I told Mariann about it; here is what I wrote to her:
“I met his father before I met Charlie, when I was 10 or 11. We didn’t sort that out for quite awhile after I made Charlie’s acquaintance. Mr. Loving was the student teacher in, I think, my grade 5 class. I had the same teacher for both grades 4 and 5 – Mrs. Sayers, at Highland Park Elementary in the northwest of Austin. It’s by the old Hancock Shopping Centre on Hancock and Balcones. I remember liking Mr. Loving a lot – he was very kind, mild-mannered, and knowledgable. That’s good for kids.”
I am totally dismayed by the policy of the EEUU. We love Israel for some reason that escapes me. We would let them do anything they want. Perhaps we should do another exodus and send them all to North Alberta and let them fight the people in Yellow Knife and Fort Nelson. Or maybe the bears?
Our foreign policy is such a failure as to be insane. We screwed the pooch in ‘Nam and now we are doing the same thing in Iraq. Well duh? Declare victory, folks, and run away.