Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wars begun and based on stupidity

More of Walt Whitman and his times, especially in dealing with him first hearing about the firing on Fort Sumter.

It was the beginning of the end for the South, though you could never have convinced them of that at the time.  They won.  They beat down a Yankee presence in their genteel little world.  They were on the road to saving their way of life -- owning slaves -- and the slave owners were doing it with the help of huge numbers of white sharecroppers and shopkeepers, almost none of whom even thought about possessing another human being.

Today, you still hear from the right wing how the Civil War was about states' rights.  That is a flat out lie, and a foul one, too.  In another part of the "Disunion" blog, Jamie Malanowski writes, "Six hundred thousand Americans did not die for anything as nebulous as states rights or tariffs. They died because slaveholders wanted to preserve their human property and expand their slaveholding empire, and they were willing to demolish the union and bring tragedy to nearly every family in this land in order to protect their right to own human beings."

We have the same thing happening today, with the same scum leading the charge.  The GOP(which doesn't give a damn about the deficit, not really) will happily destroy the country to gain power and put blacks, queers, Mexicans and liberals back in their places -- allowing rich white men to run the US like it's their personal corporation.  You really should read "Disunion" on a daily basis and get the full idea of how little things have changed in the last 150 years.  It's spooky.

I was just remembering an argument I got into with my step-father about Vietnam.  We were living in Honolulu, which was an R&R station for servicemen fighting in that war, because he was stationed at Hickham AFB.  During a trip to Waikiki's Fort Derussy Beach, we got caught in one of the city's nasty traffic jams.  It was hot, nasty hot and even more humid than usual.  And just behind us, to the right of our borrowed car, were two bus loads of young airmen being ferried to that same beach.  Young?  Hell, most of them were boys of 18 and 19 body (which I can see from hindsight; I was only fifteen at the time so they were all "men" to me).,,but what's stayed with me ever since was how their eyes were a hundred years old.  And how their bodies were almost limp from weariness.  And how their faces trailed sweat and sorrow, made ten times worse because the busses were not air conditioned.  That didn't feel right, to me.  They were off fighting in a hideous war; they should have been treated like kings when they came here for a couple weeks of rest from death and destruction.

As if to mock my thought, we heard sirens screaming behind us.  Traffic was forced to crowd tight to the right so a motorcade could whip by, headed for one of the finer hotels on the island.  In that procession's limousine was the crown prince of Japan and his wife, royalty treated with kid gloves.  I watched them whip past then glanced at the boys in the busses...and nothing registered in their expressions.  Until I saw one startlingly lovely kid with sun-reddened skin, who was resting his chin on his left hand as his left arm leaned out the window, shift three of his fingers oh-so-slightly down his left cheek so the middle finger was just visibly standing alone, sending that oh-so-elegant couple a salute of complete contempt as they whipped on, unaware of the life around them.

I started laughing.  He noticed and shifted his eyes down to look at me, and half a smile came to his face.  And I nodded.  Then one finger shifted to make his signal into the "Peace" sign, still pressing against his cheek.  I sent it back to him...just as my step-father looked around to ask me what I was laughing at.  He saw it and saw it was aimed at the busload of servicemen...and he blew up.  How dare I insult those poor boys who were fighting for our freedom by sending that vile signal to them?  In answer, I shifted its focus to him...and he damn near hit me.

The rest of the argument was typical teenager-against-parental-authority crap.  But I seriously think that was the beginning of my trek to liberal-land, because the way those two people of no consequence except by birth were being treated with such honor and respect while these kids who were being killed and maimed and shattered for life over something that proved to be based on a politician's lie were being was just plain wrong.  Completely disrespectful of the meaning of humanity.

I've never blamed soldiers for being sent to fight wars.  I blame the men of power and consequence to initiate them.  It wasn't the sharecroppers who fired on Fort Sumter, it was Jefferson Davis and his cabinet who issued the order.  It wasn't the farm boys and factory workers who began WW1, it was the Kings and Kaisers and Tsars who let a family spat escalate into a human calamity.  It wasn't the airmen and marines and grunts and sailors who got us into Vietnam; it was Johnson putting over a lie about an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin.  It wasn't America that wanted to invade Iraq after 9/11; it was Bush and his administration who terrorized most people into thinking there was a need for it.  (I exempt WW2 from this because Hitler was evil, incarnate, and had to be stopped...but neither do I completely absolve the German people for letting themselves be led into war and the holocaust; it was too damned obvious what the man was doing, and too damned few of them even tried to stop it.)

 I don't know what this ramble is about.  I've spent most of the day doing nothing.  But it just bubbled up and I wrote it...and now I'm going to watch "Stray Dog", again.  One of Kurosawa's early gems with a heartbreaking performance by a young Toshiro Mifune.

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