Friday, July 08, 2011

E Pluribus.





The words, “People shouldn’t fear their governments. Governments should fear their people.” were a small cast off remark by the imaginary terrorist “V” in Alan Moore’s (we can hardly call it “dystopian” anymore, much of it has come true in ‘90s London and ‘00s New York) “V for Vendetta.” The first time I was enlightened by the glare of those ten simple words I was riding a subway train, reading them in a serialized British comic book. I shut the pages, afraid someone might be reading over my shoulder. That was in 1988, -but to quote the words of singer songwriter Jello Biaffra, “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem, Now.

I had planned this post for the fourth of July, but my heart isn’t in it for theatrics or corny symbolism I used to employ on this blog.

All of the mid 20th century Orwellian projections of republics and “democratic” super states waging perpetual wars in order to enable governments to rule their people from above have come true in full measure. President Eisenhower tried his best to warn us about the confluence of our economy and our military. “Fear itself” as FDR rightly pronounced, is the thing to be afraid of… but not for the reasons he implied at the time. President Roosevelt was talking of the kind of fear that paralyzes a nation in the face of war; in the face of an expansionist adversary. On the contrary, we need to concern ourselves with “fear” of death that enables governments to justify any action allegedly committed in the name of national security… -because young people the world over are dying.

I’m seeing more and more homeless vets in my neighborhood park, some strung out, others harmed beyond any physical measure, unable it seems, to stand each other’s company. These soldiers came back “home” to extreme joblessness and in some cases absent families that had moved on without telling them. On one of my morning jogs, a 29 year old named Henry D*******z told me that he had joined the military in the fervor of his own personal patriotism, wanting to protect the nation he had immigrated to at five. But when he got to Afghanistan, and subsequently Iraq, he understood that his patriotism, his love of country couldn’t be applied in a conflict that had no front, no visually verifiable enemy. He told me that whatever his orders on patrol, it was tacitly understood by his platoon that anyone could be the enemy, and therefore everyone was. His experiences in wars, the attitudes he was forced to adopt in combat, went against everything he had believed in his whole life. His time in combat challenged all that the Catholic Church and the Constitution had taught him about the sanctity of life, and the inherent wrong of killing. Strangely, I’d never thought of the United States’ Constitution that way: as a thing that “teaches” us. All of my life, until Henry offhandedly described it as such the other morning, I thought of the Constitution as law, as blueprints for living fairly, rationally. It was humbling. It is as humbling as hearing Henry talk about his eight some odd years in uniform. At 43, I can never serve my country’s armed forces in any respect, and for the first time in my life, I’m wondering just what kind of citizen that makes me. I have no illusions about the glory of war, but I have to ask myself why I have been satisfied to let my peers, and now my younger counterparts risk their lives in military service, at the pleasure of various administrations, -both the corrupt and the impractically idealist, while I have gone about my life in a distinctly separate society.
It’s not a fear of death, because although I am as afraid of dying as anyone walking the earth, I would not hesitate to participate as a fireman, if my local government deemed it necessary to the safety of the community.
It is the subjugation of my will to the larger vision of a given administration’s plans for the nation and the world that I cannot abide. This is the great sacrifice every enlisted person makes for love of country, short of the ultimate sacrifice in combat, beyond which nothing more can be given.

I would never make a good soldier.
But someone has to.

I haven’t seen Henry since the Second of July. It worries me a lot. I found myself looking all around for him this morning as I went through my exercises. I worry, even though I know people disappear all the time in New York City. People move on, or are forced to relocate. But often times it’s something far more tragic.

This morning, one of the more vocal, volatile veterans, a pale young kid I’ve always avoided, who has tattoos creeping up his neck, was asked to leave the park by the rangers. These transient ex-soldiers are beginning to scare the shit out of the yuppies who have overrun the formerly Irish, Dominican, and African-American neighborhoods of upper Manhattan these particular soldiers emerged from. Truth be told, the remaining native holdouts of those ethnic neighborhoods, don’t want them either. The mere sight of them congregating by the GWB Port Authority bus location draws a lot of complaints. These are bums, addicts, homeless people everyone says: -The fact that they are veterans of still raging wars is irrelevant during rush hour. I hear some white collar worker complain of having to step over their sleeping bodies on their way to the token booth and I know that more than their stink, more than their unseemliness, it is the wars they represent that offend people who want to just “get on with their lives.”

This is wrong. What happened at Walter Reade was a disgrace, but what is happening under this administration dwarfs that negligence in a scale nobody is contemplating.

As with the Clinton administration, the Obama administration seems to ostensibly wear a cloak of beneficence. These administrations represent politicians and policymakers that at least care to say the “right” things to the country’s people. But aren’t we past the point of calling certain problematic things, -things they are not? The rationalization that the last administration started these wars is holding less and less weight, and the excuse that President Obama didn’t promise an exit, but an escalation of commitments in Afghanistan is unconstructive to the point of meaninglessness.

What’s so benevolent about an administration that is waging two, maybe three wars at once? -Nothing. It’s the persistent myth surrounding Democrats, to their detriment and at times to their benefit, depending on a given election cycle’s place in world history. Democrats are no less likely to let loose the military on any target compared to GOP-topped administrations. Democrats certainly seem to resist pulling out of conflicts, hopeful that they can bridge enough time until another succeeding administration ends up holding the bag.

There is no Anti-War movement in America anymore. While I could never be a part of it, because I don’t believe in pacifism, the Anti-War movement is an important perspective. The Anti-War movement has been successfully neutralized, diffused and rendered impotent by the media, and the calculated obfuscation of pundits on TV and Radio, who represent the rich elites who benefit or profit from the making of wars.

E Pluribus Unum, roughly translates to “Out of the many: one.” from Latin. It’s only recently, now that I have to see the people who have fought the current wars, and see them every day (I live across the Harlem river from the VA hospital in the Bronx) that I’m realizing that there’s something wrong with that ideal. Unity, is always a murderously selective enterprise for our human species. Historically, unity is always proposed in advance of some conflict, some enemy real, imagined, or as yet unidentified. Dividing and conquering is an ages old strategy, proven time and time again… but what of the collectivizing of humans into this aggregate body we call a nation? Doesn’t that makes conquest of a whole other kind equally possible? Equally inevitable?
What about this blind unity that gives us, (We the people) as much direct say in world affairs and the future of the world, as much freedom as a roaming blood cell has to determine its fate and purpose?

I wish the journalists would do their jobs and tell people what’s really going on. I wish someone would devote a single headline pronouncing the end of our Republic, and the birth of our new Protectorate now that, without much noise at all, the Patriot Act has been extended.

Somebody with the ability to make us listen and the skill to make us pay attention has to point out that our young people are still dying because of ongoing wars, even after they return “home.”
-SJ

3 comments:

Beach Bum said...

There is no Anti-War movement in America anymore.

I have to disagree with you on this one to a certain degree. My battalion sergeant major back in the mid-80's when I was active army said the anti-war movement during Vietnam, while having dedicated members opposed to the war on principle had many members because the college deferment later on was not an automatic Get-out-of-jail-free card as far as the serving was concerned.

I absolutely believe had the draft been going on on the buildup during Iraq a massive anti-war movement would have appeared. I got dizzy during those years hearing middle class shits shake my hand while I was wearing my uniform but later on say with relief that their children would never go fight, they had college to attend and later careers to build.

Beach Bum said...

As for E Pluribus Unum.

My patriotism is generally only found after multiple empty bottles of beer are rolling around my feet. For me the idea of America is largely dead, its been replaced with a collection of sanctimonious primitive tribes with each at the core a completely separate entities looking out only for their group and to Hell with everyone else.

National unity these days is only called for by fearmongers who want to scare the populace about the latest boogieman-du jour who they assure us is hiding under our beds ready rape our wives and convert our daughters to some evil Anti-American lifestyle.

We're still only the "United States" by sheer mindless inertia, zombie-like in nature and rotten to the core. The minute some situation we cannot paper over and defer to a later date comes and knocks us down we will bust apart like a bloated corpse. That's when the real fun will begin.

Sorry I'm in a very bad mood.

SJ said...

@Beach,
sorry man.
You, a buddy of mine named Tom who served in the Persioan Gulf War and the Iraq War (was critically injured in the latter but now fully recovered) and an old college buddy of Mycue23's were on my mind while I wrote this rambling screed intended for the fourth of July. Last thing I wanted to do was foul up your mood. These are foul times. And I'm beginning to judge our government harshly by the way it continues to treat our military personnel once they return from the fronts. I'm judging the Anti War movement by it's conspicuous absences and silences, whenever a charismatic Democrat is in power; I don't care if it happens to be a Democrat I voted for: Someone needs to keep reminding everyone, to the point of nausea if necessary, that wars -plural- are being waged this very minute... to what end?
These wars have been so big, and so long in operation, we're losing a whole generation.
It's really injust, and it's part of the duplicitous shell game that's been going on in the Congress and the Senate for decades.
But it feels worse on all counts now. It's like there's no hope of stopping anything from happening even on foreign and domestic policies that are fundamentally wrong. The administration I helped vote in is responding by bargaining away cornerstones of the government's responsible, caretaker mechanisms like Social Security.
So we're gonna fuck old people now too?
Something really terrible is happening, and if I'm seeing it so dramatically in my neighborhood, -I can't imagine what's happening around the country to other vets in other communities.
Sorry Beach, this fourth of July I just couldn't keep my chin up.
Michelle Baachman is being discussed in the media as if she's not some opportunist loon.
WTF?
-SJ