I have yet to wander the medieval battlefields of Europe and it increasingly seems I never will. I have visited my share of castles in Ireland and Scotland, but the acoustics there are not good, and I did not hear the anguished cry of soldiers falling in battle,
I have seen rivers, quiet now, where the blood of the vanquished must have flowed in this war and that, for Europe is a place of wars, the perpetual gameboard for the greedy and those who imagine themselves emperors.
I come from a distant place, where three wars on its soil was deemed sufficient, but who will freely give others the wars they have grown altogether too used to fighting, and we gladly offer up our sons to aid in the combat so long as we only receive their bodies in the dark of night.
And perhaps that is our failing, for we know war well, but we keep ourselves clean, and marvel at the destruction we will never know first hand.
Each morning we stood as the Principal intoned the Pledge of Allegiance over the tinny PA system. One morning as we rose, hands over hearts, we noticed someone had put up the Canadian flag in the holder over the door. The Principal threatened to call all of our parents unless the guilty party came forward, and we struggled vainly to swallow our giggles. No one came forward and they found the Stars and Stripes stuck in a large mixing bowl in the kitchen. The Principal scheduled an assembly to remind us of our need to honor the flag and the country, because it stood for all that was good, for all that we had and that everyone else wanted, but we were under our desks in the painful tuck position we would assume if they ever dropped the bomb. They didn’t tell us that if we were close enough to ground zero the position would let us leave a neater shadow on the floor. Some days we sang My Country ‘Tis of Thee all except for Larry who preferred God Save the Queen until the Principal told him it was sacrilege, since we created it and the Brits stole it. Years later, outside the Federal Building the Principal, now retired and girding for battle with Social Security, saw me, protest sign in hand, flag sewn across the seat of my jeans. He stared, then looked away ashamed at still another failure, not like his two sons who lay in eternal repose in the Federal cemetery on the Island of Oahu.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press, (2008)
I’ve been trying to discover how it is that those inside the beltway elected to office, or working for those who were elected, have all sense of irony (and in some cases. civility) erased.
How else to explain that for many there can be no climate change while the nation they serve is bearing its cost, climatologically and in discourse and diversity, and still they won’t see that baked Alaska is no longer just a dessert at a Party or PAC dinner.
Or to be blind to the fact that their parents or grandparents once stared up at the Lady in the Harbor, that they were the tired and the poor yearning for the freedom they would now so easily deny others, that they and theirs were the invading mob, nonetheless welcomed in the promise of an ever greater land.
Perhaps it is best I never learn for in this world a finely honed sense of irony may be our last, best hope for salvaging our sanity.
I admit I am an odd duck, odder for not being a duck at all. But the expression has a certain je ne sais quoi to it, as does that expression and I am all about language. All that is a long round about way of acknowledging that I have always wanted to use the word antiphonal in my writing. I’m not terribly religious, and what faith I had has long been shaken by a world gone mad. Or at least a country gone mad. And even when I had some faith, I subscribed to the syllogism that religions music was to music, as military food was to food. We won’t even mention military music, that is an abject oxymoron.
They speak of me, never to me, with terms like breakage, as though life, mine at least, is a glass bottle on a shelf with so many others, and a certain percentage are pre- assumed to break and be discarded and no one will bat an eyelash.
To them I am nameless, one of many, stock in trade, with no provenance, or at least none they would grant me, and they question my origins, as though I may not be worthy enough to even be considered as future breakage.
I want to remind them that they invited me here, invited so many others, that we are here because it was one place we were going to be allowed, but they have grown deaf, and blind, and I must wait until they, too, soon, are swept from the shelf and placed in clearance, then discarded.
During the Presidential debate the other night the inevitable question was eventually asked. I have to say the answers were much as expected, exactly as scripted, and while “correct,” each candidate missed a golden opportunity. “On January 21, what will be the first thing you will do as President?” Most of the world’s problems made the list, immigration, climate change, wealth inequality, you get the picture. It was never mind that almost none of the things listed could be solved by an executive order, their hearts were in the right place. But no one hit the real mark. Ask me and the answer’s simple. My first act as President is to appoint the official White House herpetologist. It is a two for one appointment, after all. I get someone who can help me deal with Congress, members of both the Senate and House. But better still, when it hits the fan, and we all know it will, repeatedly, I have an expert who can explain that yet again, it is all the snake’s fault. That one has worked since Adam, and even the evangelicals and Catholics must agree on that one.