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Eternal vigilance: In memorium and in preparation

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Fly by night Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-29-11 06:57 AM
Original message
Eternal vigilance: In memorium and in preparation
Edited on Sun May-29-11 07:20 AM by Fly by night
(Preface: I wrote this piece five years ago, after six months and seventeen days locked up in the federal Bureau of Prisons halfway "house". It is even more relevant today than when I wrote it. Back then, Tennessee was beginning to consider a Voter Confidence Act to replace unverifiable voting machines with paper ballots/opscan and mandatory manual audits. That bill passed in 2008 with all but two legislators voting for it, though only after a compromise to conduct one more round of elections (2008) on the "vapor-based" voting machines. Today, our Republican legislature -- which took control of our government in (surprise, surprise) 2008 on those same unverifiable voting machines -- has repealed that law in a cynical effort to protect and preserve their only real mandate in the Volunteer State. Back then, Wisconsin was viewed as part of the progressive upper mid-west. Today, their own elections are also being stolen so blatantly that, despite multiple security infractions detected in their recent Supreme Court recount, the Republican thief was declared the winner (and a persistent and obvious troll here couldn't wait to gloat on the news, praising the Wisconsin recount process as if it was anything but rigged.)

Yes, let us remember and give thanks for the brave men and women who have fought for our nation in the past. Let us also prepare for our turn to do the same, here on our own soil and soon. Or let us prepare to bend over and collectively kiss our democratic asses goodbye.

As for me, I'd rather fight than kiss. Peace (for now) out. Y'all come.)

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philip Curran, Speech Upon the Right of Election, 1790

Happy Memorial Day. My prayer today is that we can honor our war dead without adding to their numbers quite so fast as we are today, once we wrest control of our country back from the fascists now in power. But that will depend on all of us. I fear the shootings not over yet.

Today I have thought much about my Dad, about his time in World War II, about how his adult life was spent with untreated PTSD which he self-medicated every day with drugs (ethanol and nicotine) that profited many in control of this country, but took him from us too soon. How, despite the trauma of what Dad had lived through in the Pacific, despite the burden of remembering the numbers (though not the names) of the Japanese young men he had killed himself (a number somewhere in the 80s 87, I believe), despite being dragged home from post-war Japan where he had vowed to remain and start a new life despite all that, he still lived a life of great service, he still gave his children unconditional and gentle love, he still developed and maintained strong bonds with his brothers, his lovers, his friends.

I keep wondering, though, whether his life would have been more peaceful, more serene, more balanced, buoyed by more unadulterated lightness of spirit if his own father had allowed him to return to the land that Dad had owned as a teenager rather than selling it out from under him, giving him the money to go to school and to get on with his life. If only he had been allowed to exorcise his homicidal demons amidst the lowing sounds of mother and baby cows, surrounded by the faint, familiar whistles of bobwhite quail and the soft coos of mourning dove, bathing in the shimmering heat of summer hay fields and the sharp clarity of the cold early evenings of January days in the Mississippi black prairie. Who knows what might have been -- certainly I dont. Still, for a forever wounded man, Dad lived a good life, and a very productive life of service as a small town physician. For that, and for his service, he has earned respect on this day. But I miss him terribly, right now, as I wish his life had been different without the unremovable burden of war.

Ive also thought today about one of my high school football teammates, two years older but without the rankling arrogance that generally accompanies the relationships between high school seniors and sophomores. The first time I met him (when I first moved back to Mississippi to live with my father), Rocky (that was his name) talked to me about the pettiness of that arrogance, even though I was just another new face another young blocking and tackling dummy for a very talented first team that played for the state championship in the fall of 64 back when I first showed up at practice to begin my own preparation for fitting in and for manhood. I am sure that Rocky was nice to me because he was a good friend of one of my older cousins (Leon), but also because he was just a good person at heart. Today, at my age, I can recognize those good at heart people pretty quickly. And my life today gives me much practice in wheat vs. chaff detection at work, on the streets and in the house. Back then, though, I was thankful for Rocky because he was nice without having to be and because he supported me on and off the football practice field, those two years before I became a part of yet another very talented first team, one that didnt go as far but that nonetheless went down fighting.

I think about Rocky today because he is the one name I have found, and touched, several times on the great black Wall that is our nations Vietnam Memorial. Given my age and the fact that large numbers of my classmates were drafted out of Mississippi and shipped to Nam before the Tet Offensive and the other great battles that made 1968 the bloodiest year for young American men, I am aware that there are likely several other names of people I once knew on that great, silent Wall. (Though for our 58,000 names, Vietnam could build a Wall with forty-fold more names on it, and that bamboo Wall would only honor their lost soldiers, not the non-combatant collateral damage of that colonial disaster.) There are also most likely names of young men who I faced on Friday nights across the scrimmage line as we played our own risky games of growing up, as we willingly took our places as the latest wave of gladiators before the naively blood-thirsty crowds in small Mississippi towns, between those hot and steamy nights of early September until the last of us who were still standing cracked heads on cold November nights, nights so cold that it hurt to pull our helmets over our near-frostbitten ears. Nights when our blood still ran and stained our maroon and white jerseys, when winning still mattered (though less than it had earlier in the season) but when surviving meant even more. Last nights in the bright lights, when the voices of those of us who had fallen mingled with the voices of those who had never set foot on those striped battlefields. Final nights when, like the opening scenes of Bogdonavichs The Last Picture Show, we were about to awaken to another world, one no longer defined by sidelines and goal-posts, a world we could not predict even though its outlines were visible all around us.

Rocky spent his final teenaged, soul-filled night badly wounded, in a foxhole somewhere in Vietnam. Disoriented from the pain and the chaos all around him, I wonder what Rocky thought about, whether there was anything in the memories of his nineteen years of experience that gave him any comfort that night, in the moments before he forgot where he was and stood up, stood straight up out of that foxhole, in clear sight of another young man across that deadly scrimmage line, a young Vietnamese man who ended Rockys playing days for all time. I miss Rocky today, because of the kindness he extended to me, a young stranger who had just moved into his Dads hometown, a kindness out of character with Rockys age and our differing rank.

I also think of John Robert Ellis, my great-great-great uncle, whose tombstone lies in our family cemetery along with his other brothers, all but two of whom died in the Civil War. John Robert was too young to have had children before he went to war, though he had married his sweetheart shortly before leaving with his older siblings to repel the Northern aggression. And unlike his brothers, John Roberts bones dont rest under that Beersheba cemetery tombstone but instead lie entrenched and entangled with his many other brothers from the 43rd Mississippi regiment who were bombarded unmercifully by Yankee cannon at the Battle of Franklin, in the cold late fall of another 64, as that war was winding down.

Growing up in a tight and large family, I had always been told about the other brothers who had died at Vicksburg and at Shiloh and whose remains had been marked by my forebear and then later sought out, disinterred and returned to the family cemetery. I had not been told about John Robert and about how my great-great-great grandfather by then the only surviving warrior from our family in that war had been forced to leave that Franklin battlefield without knowing where his younger brother was or even whether he was alive or dead. As what remained of the badly beaten Rebel forces fled that battlefield, those wounded confederates who could be rescued (for brief moments with all too many) were taken to Carnton Plantation to be tended a few mended by surgeons and nurses who worked until these soldiers lifeless limbs made towering flesh-and-bone piles beneath the still green magnolias under that frigid early December sky, until the blood of those who lived for more years and those who were soon-to-die stained through the oriental rugs of that plantation owners home and discolored the wood beneath. Stains that remain today, a century and a half later.

Last summer, before I was sentenced to this house and to my life of uncertainty hereafter, I walked that battlefield and toured that Carnton Plantation house with my oldest nephew, Daniel, among the kindest and most gentle of my relations, the one who has reached out to me most often before and after I walked onto my own legal battlefield (where my own enemy remains, and where the potential loss of my own homeland still threatens, where I am unarmed, doing battle with my own country, in the fifth decade of this never-ending great Drug War). Unlike our forebear, Daniel and I could visit John Roberts grave-site, could touch the ground under which his bones rest, could put ourselves in his place because our consciousness is somehow tied to his, in physical and spiritual ways we do not understand. We could find his burial place, his spot in the long trenches of the nameless and forgotten dead, because John Robert had survived six days with his wounds after the Battle, long enough to give his name to the doctors and nurses, who could then pass his name on to the grave-diggers when it came time to lay him down. And then to mark his resting place with his initials, amid his regiment. I wonder what John Robert thought about for those six days, whether his own heart-sick mind returned to the steamy summer hayfields and the clear cold winter twilights he had also spent on our familys land, to the soothing voices of the quail and the dove, to the faces and the feel of his loved ones. I miss John Robert today, though his blood-line slowly drained into the Tennessee soil for those six days, and ended for good just a few miles south of here, so that I never knew anyone who sprang from him. Another senseless death, another sad ending to a still-young life.

Today, on this Memorial Day (2006), I have no friends or family members who are now in Iraq, defending the American oil that mysteriously now flows under Iraqi soil, or who are now in Afghanistan making that country safe again for the production of CIA heroin. But there are likely to be those among you who read this message who are gripped in fear now, wondering and hoping for the safe return of your daughters and sons, your nieces and nephews, the good kids with kind hearts from your own neighborhoods and your own kids ball teams. My prayers and living hopes are with you now, that your children (and the children of others that you care for) will make it home safely. Because as much as I hate war, I have come to understand that there are things worth fighting for. And this country, what it is still supposed to be, is one of those treasures worth fighting for. But that looming fight is here, not around the dark side of this earth

As President Gore said recently, there are precious few options available in this country between a definitive Supreme Court decision and a violent revolution when the democratic process is subverted so completely and with such unbridled arrogance as has occurred during the past decade in this, our own dark ages. So as sad and sobering as it is to contemplate we may face future Memorial Days missing many more of those who had to fight and die to rescue this country from the dark forces who are now in control. The path of peace that would prevent this bloodshed the ballot box, that great leveler and controller of power for the past two centuries in our country has fallen by the wayside, has been crippled by an malleable technology that is anything but mindless and color-blind. For when the votes are cast and counted on machines built by the Reds, the whole nation can appear blood-colored, even when it is anything but.

The monthly state-by-state polls for May, 2006, published in the last week, show that the Smirking Chimp has the support of a majority of voters in only one state Montana (which perhaps should be renamed Dumbfuckistan). In only two other states, Wyoming and Idaho, does our coked-out frat boy still maintain plurality support. In all three states, W(rong)s support margin can be counted on the digits of one hand unmarred by Iraqi IEDs. In all other states in all 47 other states pResident Bush-league has the support of a minority of voters -- in some of those states, of only one in five voters. Here in Tennessee, 60% of the voters disapprove, while only 37% approve, of the actions of the worst leader (sic) this country has ever elected (not).

How, you say, can someone elected with such a clear mandate fall from grace, so far and so fast. Well, its hard to fall from a pedestal that the American people didnt place you on in the first (or the second) place. Since the Republi-Nazis do not yet control all the mechanisms for recording public opinion, we know that the ship of state is listing dangerously and many of us (those hopeful romantics who consider ourselves political progressives) still believe that unfettered democracy, left to its time-tested devices, can and will save our nation. If not, if the ballot box remains in control of the Red-eyed demons who dismiss the American voter as incapable of guiding our countrys course, then our ship of state will founder. And our nations future, like the futures of all other countries throughout history that have been attacked from without or subverted from within, will depend on the will of those voters (and the non-voters who nonetheless love their country too) to fight back.

If that day comes, I will mourn those who will be lost on those battlefields, and I know that I will know many more of them (or would recognize them by their strong yet kind eyes) than the warriors in the Philippines or in Vietnam or in Franklin, TN. But as much as I will miss them, I would miss the loss of this country more, forever more.

Happy Memorial Day.
My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
God bless all peoples, and may God help America (while She still can).

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Fly by night Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-29-11 07:11 AM
Response to Original message
1. One self-kick for Dad ...
... and then up to the blueberries.
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laylah Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-29-11 07:20 AM
Response to Original message
2. What a lovely tribute,
FBN. Thank you. :hug:
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Fly by night Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-29-11 07:33 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Thanks kindly, kind stranger.
Now (really) up to the blueberries, before it gets too hot here.
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Fly by night Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-29-11 10:06 AM
Response to Original message
4. One self-kick for Rocky ...
... and then out to water the yellow squash and green chiles. Already have the lemon balm steeping in the sun-tea container on the top of my truck.

Getting ready for a nap in the middle of the day ....
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Fly by night Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-29-11 03:49 PM
Response to Original message
5. One last self-kick for John Robert, buried at the Battle of Franklin ...
... and then to go plant zinnias at the Santa Fe (TN) town square.

Stay cool, DUers. Somebody better, and it won't be me.
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renate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-29-11 04:09 PM
Response to Original message
6. beautiful tributes--thank you for telling us their stories
As a mom I feel especially sad for Rocky and all the other teenagers who have been killed or wounded in wars that they had nothing to do with starting--he was just a sweet young kid.

Your dad sounds like an incredible man, to have retained his gentle spirit after what he'd been through. And I'm glad that you and your nephew took the time to honor John Robert's memory--he would have been so pleased about that.


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Fly by night Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-30-11 05:53 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Thank you for helping me honor those three fallen soldiers.
Here's hoping that, one day, we'll all be telling peace stories instead. (one of my favorite songs sung by Jonell Mosser).
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renate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-30-11 05:51 PM
Response to Original message
8. a Memorial Day kick
Sorry I can't rec it again.

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