Monday, May 28, 2018

Momento Mori

I never quite know how to deal with this day.

Typically I simmer all day in a sort of low, sullen...not quite anger, more like...irritation, like a peat fire smouldering deep below the surface. My fellow citizens' clueless, careless, indifference to the whys and hows their soldiers died is bitter gall, and the unfortunate alternative is a kind of fawning reverence for some imaginary soldier who has "fought for their freedom" that is almost more irking than the cluelessly indifferent.

I understand that most of these people are trying to say or do something "nice" on a day that has been set aside for what they dimly sense as a sort of patriotic celebration of GIs. They usually have no clue that this is something different from Veterans' Day, and, like a drunk at a wedding, proceed to either offend, with their jingo patriotism, or by their hiding their eyes from the abyss that is death in war.

I want them to just say it; "These men and women died not for me but because of me, because of my choices, or because I chose not a make choices. And many of them, and all of them that have died since the end of the Korean War in 1953, died for damn near nothing, died chasing the ghosts of my fears and ignorance. They died because I thought of dominoes, or of Evil Empires, or of fighting them there so we wouldn't have to fight them here. They died because I let unscrupulous men lie me into fear, into foolish anger, into hate. They died because I was a bad citizen.

And I have never come to terms with that. I've never admitted that, or repented of that, or apologized to the dead for my acts or my indifference."

I know that won't happen, and that galls me, too. We Americans are bad at things like regret, repentance, and apologies.

So I'll say it here.

Fuck, I'm sorry, guys.

I fucked up. I trusted people I never should have. I didn't rage with fire and steel against those people who killed you. No, not the people you fought. The people who sent you to fight for nonsense, or hubris, or greed, or stupidity. And once I knew that they were fools, or criminals, or both I did nothing to punish them for murdering you. They still live, many of them honored and respected, while you are nothing but dust and ashes.

I am ashamed.

All I can promise is that I'll try and do better in the future. I'll try and make sure that they can't make any more of you.

That is all.

Take a break in place and smoke 'em if you gottem.

And, as always on this day; this.


  1. Sullen is a good word for it. That's how I feel now too. There are too many names now. Three added in the last year - two killed in Iraq and a third by suicide. That last might not technically count, but I'm including him anyway.

    1. He counts. They all count; the guys wandering lost in the streets, the guys sitting in the quiet rooms staring at the rifle or shotgun or pistol wondering if today is the day to stop the war still going on in their heads, the ones behind the wheel tensing up when the white Datsun pickup comes too close.

      For some people, only death will bring an end to war. And we have made far too many of those people in our lifetimes, and, very often, for the very worst of reasons.

      The wreckage left behind by war is bad enough even when the fight is for the most necessary of causes. But this fight against "terror"?

      It's not for no reason I keep coming back to the words of Robert Bolt: "It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the entire world. But, for Wales..?"

  2. Meanwhile Cadet Bone-Spurs uses the occasion to tell everyone how great his administration is:

    1. I must be finally succumbing to Trump Fatigue, because I saw that tweet and all I could muster was a sigh; "what a shitbird".

      Charlie Pierce says what's in my thoughts better than I can;

      "They did not risk, they did not bleed, they did not die for what this country is at the moment: a republic of mummery, numb and stupid, drunk on unreality and unreason, and, by its own public choice, led by a ridiculous and dangerous man. They did not risk, they did not bleed, and they did not die for what we have now, and that is on us, not them, and not on the people who sent them to war. It is this country at this moment that has squandered the peace and that has profaned the sacrifice because it has made a mocker's game of both of them. This is not what they died for."

  3. This is how I do Memorial Day, with or without the Ballou letter


  4. It's a shit day like any other...I was walking across the parking lot at the VA a couple of months ago and a guy says point blank to me, "thank for your service."

    " I'm not military." I replied.

    "Not now, but you were."

    " Look, never military, ever." I med out of Marine Corps boot camp, I'm not military...just didn't feel the need to tell this guy.

    But the words he spoke we're empty, void of knowledge, laced with worship.

    It was gross, and it annoyed me.

    It still annoys me when I think about it...and then I get slapped with it in my church on Sunday with a full on "thank you for your service. If it weren't for you we would have our freedoms."

    I'm not suppose to be angry in church, but there I sat snarling inwardly...but how do I tell these people..." The greatest threat to our freedoms comes from us...or haven't you been paying attention for the last seventeen years?"

    In short...I could do without Memorial day and the accompanying war worship.


    1. You put your finger on what really irks the shit out of me, sheerah; the relentless flag-waving jingoism this holiday brings out.

      I want this to be a sort of combination of Irish wake and a national Day of Mourning and Dia de los Muertos; we gather in the cemeteries to remember the dead - who died because we asked (or told) them to go into harm's way and thus made us part of their "family" - to celebrate their lives and grieve for the loss of them. It should be somber, and thoughtful, and about people, not the nation.

      It's not the "holiday" itself I dislike. It's how We the People celebrate it.

    2. I agree, Chief...this fucking day should be a goddamn moment of self-reflection...

      but nope...

      it's bust out the flags, emotionally felate the nearest veteran.

      Rub up against them, get that self-indulgent smell of "I'm a patriot, and support the troops!" all over themselves, and then...

      And then forget why their veterans.

      Forget why our faces beam with pride of being a patriot who supports the troops, and never look into the eyes of the veteran whose seen the beast and mourns.

      Never...because then questions have to be asked of ourselves.
      Uncomfortable questions.

      questions good drones are not to wonder about...just buy the shit in the store, here's an American flag, and be sure to worship the troops because it's the right thing to do!


      Where mom's apple pie will never be consumed by the child who went off to a foreign shore to defend the monetary interests of a corporation who is a major donor to a particular political party.

      Is there any way to get off this go-no-where bus?


  5. Probably not. The whole "land of the free but only if you can afford it" thing is kinda baked in; the guys who cooked up the idea were wealthy white guys, and that was really pretty much who they wanted running the joint. We've gotten better...but money is still power. I'm not sure how you'd change human society enough to change that.

    That said, the Trumpkins are exponentially worse on the problem of wealth corrupting power. That's ALWAYS been Trump's gig; you give me money and maybe I help you. Most pols have to at least pretend they don't work that way.

  6. I spent the 28th at a luncheon honoring WW2 veterans. Earlier I had attended the local memorial for the reading of the names (all wars). If that frosts your a$$, then fook off I say.

    Six of those nonagenarians showed up for the luncheon. Some young dirtbag (my age) piped up about how great it was to finally have a Prez that honored veterans. He was quickly shut up by one of the honorees who said that Bull Halsey would have slapped Trump silly for being a draft dodger and would have had him thrown in the fleet monkey house. And there were some loud whispers from the back of the room about "@#$%^& bone spurs". So the MAGA-guy just mumbled to himself and the poor guy sitting next to him for the rest of the event.

    Sadly many of the locally known WW2 vets did not show up. I visited one of them at his home yesterday and let him bend my ear for an hour. He had been hospitalized for internal bleeding a few weeks earlier and was recuperating. This is the same Battle of Okinawa vet I posted about last September:

    Was going to visit another vet who did not make it to the luncheon, a 96-year old American Indian, but he was out of town with family. Quite a character, he often places rum and tobacco on the grave of one of his compatriots.

  7. No Mike, EVERYONE should be doing what you do.
    I'll share a memory of a coworker:
    George Washington was a character, always smiling, saying hi to me, very encouraging.
    And always wagging his head when I talked shit...I was young then, and certainly full of myself.
    I guess George saw his younger self in me, and we would talk a lot during lunch and inventory.
    At the time I worked in what is known as an Icebox, waiting for my clearance to go through.
    During one of our conversations, George let slipped that he had joined the Army...ostensibly because it was the only way a black man could get a job, and get some job skills other than lift heavy things. Unfortunately, George was given the MOS of infantry...he said, he'd figured if he's going to make a career of the Military, he's going have to do his time in the dirt.
    Then things went south in Korea, and that's where he ended up at...and that is when he tells me about Chosin.
    Not fit for man or beast.
    And that's when he smiled when I asked him if he caught in the Chinese offensive, and he nodded.
    His story is remarkable because he said he ran out of ammo, ran out of food, and out of breath as the Chinese and North Korean's overran them.
    He show's me a stab wound on his forearm, bayonet wound.
    I asked him what happened, and he recounts that, as he had mentioned, his unit got overran...and people fled. He was in a fight for his life.
    The enemy soldier first bayoneted him in his chest, first stab wound, lower section of the upper right chest, between mid ribs, bayonet missed liver and lungs, slid past the organs along the rib cage.
    George said he looked into the eyes of the enemy soldier and he realized..."this guy is scared shitless just as much as I am."
    George felt his legs give out, and he fell. The enemy soldier stabbed at him again, George used his right arm to fend off, but ended up getting bayoneted through his forearm.
    He said he felt something in hit his shoulder, but the cold, and the exhaustion he blacked out. Turns out, the soldier bayoneted him a third time in the right shoulder.
    Leaving George for dead.
    George said he woke up, looked around, and it was quiet except for the sounds of fighting further off. He was still cold, and he said he wrapped his wounds in a couple of t-shirts, grabbed an extra jacket, and his empty rifle, and he walked back to his lines. He said it was mostly clear, and he had little problems getting back to American forces.
    The thing that George would tell me after each time we talked which at first I ignored is that he was not a soldier or a fighter, but a lover.
    I didn't ask him about that till later on, when he explained that at that moment in time when the bayonet slid along his ribs, he said looked up into the eyes of the enemy soldier, and realized that this enemy soldier was just as scared as he was...he said he knew at that point that it was fear that drove men to hate…It was fear that drove men to hate and kill…

    He had been given an epiphany by God, and when he woke up he said it was cold, and dead all around him. On his walk back he said he knew he was changed...before, he hated the enemy. Now, he said realized, no, the enemy was just like me, scared shitless, and he didn't hate him…so, he made his choice on his walk back…
    He chose to love men.
    He chose to love women.
    He chose to love life.
    He chose to love people.
    "I'm a lover, not a fighter."
    George retired, took his wife on a glorious road trip starting San Diego, and driving all the way up to Alaska back in 1990...I only saw him his Cadillac convertible, a giant ass smile on his face, and a wife who was beaming as much as he was...he came from that road trip to let us all know he was okay, and he was very happy.
    He waved at us, we yelled, "where are you going now?"
    And he yelled back, "We're driving to Florida!"
    I have missed George Washington...he the man I wish I could be.
    A lover.
    And that is my Memorial day memory.

  8. Unclaimed remains of homeless veterans finally removed from courthouse basement and buried at a national cemetery. Happened on June 1st, just after Memorial Day. This was a sad business.

    And these eight vets in Texas are just the latest. MIAP, the non-profit that coordinated the rescue and burials, appears to have been doing this for over a decade throughout the country.

    1. That is just unacceptable in this day and age.
      We have 23andme who can not only sort out your ancestral lineage, can also link your DNA to anyone who matches you.

      Just unacceptable that these men who had families somewhere are now buried without familial presence to mourn them...just unacceptable, and lazy on the state bureaucracy part.