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Monday/Memeday: Peaceful Protest, Virginia Style

Over-react much? This was a protest against mandatory vagina probes in Virginia in 2012.



What Did You Do on Memorial Day?

I woke up, did some chores, went to the home improvement store to buy some gardening supplies, visited a friend to drop off a box of onion starts I’d grown from seed, ran by the grocery store, went to the feed & supply store to buy some tomato seedlings to replace the few that got frosted the other night, went to my in-laws’ house for burgers and corn on the grill, came home and planted tomatoes with my wife, then chased her around the house a few laps when the kids went off with their friends, then sat down at the computer and thought about Memorial Day a little bit.  Invariably, my pondering turned to what might very well be the most memorable and definitive photographic image to emerge from our ongoing, unending 24-year-old middle east war.


If you haven’t seen this picture before, and you live in the USA, then I’m wondering where the heck you’ve been?  It certainly haunts me–now more than ever, as the very forces we originally sought to defeat have reared their heads once more in the form of the baathist, Saddamite front known as ISIS or ISIL or Daesh or whatever the hell it is called today, claws at all that the most optimistic among us hoped to build. It begs the question: how fucked up is this war?

We should never have gone. We should never have left.

civil-war-garWhen I visit the cemeteries of my ancestors around Westsylvania, I am invariably proud beyond all reason of the “G.A.R.” starts on the graves of men of a certain generation. Likewise the veterans of the war to end all wars,” and the ensuing “war to end all wars.” Both my grandfathers from the verdant Appalachian hills of Bedford and Somerset counties to the seeming wastelands of Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya–one as a heavy maintenance mechanic whose service from 1942 through 1946 would take him from northern Africa to Italy, France, Belgium, and ultimately to Berlin. The other was crewman on a B-25 bomber beginning in the second battle El Alamein through the invasion of Italy. Before the war, he was a farm kid who had never been near an airplane–but within months after volunteering for service he was flying over Egypt dropping bombs on Nazis. How strange is that?

My father and uncles went to Viet Nam–three tours for dad, a navy man who for the rest of his life didn’t like to sit with his back to Asian people in restaurants.  He voted republican against the long, pro-union legacy of his family until the infamous “swift boating” of former Presidential candidate John Kerry.  It was the only time I ever saw him worked up about politics–“Those boys in the Swifts,” he seethed to me one night, “riding plywood in the rivers and deltas, they were sitting ducks. I knew a lot of ’em, and most didn’t make it home.”

I felt no compulsion to join the volunteer army of the mid-1980s, at a time when the only wars we were fighting were with small pond bullies and narco-despots who, after imageswe put them in power, refused to be our puppets.  Despite what you’ll hear from Reaganites, the 80’s weren’t a great time for patriotism–the only other bully on the block was the Soviet Union, and we all knew if we got into it with them it would be “please place your tray in the locked, upright position, put your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye.”  We watched movies like “The Day After,” and took strange comfort in the encompassing fatalism of the time. If you’re going to go, go big. Right?

It was about that time that I ask my grandfather, a fiercely republican businessman, if it bothered him that I had no plans to serve, and he told me that under no circumstances was I to even consider volunteering. His exact words, if I recall correctly, were “Unless something bad enough to need fighting comes along you stay the heck away from that monkey actors’s dog and pony show. (an unusual rhetoric flourish I recall with great emotion, as it reflects my own mature writing style with eerie accuracy).  I didn’t spend four years of my life fighting a real evil to have my grandson used as cannon fodder in a bunch of penny ante conflicts our idiot-in-chief  is using to distract the voters from the worst economic policies since Herbert Hoover.”

My grandfathers’ generation was deified, and rightly so, and my father’s was largely ignored (he said neither he nor any veteran he knew every experienced anger or derogatory treatment from civilians, contrary to the stereotypes of so many Viet Nam Era-themed movies, and he considered himself lucky to be unrecognized–he didn’t want a parade or medals, just to get on with his life–a process that would require roughly 30 years and a lot of unhappiness for all of us).

Today, we do a better job of treating our returning soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines with the respect and recognition they deserve, but I fear that we let that respect for the men bleed over into the politicians from both parties who have misused these brave and determined young men and women and shortchanged so many of them.

There is a lot for our leaders to answer for–and I’d start with the sneaky policy of drawing down the regular military under the guise of tax reductions, then shunting our endless war onto the shoulders of the men and women of the National Guard.  Add to that the despicably low compensation our military receives, and the porous post-service health and wellness care that leaves so many of them broken and lost.

Even as I say this, I know that there are some who would call me unpatriotic, especially on this of all days, but I stand by that–especially on this day.  We can think what we want about wars–from the craziest right wing ‘burn down the world” proponent of expressing American Exceptionalism through carpet bombing to the hippiest dippiest sandal-soled anti-war bunny-hugger–but we need to get on the same page, the SPARE NO EXPENSE page, when it comes to taking care of these kids and young people (the use of the National Guard as a sustained combat force has led to a much higher than ideal number of older veterans serving for longer periods and leaving larger  families behind) who have left parts of their bodies or, in the case of our epidemic of PTSD casualities, parts of their souls, in the sand and on mountainsides on the other side of the world.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

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Immigrants Always Taking, Taking, Taking….

or not.


Commentary Poetry sheer awesomeness

Bonus Poetry For National Poetry Month: Gil Scott Heron

My 303rd post, but my first special request–enjoy–but you know you could have googled this, right?

Gil-Scott-Heron-Revolution-Will-Not-Be-TelevisedGil Scott Heron imprinted on the American psyche with “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”–a seminal rap, spoken-word poem tour do force that most people recognize from history class and vaguely associate with the 1960s (much of which was actually in the 1970s), Viet Nam, Civil Rights, Black Power–anything but the fact that it was part of a poem.

Thought it’s not as culturally significant, I like this one even more–blew my mind the first time I heard it.

Work For Peace by Gil Scott Heron

Back when Eisenhower was the President,
Golf courses was where most of his time was spent.
So I never really listened to what the President said,
Because in general I believed that the General was politically dead.
But he always seemed to know when the muscles were about to be flexed,
Because I remember him saying something, mumbling something about a Military Industrial Complex.
Americans no longer fight to keep their shores safe,
Just to keep the jobs going in the arms making workplace.
Then they pretend to be gripped by some sort of political reflex,
But all they’re doing is paying dues to the Military Industrial Complex.
The Military and the Monetary,
The Military and the Monetary,
The Military and the Monetary.
The Military and the Monetary,
get together whenever they think its necessary,
They turn our brothers and sisters into mercenaries, they are turning the planet into a cemetery.
The Military and the Monetary, use the media as intermediaries,
they are determined to keep the citizens secondary, they make so many decisions that are arbitrary.
We’re marching behind a commander in chief,
who is standing under a spotlight shaking like a leaf.
but the ship of state had landed on an economic reef,
so we knew he was going to bring us messages of grief.
The Military and the Monetary,
were shielded by January and went storming into February,
Brought us pot bellied generals as luminaries,
two weeks ago I hadn’t heard of the son of a bitch,
now all of a sudden he’s legendary.
They took the honour from the honourary,
they took the dignity from the dignitaries,
they took the secrets from the secretary,
but they left the bitch an obituary.
The Military and the Monetary,
from thousands of miles away in a Saudi Arabian sanctuary,
had us all scrambling for our dictionaries,
cause we couldn’t understand the fuckin vocabulary.
Yeah, there was some smart bombs,
but there was some dumb ones as well,
scared the hell out of CNN in that Baghdad hotel.
The Military and the Monetary,
they get together whenever they think its necessary,
War in the desert sometimes sure is scary,
but they beamed out the war to all their subsidiaries.
Tried to make So Damn Insane a worthy adversary,
keeping the citizens secondary,
scaring old folks into coronaries.
The Military and the Monetary,
from thousands of miles in a Saudi Arabian sanctuary,
kept us all wondering if all of this was really truely, necessary.
We’ve got to work for Peace,
Peace ain’t coming this way.
If we only work for Peace,
If everyone believed in Peace the way they say they do,
we’d have Peace.
The only thing wrong with Peace,
is that you can’t make no money from it.
The Military and the Monetary,
they get together whenever they think its necessary,
they’ve turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries,
they are turning the planet, into a cemetery.
Got to work for Peace,
Peace ain’t coming this way.
We should not allow ourselves to be mislead,
by talk of entering a time of Peace,
Peace is not the absence of war,
it is the absence of the rules of war and the threats of war
and the preparation for war.
Peace is not the absence of war,
it is the time when we will all bring ourselves
closer to each other,
closer to building a structure that is unique
within ourselves
because we have finally come to Peace within ourselves.
The Military and the Monetary,
The Military and the Monetary,
The Military and the Monetary.
Get together whenever they think its necessary,
they’ve turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries,
they are turning parts of the planet, into a cemetery.
The Military and the Monetary,
The Military and the Monetary,
We hounded the Ayatollah religiously,
Bombed Libya and killed Quadafi’s son hideously.
We turned our back on our allies the Panamanians,
and saw Ollie North selling guns to the Iranians.
Watched Gorbachev slaughtering Lithuanians,
We better warn the Amish,
they may bomb the Pennsylvanians.
The Military and the Monetary,
get together whenever they think its necessary,
they have turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries,
they are turning the planet, into a cemetery.
I don’t want to sound like no late night commercial,
but its a matter of fact that there are thousands of children
all over the world
in Asia and Africa and in South America who need our help.
When they start talking about 55 cents a day and
70 cents a day,
I know a lot of folks feel as though that,
that’s not really any kind of contribution to make,
but we had to give up a dollar and a half just to get
in the subway nowadays.
So this is a song about tomorrow and about how tomorrow
can be better. if we all,
“Each one reach one, Each one try to teach one”.
Nobody can do everything,
but everybody can do something,
everyone must play a part,
everyone got to go to work, Work for Peace.
Spirit Say Work, Work for Peace
If you believe the things you say, go to work.
If you believe in Peace, time to go to work.
Cant be waving your head no more, go to work.

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I Missed A Day: Introducing “Chuckwagon III”

I actually left town for a couple of days to visit my sister and a few of my numerous cool nieces (I got to see four of 7 nieces–but none of my 8 nephews), which was awesome–my family is saturated by fantastic young folks–all of whom are going to come visit at Christmas, right?  Right?!  Thought so.

The main reason I abandoned you was to retrieve the latest in a long and storied line of ponderous machines.  I bought Chuckwagon back in 1991, after my mechanic told me he wouldn’t repair my old Datsun because, and I quote, “Son, people die in cars like this.”  Chuckwagon was better–Chuckwagon wasn’t rusted at all; it had merely been on fire, which was only the beginning of the legend.


Chuckwagon inevitably evolved from primer grey beater to elaborate oil sieve, and I was wagon-less for the better part of a decade, until I traded some manual labor for Chuckwagon II: Son of Chuckwagon, a gloriously square ’84 Caprice that we used as a second car until it had the temerity to pop a break line while my wife was driving it.  Son of Chuckwagon was sent to the breakers, but it was my heart that was broken.  There was something about that backwards-facing rear seat….

There he goes….


I’m stubborn, and when I found myself, three years later, with a few coins from beneath the sofa cushions, I couldn’t help by replace my latest beater–and my pickup–with a single, massive, beastly descendant of the great Chuckwagon gene pond.  So, without further ado, I introduce Chuckwagon III: The Legend Grows.


It’s only a matter of time until….