Friday, March 23, 2018

A Nauseous Anniversary


What follows here are some sentences. Some will be short and uncomplicated. A few will be long, complex, and angry.

Before I vent some opprobrium, I reflect with respect on a local kid, a hometown war hero who won a gold medal with the U.S. Paralympic team at the winter games in PyeongChang, South Korea last weekend.

There is a good deal of pride in this community for a most impressive and determined man.

The call to service is unmistakable to those who feel it, and in that chapter of my life when I felt it and looked up my local Navy recruiter, what stopped me was the awful knowledge of what my country does with those who are drawn to serve. This was the era of the Panama invasion and the Persian Gulf War, when I was using my time in college to learn about the middle-east and our relationships with dictators around the world as well as monarchs in oil states.

Instead of joining the Navy, I interned at War Resisters League and got involved in political organizing. Service takes various forms.

However much I condemn the imperial violence of my country of birth, among the finest people I've met are some who signed up to serve without cynicism or guile, with a sincere belief in service.

To see the state deploy those led by such admirable notions, for base ends, roils my blood.

Like this young man in Deming who now competes with distinction in the paralympics.

Like a man I knew at Trinity Rep, a Persian Gulf War vet who uses theatre to help other combat veterans heal and thrive.

Like the man I met who survived the siege of Fallujah - the few things he was willing to describe made me terrified for what he didn't.

Like men and women I have met after performing An Iliad, who have paid me the honor of sharing some of themselves, where they had been and of their homecomings.

People who deserve their own individual sentences and much more.

George W. Bush took this local son, the one who "medalled" last weekend, a youth who had pledged his physical strength and intellectual alacrity to serve his country, and George W. Bush sent that young man to Iraq where a grenade changed his life but happily did not end it.

Yes, the Iraq War, this pox on the world, whose 15th anniversary passed this week without fanfare, a most nauseous anniversary in remembrance of a war built on lies, an illegal war of aggression supported by Democrats as well as Republicans, a "decision point" (to use a W-esque phrase) with economic, social, and ecological consequences that will touch generations yet unborn, that destabilized a region already tormented and paved a doctrine of endless war and the American executive's right to wage death as it pleases without meaningful Congressional oversight, popular support, without even taxation to pay for it (the Iraq War being funded through deficit spending), the policy we have to thank for ISIS and the legitimization of extremists who still advise presidents and give well-attended and well-compensated speeches about how to rule the world.

Yes, that was one sentence. I can only speak of this war in long sentences with clauses stacking my outrage like spent nuclear rods glowing poison.

When George W. Bush is trotted out to chat about his paintings instead of being cuffed and sent to the Hague to answer for what he has done to the planet, when Condi Rice or other figures from that administration are treated like honorable people instead of notorious war criminals and apologists for torture worthy only of public shame, when the Democrats who voted for that war and defended their votes for years are still spoken of as somehow being desirable candidates for the Presidency, I feel glowing hot bile in my throat for all the young men and women whose good faith and notions of service were put to such "use."

Yep, that was another really long sentence. If you read it out loud, spikes may shoot out of it, like a literary goathead. Such is the language I would hurl in the presence of those who pushed this policy. That's how much disdain I feel for the officials of that era. May shame leech on them and the leeches turn into hundreds of little screens playing biographical movies singing the stories of all the people who lost lives, families, communities and society, and personal opportunity for imperial aims, and all those paying the check for that policy even today. 

Damn them all. Shame them out of public service. Why do we play along with the notion that these are respectable and trustworthy statesmen and public servants?

Throw tomatoes at them. It's not like they'll lose their limbs or anything.


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