Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans' Day Links

Here's a sampling of some great writing to mark Armistice Day (which, connoting peace the way it does, has been changed in the Land of Forever-War to Veterans' Day):

The sanctimony of phony politicians paying lip service to vets once or twice a year is pissing Harry Leslie Smith off. He explains why he'll stop wearing the traditional red poppy in remembrance of the fallen war dead: (h/t Pearl.)
However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy.
Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the first world war with quotes from Rupert Brooke, Rudyard Kipling and other great jingoists from our past empire, I will declare myself a conscientious objector. We must remember that the historical past of this country is not like an episode of Downton Abbey where the rich are portrayed as thoughtful, benevolent masters to poor folk who need the guiding hand of the ruling classes to live a proper life.
Democracy Now exposes more of what we already knew: that the military-industrial complex treats veterans like crap. They're still committing suicide in record numbers and their mental health issues are going largely untreated.

At the Washington Post, a veteran named Chris Marvin writes about what Bill Moyers aptly calls an "awkward American tradition" -- thanking veterans for their service. He observes that people say it automatically when meeting a vet, and they utter the phrase because they don't know what else to say. Talking to veterans is a lot like talking to the newly bereaved -- it's a largely unused social skill in these United States, but one that Marvin says can be learned:
Post-9/11 veterans are asking to be engaged, empowered and held to high expectations. We yearn to be told by a grateful public that our talents are still needed here at home. This Veterans Day, on behalf of my fellow Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, I say to the country: There’s no need to thank us. You’re welcome for our service. But take a minute to talk with us. Ask us where we served, learn about what we did in the military and find out what’s next in our lives.
Reading that first piece about red poppies by Harry Smith made me think of one of my favorite songs of all time: Marieke by  Belgian composer Jacques Brel. It's a song about lost love and the ghosts of war, and so, in light of Smith's essay, I think it's entirely appropriate  for Veterans' Day. The first verse of the English translation goes like this: In Flanders field the poppies die/ Since you are gone. Here's the Judy Collins version in the original French and Dutch:


James F Traynor said...

Nice one, Karen. Enjoyed the song.

Elizabeth Adams said...

My dad was in the air force for 24 years. I was in the air force in the 80s for three years, during a break between wars. I worked in the hospital as a nurse and saw firsthand how retirees were treated. I saw how things (benefits) they had been promised when they had signed up years ago were taken away. I saw how they were treated as "less than" because they weren't active duty. I saw a retiree get kicked out of his room so the wife of the hospital commander's buddy could get it to recover from her face lift. I saw retirees coming in through the ER with fake emergencies (e.g. chest pain) just so they could get refills on their medications (they couldn't get an appointment in a timely manner to see a regular doctor).

Noodge said...

Beutiful song, Karen. Thanks.

May I add my own suggestion?

Unfortunately, no video of the performer, but the song is magnificent.

Pearl said...

Karen: thank you for all your recent great comments to Krugman and Keller as well as your special columns in Sardonicky.

All I could think of as I watched President Obama speaking today (I
could only watch a few minutes of it), was that if any of the 30,000
soldiers he personally added to the Afghanistan venture were injured, killed or otherwise maimed, I hold him directly responsible. And that includes an accusation of various forms of physical and/or emotional murder.

Andrej Dekleva said...

You might enjoy P.J. Harvey's 'Let England Shake', a truly powerful songwriter expressing the woes of England's wars; a fascinating historical perspective on the brutal history of conquest...

Andrej Dekleva said...

oh yeah, here it is:

4Runner said...

We hear so much about our "servicemen". But how about a little recognition for the women who service our servicemen? YouTube has a series of documentaries on the "comfort women" of today who are sexworkers in camptowns outside US bases in South Korea, where 38,000 horny US troops are still stationed. The YouTube series is little known--there are fewer than 100 "views" of any of the 4 videos. They can be Googled @ "Korean Comfort Women and the US Military".

Will said...

A poignant reading of Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est":

Noodge said...

I was the first fruits of the battle of Missionary Ridge.

When I felt that bullet enter my heart I wished I'd stayed at home and gone to jail for stealing the hogs of Curl Trenary, instead of running off and joining the army.

Rather a thousand times the county jail than to lie here under this granite pedestal and this marble figure with wings bearing the words "pro patria."

What do they mean, anyhow?

From "Spoon River Anthology"

Pearl said...

In regard to Owen's poem you gave us access to: the following explanation helped me understand the final sentence in case others don't
know Latin, like myself. Thank you for listing it.

Notes on Dulce et Decorum Est

1. DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an
ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the
start of the First World War. They mean "It is sweet and right." The full
saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country.

This is an antidote to the 'in Flanders Field' poem that ended "Take up our quarrel with the foe ..............etc.