Saturday, November 13, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
A Considered Judgment
Thursday, November 11, 2010
11 November 2010
This is always a difficult day for me. On the one hand, my country celebrates my military service. Part of me wants to accept that recognition and honor, to proudly wear my Combat Infantryman's Badge and remind my fellow Americans that Yes, I did that shit. On the other hand, part of me remembers that service as a moral compromise in an illegal war. And there's really nothing I can do to resolve the dilemma. It's who I am. I've been carrying that load for 40 years now. I've pretty much come to terms with my choices but I'm never entirely at peace them either.
When I took my chances with military service in 1970, I thought I would "just get it over with" and get on with my life. My biggest worry was that I would die in the process so when I made it out alive, I had every intention of getting on with life now that war was behind me. Except that it wasn't behind me, it was part of me. I learned the hard way that war never ends.
Over at The Galloping Beaver, PSA has a heartfelt remembrance of his father that tells the story more eloquently than I can.
My old man, H.J. Stewart spent twenty years in uniform with the sappers, crawling across North Africa with Montgomery, in the belly of a liberty ship on D-Day and witnessing the liberation of the camps. He left the forces after having been held as a political prisoner during the Suez crisis, just another pawn in the cold calculus of geopolitics. All the horrors he saw and experienced, every loss and privation he endured did unspeakable harm to him. His PTSD was never diagnosed or treated and his paranoia and violent breaks with reality did lasting damage to my mother, my sisters and I. War breaks the survivors and the victors and the echoes of that damage carry force long beyond the last report of a rifle.
That's why I prefer the British-Canadian name for today's observance: Remembrance Day.
The world would do well to remember the never-ending cost of war.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
And So It Goes
Reality did indeed happen while I slept after writing that last post. When I awoke Wednesday morning, Republicans were a majority in the House and making a close run at the Senate. By the end of the day Obama admitted to a shellacking and Russ Feingold was defeated. Here in Washington, one of the bluest states, redoubtable Patty Murray was barely leading her challenger. She pulled it off quickly enough but by any measure the results are an ugly turn of events. A most dispiriting result.
But the sun rose in the east in the following days and life continued. I had some nice views of Jupiter in the evening sky and a waning crescent moon one morning as I walked to work in the dark. The election was hardly the end of the world. Washington Congressman Norm Dicks who will lose the chair of a powerful defense appropriations subcommittee in the next Congress said, you play the hand you’re dealt.” So I’ll do that and hope for the best. It will all work out one way or the other. Good or bad. Somehow, America will muddle through.
As an antidote to the ugly election returns, I attended the Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation fall retreat Friday evening and Saturday. The retreat centered on WWFOR’s “Bring the Billions Home” campaign which advocates bringing the war spending home to America. Progressive activists in the Puget Sound region shared their experiences taking that message to the larger community, including a guerrilla bake sale to support Seattle libraries that are reducing hours due to funding cuts. I attended useful workshops on framing issues and speaking with public officials. The latter workshop was conducted by our local state senator.
So that’s my take on the election. It sucks. But last time it didn’t suck and nothing really changed so the next two years probably won’t be any worse than the last two years. The screeching heads and nonsensical, non dialogue that passes for political discourse in this nation will continue. Here in Olympia I’ll keep talking and writing sense.
Beyond the workshop, the weekend was highlighted by a showing of Buster Keaton’s silent film, “The General” at the Capitol Theater, complete with live piano. I’d seen the film as a video but it is much, much better on a full screen. In one of life’s little victories, I got in line barely under the canopy on a rainy night. The line quickly lengthened behind me.
Another victory came this morning when the rain which had been steady off and on since Friday afternoon and heavy last night, ended and skies cleared enough to get out for an early bike ride.
Life goes on.