Pardon My Anger Tonight, Mr. President
Today, the proud Vietnam veteran father tells me of his daughter,
the disarmer of bombs in Baghdad
earning her Bronze Star
but not able to tell of how she comes close to dying nearly every day,
due to “national security”.
The president addresses the nation tonight
wanting more troops to fight more of this war,
not convincing us, a nation of warriors and protesters
of Vietnam, who all well know the decades of
dream terrors and insanities of a senseless war
that achieved death and destruction but gained us
no glory, no land, nor any freedom for anyone, except the refugees
we took with us when we left, tails between our legs.
We know too well the suicides, the alcoholics, the drug addicts,
the practitioners of domestic violence, who have filled our courts
and our prisons, and our homeless shelters, and our mental hospitals –
all the product of a war that served no national purpose.
We who have lived with that have seen this war come upon us,
and we remember not only the cemeteries, but also the nightmares,
the broken spirits, and have felt the agonies of lost souls
living next door, and walking on our streets, and drifting slowly away,
too numb to tell us of their pain, yet screaming in the middle of the night.
So, pardon us for not jumping on your bandwagon, Mr. President.
We wave the flag, and applaud our soldiers in the airports, and we
attend their funerals in solemn silence, hands over our hearts, tears
streaming down our cheeks, and we do this
not for your war, and your sense of history and hunger for glory and fame,
but because these young men and women, brave and courageous every one,
put their lives on the line for their country, and their own sense of honor and purpose,
not buying into your politics and your thirst for destiny and personal pride.
We watch your daughters grow to adulthood, and enjoying the drunken parties
of a private college, and move into careers, safely protected in their high-rise offices, and
gated-community McMansions – no soldiers are they, and not
candidates for the Bronze Star for having to diffuse bombs in Baghdad today.
You haven’t even attended one of our soldiers’ funerals, so how do you
know this kind of pain, you who evaded Vietnam by drinking in Alabama?
And, pardon our anger at this repeated insanity, of a war being fought
likely to enrich your friends, and the oil companies, and God knows what other deals
made in fancy bars and restaurants, and smoke-filled back rooms,
where we haven’t been invited and where our concerns are not on the agenda,
and where the blood of our young men and women isn’t even given a value,
though more and more of it is spilled every day.
We watch the former dictator, the mass executioner of the Kurds, and the oppressor
of his people, hanged before a mocking group of soldiers and puppet government types,
the justice of it all ignored in a rush for more blood, more vengeance, and tribal wars,
to which we were never a party and never had an interest, and where, twenty years from now, our national sacrifice will simply be a footnote to their civil war, and their
religious bickering, going on for another thousand years.
And, their bickering is only slightly more violent and more hypocritical than our own,
And then you end your speech to tell us that God blesses America.
Yet, I wonder if God is, instead, crying for America and for Iraq, and for all war.
And, how many of us feel like joining God in a good cry tonight?
Let them deal with their own views of their own God, and their own theological infighting, and who divides their oil profits and who has this year’s right to pilfer the national treasury, and lead the prayers at the local mosque.
And let us tend to our own problems, and feed and clothe our children, and
provide health care to the sick, and the old, and the insane—
and the tens of thousands of new veterans of a foolish war, who will soon be wandering
our streets looking for a job, or maybe just their sanity –
new veterans, repeating the aftermath of Vietnam and all that it wasn’t.
Make way in the courts, and the homeless shelters, and the unemployment lines,
but not the mental hospitals or the veterans’ clinics, for there is no money now for those,
and let us become ready to meet this new generation fighting a senseless war,
and maybe, again, when we do this all over again, with a new generation of survivors,
we will do it better.
After all, Mr. President, doesn’t practice make perfect?