Saturday, May 26, 2012

A poem for Memorial Day...A poem for Peace…DEAR AMERICA

Veterans give the peace sign before symbolically throwing their medals away. They were fenced out of proximity to the NATO summit going on nearby, so they threw the medals in that general direction. Photo credit: Daily Mail, UK via Veterans Today website.
Few things are more moving than the heartfelt regrets of military veterans who are facing up to their role in the violent oppression of other people in the name of patriotism. By most accounts, the returning of medals by IVAW and other vets during the recent no NATO protests in Chicago was powerful. (Good coverage here on Democracy Now! in addition to Reuters and other mainstream press.)

This poem was written by Peggy Akers, co-president of Maine's William Ladd Chapter of Veterans for Peace. She gave me permission to share it here after her reading at the Pax Christi annual assembly at USM on May 5:

A poem for Memorial Day… A poem for Peace….


Remember me?

I was the girl next door.

Remember when I was 13, America, and rode on top of the fire engine in the Memorial Day parade? I'd won an essay contest on what it meant to be a proud American.

And it was always me, America, the cheerleader, the Girl Scout, who marched in front of the high school band . . . carrying our flag . . . the tallest . . . the proudest . . .
And remember, America, you gave me the Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen Award for patriotism, and I was only sixteen.

And then you sent me to war, America, along with thousands of other men and women who loved you.

It’s Memorial Day, America. Do you hear the flags snapping in the wind? There's a big sale at Macy's, and there's a big parade in Washington for the veterans.

But it's not the American flag or the sound of drums I hear - I hear a helicopter coming in - I smell the burning of human flesh. It's Thomas, America, the young Black kid from Atlanta, my patient, burned by an exploding gas tank. I remember how his courage kept him alive that day, America, and I clung to his only finger and whispered over and over again how proud you were of him, America - and he died.

And Pham….. He was only eight, America, and you sprayed him with napalm and his skin fell off in my hands and he screamed as I tried to comfort him.

And America, what did you do with Robbie, the young kid I sat next to on the plane to Viet Nam? His friends told me a piece of shrapnel ripped through his young heart - he was only seventeen - it was his first time away from home. What did you tell his mother and father, America?

Hold us America . . .

Hold all your children America. Allen will never hold any- one again. He left both his arms and legs back there. He left them for you, America.
America, you never told me that I'd have to put so many of your sons, the boys next door, in body bags. You never told me . . .
AAuthor Peggy Akers is  a dedicated peaceworker and an active organizer with both Veterans for Peace and Occupy Maine.

Veteran Vince Emanuele returned his war decorations to NATO and explained how he sees the connection between veterans and the Occupy movement:
I served with the United States Marine Corps. First and foremost, this is for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Second of all, this is for our real forefathers. I’m talking about the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. I’m talking about the Black Panthers. I’m talking about the civil rights movement. I’m talking about unions. I’m talking about our socialist brothers and sisters, our communist brothers and sisters, our anarchist brothers and sisters, and our ecology brothers and sisters. That’s who our real forefathers are. And lastly—and lastly and most importantly, our enemies are not 7,000 miles from home. They sit in boardrooms. They are CEOs. They are bankers. They are hedge fund managers. They do not live 7,000 miles from home. Our enemies are right here, and we look at them every day. They are not the men and women who are standing on this police line. They are the millionaires and billionaires who control this planet, and we’ve had enough of it. So they can take their medals back.

Afghan victim of drone attack (Source: No to War)


chrisrushlau said...

The thing the Israel lobby is not facing in any deliberate way (it could be defined as a lobby dedicated to denial, other-world-ism, pie-in-the-sky-ism) is what will happen when Israel becomes part of democratic Palestine. Such a question is prompted by your mention of main-stream media coverage of the NATO (and Blair) protests. The Israel lobby sees fit to get us out of Afghanistan. What is its own exit-strategy?
My fear is that, when Israel goes, the lobby will disperse, and thus the 99% (that's a pretty good estimate of the size of the lobby, ranged across the nation and down through the social hierarchy) will lose the ability to defend itself.
When I ask whimsically what any of this has to do with Israel, everybody gets that joke.
So this is only, as it turns out, another rule of the law of politics: convince your opponent. Make the case for your side to the other side. Prove how you can govern better then they. Love them more than they've been loving you.

chrisrushlau said...

Sorry, I should have said the 1% will lose the ability to defend itself against the 99%.