POETRY – Spring, When A Young Man’s Fancy Turns To . . . War

1 Comrades, leave me here a little, while as yet ’tis early morn:
2 Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle-horn.

3 ‘Tis the place, and all around it, as of old, the recruiter’s call,
4 Sharp eyes gleaming, sugary voice calls me from my study hall;

5 This high school, my years of study here, I am done with it.
6 Now a uniformed friend has a proposition for this graduate.

7 Many a night, after homework, I dreamed ere I went to rest,
8 Of his words extolling me to rise up and fight for the West.

9 Many a night I saw the Pleiades, cutting the sky like a brand,
10 Glittering like my dreams of the exotica of foreign lands.

11 Here about the campus I wander’d, nourishing a youth sublime
12 With the fairy tales of math and science, and the long result of Time;

13 I thought of the years before me like a fruitful land reposed;
14 When I clung to all the present for the promise that it closed:

15 When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
16 Saw the Vision of the battlefield and where I would be.

17 In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;
18 In the Winter a similar stain shall grace my broken chest;

19 It is Spring and the recruiter gestures me towards an open door;
20 It is Spring and a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of War.

Editor’s Note: Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Locksley Hall (1842) was used as the basis for this adaptation.

Posted in Longreads and Essays

True Acts of Valor – Biting Off Buttons

A MIDWEEK ESSAY

In past postings I have called attention to the troubling trend of merging entertainment with the military.

(see https://peacegrooves.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/going-past-midway-dont-tread-play-sing-dance-on-me/ and  https://peacegrooves.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/817/ )

Not too long ago a movie came out that featured Navy Seals in action – I guess as a way for the media to continue the Special Forces love fest so fresh after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. I have wanted to write something about the movie when it came out but wasn’t able to. It seems fitting to do so on Memorial Day.

I have many problems with the movie, but I will simply whip the same dead horse I seem to do so often. Such “entertainment” glorifies violence, trivializes the sacrifices of soldiers, citizens, and their families, and diminishes the enormous human and monetary costs of war. On this day, when we honor those who “serve” or “who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom,” I felt it was important to highlight those whose acts of valor are not memorialized, who in some cases gave their lives rather than kill others, and whose sacrifice paved the way for more democratic freedoms for citizens whose conscience objects to them going to war.

The following is an excerpt from an Amish Country News Article by Brad Igou http://www.amishnews.com/amisharticles/peopleofpeace.htm

The “war to end all wars” spelled problems for the Amish and Mennonites, whose Pennsylvania German dialect made them suspect in some people’s eyes. By this time, Amish dress and customs also made them more distinct from average Americans. The Amish declared conscientious objector (CO) status. As Albert Keim writes in THE AMISH AND THE STATE, “CO’s were drafted into the army and posted to military camps with the hope that they would enter noncombatant service.” The question then became one of how much to “cooperate.” Their resistance to wearing uniforms rather than their plain clothes, and their refusal to bear arms, resulted in harassment, beatings, and humiliation in many cases.

A book recounting these incidents called NONRESISTANCE PUT TO THE TEST was published in 1981. Particularly shocking were the experiences recounted by Menno Diener at Camp Taylor, Kentucky, where he witnessed the bayonet stabbing of one Amish boy. During the course of his stay, Menno protested having to wear a military uniform and take orders. Here is how he describes what followed…

So the commander got a broomstick and beat me across the legs till he broke his stick. I had streaks and swelling on my legs. Then he got a 2×4 about three feet long that had four spikes in one end, and threatened to hit me in the face with it. He put it near to my face and then back again like a ball bat and said, “If it weren’t for the law, I would like to see how far I could sink these spikes into your face.”

A few days later another boy, his face black and blue from beatings, was placed on display by a public road. Someone placed a sign on him that read, “I refuse to fight for my country.”

When camp officials were court martialed for their actions, the Amish refused to testify against them because “it would be helping to punish them and cause ill feelings between resisting and nonresistance, and be a poor light of Christianity in our church and background.”

The book contains stories of suffering in many other camps, including one where a boy was pulled for half a mile on the ground by a horse. At another camp in Georgia, a man was hung by a rope until unconscious.

According to Steven Nolt in his HISTORY OF THE AMISH, “Officers occasionally ‘baptized’ Amish COs in the camp latrines in mockery of their Anabaptist beliefs.”

In Kansas, Amish bishop Manasses Bontrager wrote a letter urging his members not to buy Liberty Bonds, and urging support of the Amish youth serving in the camps. In his words…

Many people can’t understand why we don’t want to defend our country. Christ said, “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God that which belongs to God.” Caesar protects our property, for which we should willingly pay our taxes as Christ asked us to…. But our coming in this world, our intellects, our physical powers — these do not belong to Caesar. If he claims them to defend him, Christ’s laws strictly forbid our yielding to such a claim.

A few months later, Bontrager was arrested by a U.S. Marshall and put on trial for Violation of the 1917 Espionage Act and was fined $500 for “inciting and attempting to incite subordination, disloyalty, and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States.”

When I was in college, one elderly gentlemen told me a story from WW I involving Amish as well. Amish Mennonite men imprisoned for their beliefs would take the buttons off of the clothes they were forced to wear. When they were handcuffed to keep them from doing so, they would bite the buttons off. I also read that some men were then forced to stand naked in their cells. The image of simple men behind bars with lips bloodied rather than wear clothes that resembled  a military uniform is one that shames and inspires me.

Contrary to popular belief, the military does not have an exclusive corner on fighting for one’s beliefs. Acts of valor have been occurring every day throughout the history of this country. Countless times, citizens (pacifists and others) have put their lives on the line to help, rather than kill others. Yet we do not see fit to memorialize this “army.”

My forbears, some of who are mentioned above, would not want to be recognized.

Yet doing so perhaps will redefine within the body politic such terms as: valor, freedom, sacrifice, service.

Then and only then will our country truly live up to the ideals it was founded upon and be a nation that exports life rather than death.

Originally posted May 28, 2012

Posted in Longreads and Essays

War Is No Game

image

Polygon.com is reporting that ISIS has released a trailer for a video game based on Grand Theft Auto for “the training of children and young teenagers to fight the West.”

Such video games have been in existence in the West for years. Call of Duty and similar militaristic First Person Shooters are based upon a game design and engine developed by the US military specifically for recruitment.

The original video game America’s Army was first released in 2002. Forty-one versions have been released as of January 2014. It has been used at amusement parks, schools, and other events to provide “virtual soldiering experiences” to participants. It has been expanded to include Xbox, Xbox 360, and other platforms. The game is available as a free download and is paid for by the US Government, aka the American people through our tax dollars.

I have written extensively on this blog about video games as educational tools and the need for alternatives to be developed that train children in the way of peace.

When we are as fanatical about peace as ISIS is about terror and are willing to commit as many resources as the US government does to war, then perhaps we will reach the day that the prophet Isaiah describes:

And God shall judge among the nations, and shall reprove many peoples; and they shall forge their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-knives: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

So if collateral is that which is pledged by the recipient to protect the interests of the giver and war kills more civilians than military personnel then perhaps it is time for the civilian recipients to refuse to continue to be collateral damage for the givers of war.

Collateral

Posted in Longreads and Essays

Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be King, Messiah, or Major

What’s in a name?

Unfortunately a clue to the continued militarization of our society (mixed with a healthy dose of unrealistically high expectations).

Since 1880, the Social Security Administration has released the most popular baby names for each year.

Jacob is the top boy’s name for the 14th year in a row.

Guess which three are the fastest-growing names for boys?

(Clue: Look at the title of this post)

Yep. They are King, Messiah and Major.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be bothered by this.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Ima Hogg, daughter of a Texas businessman. She actually lived a rather remarkable life. But can you imagine? (By the way, it is a myth that she had a sister named Ura).

Believe it or not, there are worse monikers. According to US Census data, the following are actual names given to children living in the United States.

Uranus Stukey
Acne Fountain
Mary A. Jerk
Ima Whore
Hugh Jass
Fanny Whiffer
Envy Burger
Good Hell
Emma Royd
Noble Butt
Naught E. Bishop

Hmm. What were these parents thinking?!

But it seems that modernity has not brought greater enlightenment to the parents of today. Sure we want our kids to do well, but talk about high expectations.

“My kid is an Honor Student at such and such school.”

“So what. My kid is King.”

Or Messiah.

And let’s not forget about Major.

Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin says, “I have no doubt Major’s rising popularity as a boy’s name is in tribute to the brave members of the U.S. military, and maybe we’ll see more boys named General in the future.”

Yippee.

“My son is a Major.”

“So what. Mine is a Major Major.”

Or General General.

I can’t wait.

So in the hopes that this ridiculous trend can be nipped in the bud, I offer the following names that mean peace. (Though if your last name is Soap, I would not name your child Dove – Think, People!).

Aaru
Absalom
Amani
Axel
Baris
Calum
Casimir
Colm
Columba
Concordia
Dove
Eir
Farica
Frederica
Frederick
Frieda
Geoffrey
Godfrey
Humphrey
Inga
Irene
Irini
Jemima
Jonah
Kazuko
Kynaston
Mal
Manfred
Milo
Olive
Oliver
Olivia
Paciano
Pacifica
Paloma
Pax
Paxton
Paz
Placida
Placido
Salama
Salamon
Salem
Salima
Salome
Serena
Serenity
Shalom
Shanta
Sheehan
Shiloh
Shlomo
Shulamit
Siegfried
Solomon
Tullia
Wilfred
Winifred
Zalman
Zuelia
Zulema

Posted in Longreads and Essays

Going Past Midway: Don’t Tread (Play Sing Dance) On Me

In the past I have commented on the continuing militarization of our society as exemplified by the merging of entertainment and the military.

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Won’t Be Watching The Carrier Classic

Does anyone else have a problem with this picture? (Camo shorts? C’mon!)

It sure would’ve been nice for at least one player to come out and express some of the concerns I expressed in the post. Alas it seems these types of events are becoming all too common.

Now American Idol has joined the “aircraft carrier as stage” saga that seems to be sweeping our nation. This month, contestants got to sing patriotic songs on the USS Midway in San Diego. Considering the shallowness of the judges and that it is the equally shallow FOX network that sponsors the show, I shouldn’t be surprised.

I have no problem with patriotism. A true patriot wants what is best for the country. War is never a good idea. Spending God-awful amounts  on “defense” (now that is a misnomer) while our citizens suffer is ridiculous.

In the midst of so-called military budget cuts,the president has explicitly stated that the fleet of 11 active aircraft carriers in the US Navy will not be reduced. No other weapon (other than perhaps the secretive drones) conveys the power and military might of the US more than these floating cities. Perhaps we should decommission some of them and make them permanent entertainment theaters to help pay down the deficit.

Seriously, war, and the symbols thererof, are not entertainment. These type of publicity stunts cheapen the real cost of war on veterans, their families, and on those who are killed or maimed, whatever country they are citizens of.

Maybe the famous motto should be be changed to”Don’t Tread (Play Sing Dance) On Me.” I wonder what that early political cartoonist Benjamin Franklin would think.

But now that I think about it perhaps it makes some perverse sense.

The US war machine has long been the most worshiped of our American Idols.

Posted in Longreads and Essays

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Won’t Be Watching The Carrier Classic

There are several disturbing things around the Carrier Classic being played tonight between UNC and MSU.

10) The blatant use of young men some of whom are teenagers to help recruit for the military.

9) That the Navy is using these players to advertise their service without having to pay them.

8. That these same young men will be playing in specially designed camouflage uniforms.

7) The celebratory glorification of violence from playing a game on the same deck where Osama Bin Laden’s body was tossed into the ocean.

6) What it says about the continuing militarizing of our society by mixing entertainment and war.

5) The game is an explicit attempt to combat possible military budget cuts, especially to carriers,

4) Because the US has 11 carriers which is more than all of the rest of the world combined

3) And even military experts think there are too many and/or perhaps the US doesn’t need any.

2) This game is another cheap and shallow honoring of veterans while ignoring the real work of actually taking care of them.

1) AND because St. Francis (PA) is playing VCU at 7:15 pm.

What a nice alternative for the peaceloving sports fan to watch a game played by a college named St. Francis. (WATCH)

You know, “Make me an instrument of your peace, where there are hoops for hate, let me shoot for love . . “

Posted in Longreads and Essays

Heracles And The Hydra: The Million Job Loss Myth

Lately, the Defense Industry has been pushing a self-funded (fancy that) study that supposedly shows that a $1 trillion cut in military spending equals the loss of 1 million jobs. Now this is problematic in several ways. One, the first rule of good data is to get it from an unbiased source. Second, this is another case of trying to scare the American people into supporting another dumb policy decision. Thirdly, the supposition is just plain wrong.

From 2001 to 2008, US military spending increased by 75% under the twin-headed mythological Hydra that such spending increases our security and creates jobs. Here are a couple of Heracles sword swipes to cut off these two heads.

Regarding security. In September 2011, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that one in three Americans thought it was just a matter of luck that the US had been spared a repeat of the 9/11 attacks.

Luck, hmm.

Now you may say, hey that is a minority – only around 33%. Yes, but we spent almost $700 billion on military spending in 2009 (http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending#USMilitarySpending) which is just under half of the world’s military spending (No, “world’s” is not  a misprint). That is a lot of money to spend and still have a couple of fearful folks, let alone 100 million (33% of the current US population of 305 million).

Slice, there goes one head.

In 2009, economists at the University of Massachusetts updated a previous study where they attempted to answer the question: what kind of federal spending creates the most jobs? Their finding? Spending $1 billion dollars on personal consumption, clean energy, health care, and education will, yes believe it or not, each create quite a bit more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military.

Here is the PeaceGrooves funkified version of their data table:

Calling HeraclesSlice, there goes the second head.

Now as one knows from the myth, the Hydra is one hard monster to slay. Cut off one head and two more grow to take its place. But tell me, how long can we allow this monster to devour our citizens, sucking the life blood from the country year after year?

Yet the feat is not impossible. Heracles did eventually kill the Hydra. But he had some help. He enlisted the aid of his nephew Iolaus who used a blazing torch to cauterize each stump of the head before it could grow back.

Here’s hoping a few facts will fan such a flame.

(The complete study is titled “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: An Updated Analysis” (www.wand.org/jobs.pdf). Their chart is easier to read too).