Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It's Remembrance Day: Some Thoughts & a Poem for Them All

Where have all the Flowers Gone? (Adelaide Australia November )

To say I have a complicated attitude towards days like today, Remembrance Day, is a massive understatement. I was born with a predisposition towards pacifism, a tendency that was strengthened by experiencing the damage done to my father from his time in the army and especially his time with the Australian army in Vietnam during the war. Then there was the impact on my family of his time there: the family basically imploded, with the subsequent effects on each of us.

Then there is my knowledge of military history, both as it is lived by the people doing the actual fighting and from the broader geo-political perspective of historical movements and imperatives, as well as the reasons for going to war. Not to mention my acute awareness of the lies we are told to justify war and the hiding of the real reasons a government will wage war.

At the end of the day it is these lies told by politicians and our so-called leaders and their manipulations of events and the revision of history, that has me now saying no to all wars.
At the same time from deep in the core of me I feel a love and affection, a pride, for the people we send (yes, we) to do the fighting, killing and dieing; I feel for and care about those who return from the fight wounded in body, mind and spirit.

Whatever the individual’s reason for ‘joining up’ to fight, they have all done the dirty work their society has demanded of them. Their efforts—their sacrifices—need to be looked at as completely separate from their governments actions and reasons for sending them to fight and what they have done must be looked at separately from any outcome of any given conflict.

I have always been deeply revolted and disgusted to the core by those who place blame and then abuse or attack those who have only been doing our (yes our) bidding in war. Anti war should and does not mean, anti those who have done the fighting.  To not make this distinction is to abdicate one’s own responsibility as a member of society.

On days like this, Remembrance Day, and all other commemorations that purport to remember and honor those who have died in war, there is a militarization that in many ways excludes an honoring of the dead by people who do not wish to, at the same time, promote or celebrate a culture of war and conflict. And that makes me sad.

My father (who had served as a Major in Australian Army Intelligence before, during and after the Vietnam War) died in 2000 as he ran for a train on a hot summer’s day. I don’t think there were too many moments in the thirty odd years between his time in Vietnam and his death that he was happy; not too many times he was at peace.

PTSD; Depression; violent mood swings and behaviours; constant and consuming distress and an ongoing inability to settle into any semblance of what we call a ‘normal life’. These were his rewards for doing his ‘duty’, for doing the things we (yes, we) asked him to do.

No need to go on. Suffice it to say, my siblings and I are the children of a Vietnam veteran, and to some degree or another we have inherited that legacy of suffering. Just like so many others, in so many wars, all over this benighted planet and through time.

About ten years ago I wrote a poem about my father and his post Vietnam life and death. Here is it as my offering at the memorial to all who have had to suffer as a result of all wars everywhere.

Lest We Forget to not only oppose war in all its guises and disguises, but let us always remember to create peace in our lives and in our communities.

Peace to you all.


My father, many times he hit me.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.
My father hurt my sisters.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing
My father, he beat my mother.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

My father had a shrink at 150 an hour.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.
My father tried to get sane.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.
My father, he kept his demons.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father used to run for trains.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.
My father, one day thought he was late.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.
My father ran hard for his train.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

My father caught that train, of course.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.
My father, his heart attacked him.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.
My father, on that train he died.
But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

Hobart Australia
?2004 or 2005

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