Don Edwards Literary Memorial

July 8, 2006

American Wars and Other Thoughts

Thoughtful ruminations, LeRoy, on Independence Day, and a very nice letter from your daughter. I have no recollection of any 4th of July celebration in my family unit other than the fact that I somehow acquired fireworks in my Southside Park neighborhood, blasted them whenever I could, and I wonder if there were any celebration fireworks in my Park. Probably not, perhaps they were done in William Land or someplace closer to the Capital Building, or Solon field. I just don’t remember any more. Celebrations were few and far between in my little family, my mother, my alcoholic step-father and my autocratic and mean spirited grandmother anyway.

But I have vague memories of family get-togethers in Dorchester, Mass. where my father’s family lived when I was a boy, after my father died and before my mother decided to move to California. Huge groups at, probably, the Fourth, and Labor Day and Thanksgiving and of course, Christmas. Everyone was on the back yard, many kids slept in the attic the night before Christmas. Lots of noise accepted but managed benignly by the grownups. Moving to California just before Pearl Harbor isolated me from my greater family, so I never had the experiences of Independence Day celebrations you had as a boy.

I watched the fireworks in Boston this week from my daughter Tracie’s condo in South Boston. Splendid, we saw everything which exploded above the skyline, listened to the Boston Pops and the 1812 Overture. One half million people spread out on the Charles. And, as you did, I had some thoughts about this day too.

This ugly occupation of a middle east country has many precedents. Our foreign policy has always had a racist component anyway. The so-called Spanish/American War was, in actuality, “The War of Mexican Land Acquisition.” We had to be pulled into two World Wars in the last century, kicking and screaming, even the heinous Nazis, after all, were decedents of our white, European, ancestors. No problem attacking Japan, Korea or Vietnam. After all they were strange and not white Europeans. “Japs” is still a pejorative word to the World War 2 vets. “Rag-heads” are no exception. If Al Qaeda had been headquartered in, say, Sweden, do you think for a moment we would have invaded them even if they had a lot of oil?

No, I think our patriotism comes from a lot of sources, many of them religious, some from ethnic histories, and now from pure, insane, ability to exert our will by military means. Our fine president has unleashed submerged hatreds from long before the aftermath of the Versailles Treaty. Our grandchildren are in for a very difficult ride, indeed, I am afraid.

So while I understand the warm, patriotic feelings of those who were placed in combat, especially during World War Two, I have never felt them myself. I think we as a nation and a culture are so far removed from the fabricators of our Constitution and the Federalist Papers, we no longer even resemble that amazing collection of divine compromise leaders of independent colonies made. And, to be fair, some of those intellects, Jefferson most glaringly, owned slaves.

So I watched the explosions with some equanimity and reservation. I think your father and my step-father had a right to be proud of our purpose and will in that war, extinguishing a truly evil empire. But of our country in these times? For the first time in my life, after traveling and living in all those countries, I feel ashamed to admit to casual acquaintances that I am an American. I always felt welcome, that I represented something of vision, of fairness, of a bold, though of course naïve, willingness to take on the challenges of the future.

I am by nature an optimist. I hate being the cynic I have become with our cultural, our governmental and even our religious view of the world and the future. We are capable of extinguishing life on the entire planet. What a thought.

“God bless us every one,” Tiny Tim pleaded. I echo that. We, as a species, need all the help we can get now.

Filed under: DON POSTS — Don @ 8:49 pm

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