Monday, November 30, 2009

#174 Veterans Day ... V--the Home Front

We're all veterans. All of us alive today are literally and etymologically "old ones" (Latin root vetus, Fr. cognate vieux) when it comes to war--when it comes to the common-sense-defying serial warfare that America has been waging for the last 60 years. The war-weariness of especially us Vietnam-era, "home-front vets" has been insufferable Then not much more than a decade later we get Grenada, Panama, Iraq; then Yugoslavia, Somalia; then Afghanistan, Iraq again; then Afghanistan again, and now Pakistan--dumped on us. Hey, you VFW's had it easy, fighting from the gut--unphilosophically!--over life and limb, while we were left here state-side having to worry and brood guiltily, obsess morally and politically over whether you guys were getting dead and disabled for a just cause. Give us a break.

But can you imagine such a pollyannish poster above being hung anywhere in America today without invoking peals of derisive laughter? I don't know ... maybe if Lady Victory were sowing poppy-seeds. Yeah, that's the ticket. Plant a back-yard garden so our surplus agriculture can go to feed the lately impoverished Afghan farmer and his drug cartel. In the dark days of WWII, though, Americans were serious about their patriotic support, and homeland sacrifices, for the troops overseas. (The muscular Rosie the Riveter poster, which I'm sure you've seen, captured the spirit best.) Since I was born during that war, I would have (unknowingly) shared with my parents some of the hardships, such as food and gas rationing, associated with the war effort on the home front. Some of that is still with us: like my parents and grandparents before them, I always refer to a little improvised horticultural patch as a Victory Garden.

No, I'm happy to say that the better angels lurking in the heart of the American people have NEVER shown that kind of unequivocal support for war, after what I consider the warning-knell of Korea--so aptly nick-named the Forgotten War, at least until M*A*S*H used it purely as an anti-Vietnam metaphor. Since then, the Electorate has been about evenly split about undertaking a foreign war, and then, very soon after--prompted I believe by some Founding-Father super-ego in us all--we're against it. All it seems to take, thankfully, is a bit of hard-nosed TV coverage--and now the internet--to expose military adventurism gone wrong. A few body-bags and bloody-stumps will do it. Okay, not any more. We have to back-exstrapolate from coffins--recently banned from coverage--and V.A. hospital interviews. The ONE THING that Bush and Obama seemed to have learned from Vietnam: don't let the Free Press get too close to the blood and guts, or the people at home will turn against you. Notwithstanding, I take heart in the fact that the majority of Americans now disapprove of our war in Afghanistan, and that many of those polled mention Vietnam.

My first three sons are too old to serve, and safe, but not my last. Remember, it was inconceivable in the early 60s, when JFK began planting a few U.S. "advisers" here-and-there in Southeast Asia, that 50,000+ Americans would die there. But it happened. He was sowing dragon's teeth. My real concern, though, returning to the starting point of this series, is How much longer must my children and grandchildren be subjected to the mental and moral anguish of America at war? That's no small thing. I'm un-scientifically convinced that us war-babies and baby-boomers would have much healthier psyches if we weren't witness to the ceaseless shock and awe of Vietnam. Wasteland carnage ... destroyed villages ... coffins and body bags ... disfigured and all-but-disgraced VETERANS, many of whom are still with us. Sound familiar? The indelible My Lai Massacre has already been replicated a couple of times in the Middle-East War.

Yet lately I've been hearing oxymoronic noises about "WINNING the war in Afghanistan." Will you have a part in Victory?

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