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Up Against the Wall-2019

 

American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.

James Baldwin, “A Talk to Teachers”

I have spent many years trying to tease out the truth from the myth, the human from the glorious, and the terror from the sacralized. As poll after poll demonstrate, TV and movies celebrate, sports emulate, and ads educate: the military is our most honored institution. Strange that in a democracy, the most hierarchical and authoritarian creation holds such sway.   That our wars fail, produce more chaos, and burn out our youth seems to matter little.

For me the war against Vietnam clarified that war is not only brutal and indiscriminate, but also fatally corrupting. It encourages generals and politicians to lie, the press–despite its own mythology–to collaborate and mythologize, and the populace to both look away and at the same time normalize what should not be normal.

The Wall tries to detach the lives of individuals from the conflict over the war. It could be worse; it could try to ennoble the horror. It serves well as a dignified public site for people to mourn those who were lost in the war.

Not represented on the wall are those beautiful people who did their best to stop this and other wars. There is no parallel site for those who saw through the lies, the collaboration and the normalization. They are rarely invited to the media to share their wisdom, courage and example. The media prefers those who offer power and pedigree—who were often the architects or the operatives of these terrible wars.

So, we in the Full Disclosure campaign for an Honest Commemoration of this terrible war call for times and spaces to honor resistors to that and subsequent wars—their courage, their honesty, and their vision. We have issued a CALL TO ACTION ! SIR! NO SIR!: RENEWING 50 YEARS OF GI RESISTANCE, IN AND OUT OF UNIFORM (https://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org/call-to-action-sir-no-sir-renewing-50-years-of-resistance-in-and-out-of-uniform/). We applaud the generation of Vietnam era protestors who are dying out, as well as the Navy Seals, who today call out the war crimes of their commander. Please, let us reimagine our memorials and our sense of honor.

In memoriam for those who disobey the terrorizers,

Howie Machtinger

 

I went to Vietnam in January of 1968 and was quickly sent to Hill 861 near Khe Sahn.  I was in the USMC 3/26 Kilo Co. I know I don’t need to say more than that. I wrote stuff on my bush hat expressing my displeasure with the military, for instance, a Sargent Major insignia with 9 steps to nowhere underneath it! Towards the end of my tour, I got malaria and since there was only a couple of weeks before I came home, they sent me home. There was another Marine who contracted malaria shortly before I did. The Captain wouldn’t authorize a Medivac for him and he DIED! I swore that wouldn’t happen to me when I instinctually knew I had it. I was friends with a Corpsman and he made sure I got out. When I got back I was in St. Albans Naval Hospital until I was sent to Camp Lejeune in a grunt battalion. We went on a Caribbean cruise when the 1st Moratorium was being held in DC. I started a protest with 7 other Marines against the war. The First Sargent came to us and ordered us to take our armbands off. We all did, then I put mine back on and paraded myself around so everyone could see. That was the day my dreams came true: they put me in for a discharge lol. I was lucky to get a General under Honorable. Just thought I would share this before laying down my poems. Thank you

 

Angry, Mad, Sick and Sad

 

It’s just a wall, and etched in stone

Are the names of those who didn’t make it home

A cold black stone, if it could speak

Could tell you of as much deceit

 

In days gone bye, when you came back

The girls would scream, the men would clap

Well some came home, and others stayed

A war can’t end any other way

 

My friend Jimmy, he was one

Of the many, we all lost some

I will admit, the tears I shed

Were not for me but for the dead

 

This carousel has six brass rings

Hangin’ from the coffin they bury you in

Parades and speeches were so divine

Please stick’em where the sun don’t shine

 

I’m angry mad, sick and sad

I’m poisoned tired and lame

I’m angry mad, sick and sad

Don’t you forget their names.

 

@Mike Mittenberg 1980

 

Thank Me for my Service

 

You can thank me for my service

you can thank me for my time

you can thank me and all the others

we’re the one’s who towed the line

 

you can thank me for my service

you can thank me for my blood

you can thank me for my tears

running down into the mud

 

you can thank me for my service

you can thank me for my pain

you can thank me for your freedoms

if you don’t have a brain

 

you can thank me for my service

you can thank me but you lie

if you think that i’m a hero

that’s the lie they had you buy

 

you can thank me for my service

you can thank me for the scars

that i’ve kept to myself

while getting drunk in bars

 

You can thank me for my service

you can thank ‘cause i drank

an entire gallon of cool aid

Are you still saying thanks?

 

 

you can thank me for my service

 

Don’t thank me for my service

Don’t thank me for my tears

Don’t thank me for my blood

Don’t thank me for my scars

Don’t thank me for my pain

Don’t thank me for any of these

 

You can thank me for taking

a big one for the team

you can thank me like a pawn

who gets sacrificed

you can thank me for nothing!

 

MM 2018.

Be well

Mike

 

Letter to you all,

What was it, what was it that made this war so evil for me, who lived in rural America, who helped with supper and laundry chores, the good girl who did all of her Latin and social studies homework, helped her father – a WWII veteran who was happiest working quietly in the fields, who refused to tell any war stories – in his beautiful garden.  Maybe it was seeing the body bag count on the screen when my parents watched the national news.  I think it was mostly that. That, after seeing the old black and white videos the nuns showed us of the Holocaust, of pre-war Germany, filmed in the years before I was born.  Maybe it was also the nightmares those films evoked, of troops marching lockstep, crossing the little bridge over the dam below us, coming for me, over and over. All war is evil. All war is evil.

It was so clear, so clear.  War is destruction of not only human life, but community and culture and environment.  All ripped asunder, all creating trauma handed down to those who come next.  Why wouldn’t I encourage those with low lottery numbers to travel to Canada?  Why wouldn’t I write, make posters, sit in vigil, demonstrate?  All, all war is evil.

You could see it in their faces when they came back, your brothers.  The tension in their jaws, the flat look in their eyes, the depth of pain walled away.  They were waiting to detonate.  Or, they were so used up, they crawled away to sleep or not sleep on the streets. Or, they found some circuitous path to a quiet life somewhere.  Some created gardens, a spot of restoration. I’m sorry they went.  I am grateful they returned.  I’m sorry we were all so inadequately prepared, still are inadequately prepared, to create supports and a sense of safety, of coming back to a loving home.  I’m sorry we simply didn’t sit with them and sing a lullaby, over and over. I’m sorry you went and never came back to us.  There is a chasm where you once were.  I’m sorry I still had to stand in vigil against the War with Iraq, standing with Korean vets, with Viet Nam vets, shivering in the cold Maine winter.  It doesn’t stop.  It is every war.

We miss you. We come up against this sacred wall of pain, an inscribed and incomplete record of sons, brothers, parents, and we are bewildered by grief and time and loss and by all the work yet to be done.  To touch our palms against this smooth stone means we attempt to carry you with us. All war is evil. It took you.  All.

Mary Anne

 

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