Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

From the Brave New World

November 23, 2019

I’m glad I got to hear that before I die.

That’s what I told Pat, my wife, immediately as we stood up to join a standing ovation for the Charlotte Symphony last night.

Pat makes all the arrangements, you see, for our concerts and outings and travels and every other adventure we’ve had in the last forty years.

So I thanked her for making it possible for me to hear Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony, in live performance, before I pass into eternity.

And I must say that the Charlotte Symphony’s treatment of it, under the guest conducting hand of Ilyich Rivas,  was masterful—very tender and very strong.

     http://www.charlottesymphony.org/

The oboe adagio in the slow second movement fully met my expectations, after having listened intently to the piece probably thirty or forty times as offered by the New York Philharmonic on youtube.

And those trombones in the final cadence did not fail to summon a tear from my eyes, as their vibrantly forthright sounding forth renewed my confidence in human excellence.

During the intermission I read in the program notes about Dvořák’s composition of that symphony—his No. 9—and its premiere performance in New York, in 1893.

DvNewWorld

The Czech composer had been recruited to our (American) National Conservatory of Music in 1892. His mission was to import a little of that Old World excellence to our New World.

And goshdarn! did he do it!

His New World Symphony ranks right up there as some of the greatest symphonic music ever to be composed on this side of the Atlantic. It’s right up there with Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

If you ever have an opportunity to stand in Prague’s Old Town Square and behold Ladislav Šaloun’s statue of Jan Hus, you may catch a  glimpse of the passion that must have driven Dvořák’s resolve to compose such an orchestral masterpiece.

I’m glad I lived to see it.

Since the music was composed in New York City, I will provide here this link to the New York Philharmonic performance of it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HClX2s8A9IE   

In other news of my yesterday. . .

Earlier in the day I had finished reading Andrew Marantz’s excellent book analysis of contemporary alt-right online misadventures:

    https://www.amazon.com/Antisocial-Extremists-Techno-Utopians-Hijacking-Conversation-ebook/dp/B07NTXSP69

And I will offer as a closing thought, a quote from Andrew’s account of what he uncovered in the world of ultra right-wing fanaticism. Toward the end of his research project, Marantz arrived at an eye-opening discovery about the so-called media “gatekeepers” in our mad world of media, formerly on the airwaves ~~~ now online.

Because we do indeed live in a “New World”. . . a world that is continuously renewing itself, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways.

In the quote below, Andrew Marantz is referring to the “gatekeepers” of our former (20th-century) times. They are primarily the major broadcast networks and news publications that came to dominate our public culture in the postwar 20th-century; but they have in this 21st-century been overtaken by the new superpowers of online media.

You know what I’m talkin’ about.  Their initials are FaceGooAmazTwittetc. One particular CEO of that cartel, the honorable Mr. Z, was recently put on the Congressional hotplate for public inspection.

As Andrew Marantz, the New Yorker writer, neared the end of his alt-right research opus, Antisocial,

  https://www.amazon.com/Antisocial-Extremists-Techno-Utopians-Hijacking-Conversation-ebook/dp/B07NTXSP69

He exposes a raw nerve in this,  our brave new cyberworld, a world in which the outmoded moguls of 20th-century media have been eclipsed by the new titans of 21st-century webdom.

Like it or not, these denizens of the updated corporate Deep must rise to the public surface to accept some responsibility for oversight in the polarizing electronic net that we’ve cornered ourselves into.

Here’s part of what Mr. Marantz has to say about it:

And yet this is the world we live in. For too long, the gatekeepers who ran the most powerful information-spreading systems in human history were able to pretend that they weren’t gatekeepers at all. Information wants to be free; besides, people who take offense should blame the author, not the messenger; anyway, the ultimate responsibility lies with each consumer. Now, instead of imagining that we occupy a postgatekeeper utopia, it might make more sense—in the short term, at least—to demand better, more thoughtful gatekeepers.

It’s a brave new world out there, boobie. Somebody’s gotta be brave, if not them, then who?

Us? But, but, as Pogo once said, long ago in the old media world: we have seen the enemy . . . and he is us!

King of Soul

Death by War

May 26, 2019

I wrote a story about an American traveling through Europe in the spring/summer of 1937. In the novel, Smoke, which I published in 2015, young businessman Philip Morrow accepts an unusual errand, which takes him through London, halfway around the far side of France, then to Paris, and ultimately to arrive at a place called Flanders Field in Belgium.

At his specific Memorial battleground destination, Philip sees for the first time the final resting place of his father, a soldier of the American Expeditionary Force, who had died there in 1918 during the last week of World War I.  Philip had been eight years old in 1917 when he hugged his pa for the last time, then  beheld  his mother while she tearfully embraced her  husband, a mountaineer marksman named Clint.

In chapter 27 of Smoke, Philip arrives at the Memorial cemetery accompanied by a newfound friend, Mel, an old Frenchman who expresses his appreciation for Clint’s courageous sacrifice–given in his last full measure of devotion– for freedom, to defeat tyranny.

Clint’s total offering in 1918 was not the first, nor the last, to be put forth by millions of other soldiers since that time. In Washington DC, I snapped this photo of a newer Memorial–that one constructed for us to remember the dead of Vietnam.

VNMem (1)

We Americans do appreciate the families left behind.  Their sorrow and sacrifice is painfully precious; it  runs deep–deep as the blood that pumped through soldiering bodies alive with determination–blood that still streams through the beating hearts and minds of  us Americans and Allies.

Here’s my offering, from chapter 27 of Smoke:

       “How could this place have been a battlefield for a world war?”

‘The old Frenchman cast his eyes on the passing landscape, and seemed to join Philip in this musing. He answered slowly, “War is a terrible thing, an ugly thing. I did not fight in the war; I had already served my military duty, long before the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo and the whole damn world flew apart, like shrapnel. But I had many friends who fought here, and back there, where we just came from in my France, back there at the Somme, the Marne, Amiens. Our soldiers drove the Germans back across their fortified lines, the Hindenberg line they called it. By summer of 1918 the Germans were in full retreat, although it took them a hell of a long time, and rivers of spilt blood, to admit it. And so it all ended here. Those trenches, over there in France, that had been held and occupied for two hellish years by both armies, those muddy hellholes were finally left behind, vacated, and afterward . . . filled up again with the soil of France and Flanders and Belgium, and green grass was planted where warfare had formerly blasted its way out of the dark human soul and the dark humus of lowland dirt and now we see that grass, trimmed, manicured and growing so tidily around those rows of white crosses out there, most of them with some soldier’s name carved on them, many just unknown, anonymous, and how could this have happened? You might as well ask how could. . . a grain of sand get stuck in an oyster? And how could that oyster, in retaliation against that rough, alien irritant, then generate a pearl—such a beautiful thing, lustrous and white—coming forth in response to a small, alien presence that had taken up unwelcomed residence inside the creature’s own domain? The answer, my friend, is floating in the sea, blowing in the wind, growing green and strong from soil that once ran red with men’s blood.” ‘

“Now they were arriving at the battlefield. Jacques parked the car, leaned against the front fender, lit a cigarette. Mel and Philip walked through a stone arch, along a narrow, paved road lined with flowering linden trees, spring green with their large spadish leaves, sprinkled with small white blossoms. The sun was getting low behind them. Shadows of these trees had overtaken the narrow lane, turning it cooler than the surrounding fields, acres and acres neatly arranged with white crosses and gravestones, and continuous green, perfect grass between all. Having reached the end of the linden lane, the stepped slowly, reverently, along straight pathways, passing hundreds of silent graves on either side. The setting sun was still warm here, after their cool approach from beneath the trees.

“At length, they came to the row that Philip had been looking for, the one he had read about in the army guidebook, where his father’s grave was nested precisely and perpetually in its own place in eternity “. . .

King of Soul

Could be a problem

March 1, 2019

Our nation slides toward oblivion in unredeemable debt.

But who cares? It’s only money.

The national debt will never be repaid. We all know it, but nobody talks about it because we’re lost and we’ve never been here before.

We’ve never been at a juncture in history where money doesn’t matter.

In ages past, money mattered, but it doesn’t any more.

If you’re one of the inequality lackeys you’ve got a meal-ticket on a card, or so I’m told.

If you’re one of the equality beneficiaries you’ve got an expense account on a chip in your billfold.

The real movers and shakers are all just electrons streaming around in netspace, racking up virtual debits and credits in a webbish world that strains to retain some ideal standard that hasn’t really existed since grampa died and gramma went to the nursing home.

We pretend that the national debt matters while our brave new worldview slips into blahblah debit card oblivia, along a slow slide of credita magnifica.

But we’re in a long, sluggish slide.

The leftish cadres analyze and strategize to death our slow slog into postcapitalist egality mediocrity.

Meanwhile back at the suburban ranch conservatives dream of pie-in-the-sky return to days gone by in which every man or woman set a course toward their own comfort and prosperity. Good luck with that.

All along the watchtower, our planet bleeds, while civilization recedes.

Our manifest destiny bleeds out as welfare mediocrity. We’re all on welfare, just haven’t admitted it yet.  We’re all leaning on the largesse of a depleting State. When someone trips the alarm we’ll be racing to the exits.

Common sense poses now as tweets, while common decency slowly but surely retreats.

Maybe it’s always been this way, but never before on such electronified magnitude as we have now.

Digiboard

BroknColm

What began in human history as sword-swinging  contention stealthily slashes through our sedated society as a hi-tek tirade of weaponized malcontent.

The imminent ideology showdown will not likely roll in as some entertaining video event. Rather, it may be a bloody mess, a severe letdown, or, as we used to say in the old country, a pain in the ass.

Might be a good time to get saved.

Turn or burn.   Travelers’ Rest.

Smoke

A Rebel Guvnah?

February 4, 2019

This clueless news-viewer (me) came across an ole photo that has recently been tossed online in the midst of the current political maelstrom that is sucking our country down into depraved politics and perilous perdition.

RebelGuvna

And when I saw the infamous image, I wondered . . . what’s the big fuss all about?

Appears to me the Guvnah is herein advocating Reconstructive Reconciliation between his honkified racist constituents and their radical activist black cousins who are living across the river or across the tracks or across the Great Political Divide that has inflicted exceptional divisiveness among our entertainment-starved net-trolling denizens of  what was formerly Democrat Dixie, but is now Republican Red Solid South.

Maybe all citizens in this here land of the free and home of the brave would do well to imbibe a beer or two with their color-counterparts in the interests of reconstructive reconciliation.

. . .specially down here in the land of cotton where ole times here are not forgotten, or at least we thought they were forgotten until some Republican hack with nothin’ better to do than make trouble by trolling what we thought were the long-dead confederate swamps around the beltway and thereby dragged up this old bombshell and thought he’d reactivate it for the sake of blowin’ to smithereens the apparently escalating Democrat digits that have taken the public spotlight since our last election.

My humble opinion is that our politicians would do better to focus on governance–things like roundin’ up citizens to fix the potholes or repairing the infamous infrastructure or maybe enabling edumacation for the folks who are falling behind the 21st-century job-skills curve, or  even make a move toward balancing the budget for maybe just ONE year instead of piling another big whoppin’ .gov debt on top of the already oversized 21-trillion$ deficit, etc.

Republicans and Democrats oughta work some of these problems out over a friendly libation instead of draggin’ up more mud  from the swamps around Washin’ton and slingin’ it every whichaways.

And if they can’t get together and toast to togetherness, I think it’s time for Washington to get a good, thorough washin’, so’s they can be worthy of the nomenclature.

Send in the scrubs instead of the clowns.

 

Glass half-Full

Those Two Brave Men

January 27, 2019

Once, but maybe never again,

two men

standing in the cold

one young and one old;

TwoMen

they meet

but decline to greet

in the middle of a confrontation

on hallowed ground of a dividing nation.

They do not speak,

for all around them arise a peak

of anger and resentment—

a country devoid of contentment

in the cauldron of history.

Seems now it’s become a mystery

what has become of our unity,

as now we’re obsessed with impunity—

blame the younger, not the older one

as the chieftain wordlessly beats his drum;

but while the young man struggles to maintain a smile

the world wide web spews a viral pile

of all the blame that’s fit to hint

as talking head trolls make their dent

in the warp and woof of the data tide

in which we slavishly slouch to hide

the downing of civility

and the haughty thrusting of hostility.

We ride the wave of accusative gestalt—

let us assign a verdict who’s at fault.

But whose fault it is I think i know;

let’s blame it on the undertow

of madmen on the right

pulling young men into the fight,

or maybe let’s blame it on the leftist cadres

who would depose those maga padres,

while all the while the widening gyre

spins up in streaming twitter fire.

Hourly it whirls higher higher

while all the while it was nothing more

than a clueless kid who for one moment tore

our torrent stream of data angst asunder,

generating for a moment some online thunder.

So what once was our peace and tranquility

slips beneath the dearth of our virility.

’Twas on a cold gray day, I say,

we beheld it— but  for never again—

those two brave men

standing in the cold,

one young and the other old.

Glass half-Full

Dr. King remembered

January 21, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,  that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop

Dr. King remembered

January 18, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,  that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever you call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop

Cornucopia Time!

November 22, 2018

Well I’m glad those Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, aren’t you?

Back in the day, it was. . . 1620 or so.

Those Pilgrims had found themselves in a tight spot over in Europe. The hyper-institutionalized Church—both the Roman version and the Brit version—had become too high and mighty for its own good. So those Puritans, looking for a purer manifestation of the Old Time Religion, pulled up stakes and lit out for the New World.

When they got here, it was a whole new ball game; they didn’t have all that advanced Euro culture and tech to make life manageable as it had been back in the Old World.

So, thank God for Them Injuns, huh?!

Squanto, or Squatcho or Pocahontas, Sacajawea—or whoever Injun it was—demonstrated for the clueless Pilgrims how to grow corn, as you see in the pic here:

CornNtiv

Well by ’n by, as it turned out, those Pilgrims made it through, with a little help from their friends, new friends. They managed to hang on, get through a few winters and all that adversity we hear about at Turkey Day, if we’re not too busy watching football or gearing up for the black friday ritual dance.

Anyway, after those Pilgrims squeaked through, and word got back to the old country, there were other groups of emigrants who headed west for America. And for all kinds of reasons. . . religious, economic, etcetera etcetera, and just to feel free in an undeveloped continent that wasn’t so crowded and constricted with religious and political authoritarian blahblah.

In fact, the buzz about the New World got so widespread that after a century or two it went viral. Next thing you know there’s everybody and their brother piling on ships to go west young man and get the hell out of dodge and make it over here where a man could breathe free and a woman could too.

Long about 1886 or so, those crazy French sent the Statue of Liberty over here, because they were so caught up in the idea of freedom, and they knew we had done a better job of making liberty really happen, see’n as how we didn’t have all that ancient class system and religious institutional inertia to obstruct our westward quest for freedom and liberty.

Gosh, France!   Thanks for that statue, y’all.

StatLibty

Couldn’t a done it without you.

Anyway, long about the time that Lady Liberty showed up in New York harbor—that was pretty much the most intense period for folks get’n fed up with the Old World and strikin’ out for the New.

Crazy! Leavin’ it all behind and coming over here. Unbelievable. That took some balls, y’all! Or some gumption, or chutzpah, or hutzpah or  courage, or just down-right down-n-out desperation.

Anyway, they did.  They came. They forsook the Old in search of the New. So many of those Europeans and other, Africans, Asians, etcetera etcetera caught a whiff of the Liberty that was blowin’ in the wind across the wide world and so many of ‘em just chucked it all—all the the old stuff—and threw it in a rucksack or whatever and headed for the land of the free and home of the brave.

Like I said before, it went viral. And about the time that Lady Liberty got her spot in New York Harbor—that was the most intense time for folks coming this way.

And they just kept coming, and coming, and coming. . .

Brutha Neil wrote a song about it, y’all:

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRTHdC7k4uY

And they’re still coming! God bless  ‘em! Coming to America!

Nowadays, some Americans who got their britches on too tight are trying to put a stop to all the folks who wanna get in on the greatness of America (Again).

They need to stop and wonder: what if your great great great great grampa and granma had’t gotten in back in the day?

Where would you be now?

Probably bobbin’ along on a rubber dingy somewhere between Lesvos and Athens, or between Belfast and Boston, or between Havana and Miami, or between San Salvador and San Isidro, or between Bangladesh and Bangor, or somewhere between a rock and a hard place.

And if your politics doesn’t allow for the extension of American liberty unto them newbies and immigrants, maybe you should adjust your politics, so you don’t feel so high and mighty about what all you got, but rather—renew the vision for what this America is all about—the land of the free and home of the brave.

Free enough to let that Freedom be extended, and brave enough to not be all paranoid about the new immigrants.

This may seem kinda naive and corny to you. But let’s not forget this is the last Thursday in November, Thanksgiving.

Cornucopia Time! There’s plenty enough for everybody!  Spread it around.  As Brutha Paul sang it:            Let ‘em in!

King of Soul

Czech out the New World!

November 20, 2018

Antonin Dvorak was born in the Czech region of Europe in 1841. His life path brought the gifted musician through a trailblazing role as a composer of bold, new symphonic music at the Prague Conservatory,

In 1892, Antonin chose, like many other adventurous Europeans of that age, to travel to  the land of wide open spaces and wide open opportunity—America.

Amerca2

Although his residence here was for only for a few years, that was enough time for the inspired Czech to catch hold of the American Dream; by skillful composition, he enunciated that dream in one of the most American-spirited pieces of music ever performed.

The symphony he composed here—his 9th—became known as the “New World.”

This transplanted Czech’s musical  gifting had propelled him to a podium of international renown, so the National Conservatory of Music of America recruited Dvorak as their Director. When Antonin left Europe in 1892, he was bound for the big apple— New York City, USA.

During that New World phase of his life’s journey, Antonin extended his westward adventure far beyond our Atlantic coast, into the very heartland of the frontier experience. In an Iowa community of transplanted Czechs, Antonin dwelt comfortably for a season with his countrymen.

That trip from New York out to our heartland and back must certainly have been a life-changing experience for the alert musician; the orchestral  piece he dreamed up— and then committed to musical score in New York in 1893— generates vivid images in my imagination. Whenever I listen to the New World Symphony, my mind fills up with excitement about the urgency and resourcefulness of our vast continent-wide expansion, which began in the farthest regions of an Old World and culminated in a New.

A recent New York Philharmonic performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, under the masterful hand of Alan Gilbert, presents a tender, and yet impetuous, rendering of the piece. An energetic portrayal of what Antonin had in mind when he composed his New World masterpiece.

AlanGilbert

Hearing this symphony summons adventures of travel in my imagination.

Embarking on a great adventure: this, it seems to me, is the theme of Dvorak’s  musical odyssey. In the early passages, I catch glimpses of a virtuoso voyage across the rolling Atlantic Ocean. . .

ShipSail

with the wind in my face and a sensation of sailing steadily toward some new venue of opportunities and bright horizons.

The bouncy flutes and piccolos set this course for my imagining.

Sailing onward through Dvorak’s audible vision, I hear a finely-honed orchestra moving melodically westward, inducing a sense of fair wind favorable terrain . . . past the Statue of Liberty, then disembarking in a bustling 19th-century New York port, negotiating the busy streets, through a dynamo of enterprising business and yankee industry, then rolling farther along, out of the city and into the countryside . . . moments of repose along the way . . . through coastal commerce past planted fields o’er dusty roads,  riding into green Appalachian hills,

Appalachian

over blue mountain ridges, catching a locomotive in Cincinnati, steaming past the fruited plains and barreling along across vast, wind-swept prairies:

The New World!

Along with the rhythmic locomotive journey through verdant landscapes, Dvorak’s bold, loud use of the trombones and trumpets provokes urgency, tension, danger at points along the way—then periodic resolvings through the ministry of exquisitely tender woodwinds—mellow oboes,

Oboe

resonant clarinets—and the declarative legato of French horns, backed up, sometimes boisterously, sometimes gently, with those ever-present violins and violas.

And low thumping bassos that stand as tall and deep as elms in the great American landscape.

These flights of fancy then deliver us into thankful moments of contemplation, yeah, even reverence for a Providential presence, accompanied by fluted tremelos, and blown deeper into the traveler’s soul by the vibrant contemplation of oboes, with resonant clarinets and mellowing horns. Excitement decrescendoes past repose, into full  contemplation, with the ultimate reward: wonder.

And by ’n by, sudden stirrings of urgency—yea, even danger and warning—from the bells of the trumpets and trombones, because that is the real world.

Always back to the real world. That’s the American way.

The real world of conclusion. A good thing can’t go on forever; it has to end at some point.

Oh, what a strong, bold brassy conclusion from our trombones and trumpets!

Brass

A great piece of Music!

But maybe you’d have to be there to catch my vision of it.

Or, maybe not. Next best thing:

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HClX2s8A9IE

Glass Chimera

From Valley Forge to Vietnam and Very Near

November 11, 2018

In 1969, I graduated from high school and went to University. In college, there was no threat to life and limb for me. It was a safe place to be.

Many of my high school buddies didn’t take that route; they joined, or were drafted into, the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to defend our nation. At that time, defense of our nation—defense of our security and our ideals—was considered by most of our leaders to be directly related to the defeat of the Viet Minh and Viet Cong in  Vietnam.

While I went to college, many men and some women of my same age shipped out to the other side of the world to run the Viet Minh insurgents back into North Vietnam, and to the shut the Viet Cong  down.

The difficult mission that our national leaders had laid upon our soldiers over there was no easy task: dangerous, deadly and damn near impossible. About 54, 000 of our guys and gals who served and fought in Vietnam never came back, or they if they did return it was in a casket.

My college experience here, Stateside, was a walk in the park compared to what our armed forces were called to do in Vietnam and other theaters of war. What they did, however, was nothing new. Although in Vietnam we were strapped with a whole new set of warfare rules that few understood, and that was a major part of our problem.

But I am here today to say that: Our soldiers have been defending the USA—our freedoms and values—for over two centuries.

IwoJima

From Valley Forge to Vietnam and Very Near, millions of our men and women have lived and died to defend us. We owe them—whether they served willingly, or were drafted—we owe them respect and gratitude for their willingness to be threatened and humiliated by the pains and dangers of war and the perilous requirements of maintaining government of the people, by the people and for the people.

From Valley Forge to  Vietnam to now. . . their brave service continues to this day: defending our shores, our borders, and helping other liberty-holding nations to maintain freedom from oppression.

While thousands of guys and gals of my generation were on duty in Vietnam, many of us back here at home were protesting and working to bring our people home, because . . . the longer that war dragged on, the more and more controversial it became. Finally, by 1975, we had shut the whole project down.

So our Vietnam veterans came home and got back into the routine of living in the good ole USA. For many, many of them, this was no walk in the park, no easy transition. PTSD was, and still is, rampant among them. And while we who did not go will never understand what they endured, we can still show our appreciation.

A few years ago, I reached a time of life in which I felt a need to somehow reconcile the controversy of Vietnam that our generation had endured. My literary working-out of this angst took the form of a novel, King of Soul, which I published in 2017.

On this Veterans’ Day, I share a brief excerpt that describes one little experience in the Vietnam War. I post it here today, so that those who were there and endured such tribulation—they will know that their bravery and sacrifice does not go unnoticed by us who did not serve.

For the sharpening of our collective memory of what the hell happened over there, I post the excerpt, which begins with a quote from a popular song that many of us singing here at home. from Chapter 19 of King of Soul:

. . .where have all the young men gone, gone to flowers everyone, when will they ever learn when will they ever learn? But on the other side of the world something very different was going down . . .

~~~

. . . the gunner for their platoon, and that day he was packing an M-60 machine gun. And now there was no doubt about the threat of those nearby

NVA. Sure as hell, there was no doubt any more about anything except: they were in a firefight. Time to fight, or die. Rob got the order to haul that M-60 down the hill to a certain position and open up on ‘em. He said all he could remember about that was that he put one foot in front of the other while scuffling down that hill dragging all that weight with him, and the infernal noise that was blasting out all around him. The adrenaline was pumping and he was stumbling through it, trying to keep himself and the gun upright until he could get to where he was going, or where he was supposed to be going, which he wasn’t yet sure of. It wasn’t just the machine gun he was packing, but also three ammo belts. I mean, it was a good damn thing that he had ‘em, because he was gonna need every last one of them rounds before it was all over with. Finally he got to where he was s’posed to be, rid himself of the ammo belts and heated up the M-60, aiming up at the ridge where the AK-47 flashes were poppin’ like deadly firecrackers, but a helluva lot louder. He said he felt like he was going crazy, but somehow the craziness itself was what drove him on to do what he needed to do. I mean, what else could a man do? He was just shootin’ the hell out of them NVA, or at least he hoped he was, because it was gonna be either us or them if he had anything to say about it.

For you guys who went over there and endured such as this, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Ypres, San Juan Hill, Gettysburg, Valley Forge, or  wherever you performed your duty for us . . .

Although we’ll never understand what the hell you did over there, still . . .Thank you.

King of Soul