Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

The Old Men and the Young

July 25, 2015

If ghosts could speak, they would probably agree with what the old man said. Sitting on the lowered gate of his black pickup truck, Ramus was saying that old men make wars; but young men fight them.

Now while we understand there is some truth in such a statement,  we all know that it’s not really as simple as that. Nothing in this life is so easily explained, especially the thing called war.

Ramus blinked both his eyes at the same time. It was a habit he had. Some crows were making a ruckus in the nearby hickory, but he paid no attention to them.

“Consider Medgar Evers: he was a young man,” Ramus said. “He slogged his way across Europe, along with thousands of other Allied soldiers, to arrive triumphantly in Germany and then knock the hell out of the Nazi war machine. So he contributed to that great collective effort through which we won the big war. But then he came back to Mississippi and was told to go to the back of the bus.

“So, at the end of his homeward journey, Medgar entered, almost involuntarily, into another great war. It was an old war that had been started by old men. That is to say: men who we think of as old because they had lived and died long ago—men who, in centuries past, had embodied the fallacies and the limitations and atrocities of their own era. Those men had brought his ancestors to America in slave ships. It was a helluva an evil thing to do, but that’s what was happening at that time; there was shit just as bad going on over in Africa that enabled the slavetraders to do what they did, and that’s what started all this trouble we got now.

“Any trouble you find on the face of the earth is traceable to shit that happened a long time ago,” he said. “I don’t know if it ever ends. I hope one day. . .”

Behind Ramus and his truck, the morning sun was peeking up from behind distant pinetops. For whatever reason we know not what, the nearby troop of bothersome crows decided to vacate the hickory tree they’d been in, and get the hell out of dodge. Their sudden departure presented a scene of black wings flapping out against a cloudless summer sky. Ramus glanced at their disturbance, but gave it not a thought. In these mountains, their antics were as old as the hills.

The volume of Ramus’ speech, which had steadily increased in order to compete with the birds, now rescinded to a soft, summary tone. “The Mississippi man’s newfound battle—a great struggle into which he found himself caught up, by default—it eventually killed him. So he was a young man who never tasted the privilege of becoming an old man. Although he had marched with the victors in World War II, the battle that he found simmering back home was the one that put him in his grave.

“In 1963, only six months before Kennedy was killed, Medgar Evers was shot dead in his own front yard in Jackson Mississippi. He had just come from speaking to some brothers and sisters at the New Jerusalem church.”

That quiet following the crows’ departure was blissful.

“But I got to go now: places to go and people to see.” Ramus said. He slid off the tailgate, called to his old hound dog and prepared to leave. His talk about old men, young men, and old wars was put on the shelf of memory for a while.

Now in 1969, a new war, hot off the press, was being waged. But it was fast becoming an old one. Young men were dying by the thousands. Old men too, and women and children. What else is new?

VietMem2

The scene above is an excerpt from the new novel being written:

King of Soul

I didn’t go to Vietnam, but . . .

May 25, 2015

I was a kid of the ’60s which means now I’m in my own sixties.

While there was a lot going on back in the day, with all the world descending into war and chaos and so forth and so one, nevertheless there was a lot of good happening too.

Always has been, always will be, a lot of good and a lot of bad going on in the world at the same time,  and here we are trying to sort our way through it.

Makes me think of Take Your Place on the Great Mandela, a song sung by Peter, Paul and Mary.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-tBLqIz6wA

Now you remember, since I mention the ’60s, there was a war going on back then.

As there is a war going on today, somewhere. Most likely we are involved in it, directly or indirectly, we being the big kid on the block, policeman of the world, inheritor of the post WorldWarII reconstruction and defender of the free world.

I mean that: Defender of free world. It’s a job to be taken seriously.

Back in the day, when the war was in Vietnam, when Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara and God only knows who else, along with thousands of American boys, were trying to make southeast Asia safe for democracy, I reached draft age at the same time that the US gov implemented a lottery for selecting draftees.

My draft # was 349. Literally the luck of the draw. So I never went to ‘Nam, never served in the military.

Now we don’t have a draft any more. Our soldiers are all professionals. And that, in my opinion, is the main difference between American strength then and America now. And please forgive me when I say, that’s the way it should be. It seems to me that that whole damn business of the anti-war movement during our Vietnam striving was an outcome of the draft. It was the draft, and my generation’s refusal to accept it, that doomed our effort, from the start, to successfully prosecute that unpopular war.

And for what its worth, Vietnam hasn’t turned out so bad. My daughter traveled there several years ago and gave a very favorable report of the place, including their fondness for Americans in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

But looking back on it, ff we had had no draft, everything we did in Vietnam might have turned out differently. We might have won.

But then we’ll never know, will we?, about such vain speculations as the one I have just made.

Nevertheless, that’s my opinion and I’m stickin’ to it. I’m an American, with a Constitutionally-protected right to express it, thanks to those whose valiant service has assured our freedoms.

And I believe that if another war comes along that truly requires a draft, such as World War II, then our Congress will affirm the need, and men and women will rise to the challenge.

Thanks to those who have fought to defend to our liberty. Thanks to their families, whose survival is saddened by the loss of their brave sons, daughters, relatives and friends who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, who deposited into the blood-drenched soils of Vietnam, Korea, Okinawa, France, Belgium, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, and many other places including our very own USA where President Lincoln commemorated their sacrifice at Gettysburg. . .the dear cost of freedom paid by those who contributed their “last full measure of devotion.”

Now you may be thinking that’s easy for me to say, as one who never served.

And you’re right. It is easy for me to say, or to write, but that’s just the way it is.

In a free country, citizens are free to serve in the armed forces, or not serve. For those who do accept military duty, whether for a season or for a career, we ought to provide a good living, and extraordinary opportunities for them to prosper, to live long and well, in our free nation after they have completed military service.

I mean it when I say: we owe a great debt to our men and women who defend the United States of America and our Allies by serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Because of my feelings about all this, I wrote a novel to express the way I see our war-torn world. It is the story of a young man who did not do military service, but who is, in the story, traveling through Britain and France during the year 1937. And he, Philip, has a destination, which is a battlefield in Belgium, a place called Flanders Field, where his father is buried.

His father had died in 1918 defending Belgium, France, and the free world.

My novel story is fictional, but it depicts some tragic truth about what goes on in this perilous world, a world that is often at war with itself. But it’s a world that occasionally catches some respite in between wars, as I did, and also as my character Philip did in the novel,

Smoke.

in the event of a World War. . .

January 10, 2015

First, the bad news:

World War I was the excruciating death-seizure of 19th-century imperialism.

World War II was an agonizing replay of WWI, with 20th-century ideologies replacing old-world imperialist dynasties.

World War III will be a torturous replay of the medieval Crusades, with 20th-century ideologies reverting to ancient religious hegemonies.

World War I was fought in trenched battlefields, mostly in Europe, by soldiers disciplined in classic military tactics.

World War II was fought in Europe, north Africa, and the Asian rim of the Pacific, which qualified the conflagration as an actual “World” war, in the global expanse of land,  sea, and air. Combatants were highly-trained  soldiers, organized in in mega-armies.

World War III will be incinerated by terrorists, against constitutional law ‘n order governments.  The Worldwide death-struggle will pit electronically-networked ad hoc jihadists against hyper-securitized anti-terrorist specialized military teams. The battlefields of World War III will be the cities of this world.

World War I was fought with rifles, artillery, primitive tanks and primitive airplanes.

World War II was fought with rifles, artillery, advanced airplanes, destroyer ships, intelligence, aircraft carriers and two H-bombs.

World War III will be fought with fatwas, improvised explosive devices, shocking media executions, surgical air-campaigns, automatic weapons, drones, weaponized missiles, suicide bombs, media-hyped propaganda misinformation, frenzied media-wars in which news companies are scooping each other for shock’n’awe digital imagery, cartoons, hyped-up hate speech, hacking, digital hijacking, video-games converted to actual weaponry, torture, manipulated scarcities, manipulated bounties, false intelligence, chemical weapons, dirty bombs, tactical nuclear weapons (or the threat of them) and the god of forces masquerading as religion (on both “sides”).

World War I pitted European Central Powers against Entente Allies.

World War II pitted Nazi/Fascist Axis against Capitalist/Communist Allies.

World War III pits IslamoFascists against Everybody else in the World.

World War I was, until it ended.

World War II was, until it ended.

World War III is already here, and now.

World War I produced a lot of collateral damage.

World War II produced more collateral damage.

World War III will be all about collateral damage.

And we will all die in it, or in some time thereafter.

That’s the bad news. The good news is:

there is life after death. Here’s the big picture:

 “The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, ‘Please read this,’ he will say, ‘I cannot, for it is sealed.’

Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, ‘Please read this.’ And he will say, ‘I cannot read.’ “

The best strategy for dealing with World War III is: learn to “read”, and act accordingly. That way, you won’t have to depend on cartoons for your intelligence.

Until next time. . .

Smoke

To Leon

July 28, 2013

Oh dear Leon, you,

tu, who sought a delicate balance

between anarchy and military phalanx,

between democracy and egalité,

among the bolshevoi and the fraternite,

during that treacherous time between the

two War blights,

between interwar contentions of

Social lefts and Fascia rights.

Hey Leon, man of belles lettres,

don’t make it bad; just

‘take a sad

song, and make it better,’

we would have said,

before republican liberté got shot dead.

Your fined-tuned idea of Man’s

path to Justice was so,

oh so, exquisitely

constructed,

until the fierce winds of prewar gahenna

somewhere between Paris and Vienna

overpowered your pure, postwar intentions,

decimated your Front Populaire coalitions,

obliterated, with wehrmacht destruct,

your Social political construct,

when the ancient god of Forces

dispatched his dread iron horses,

to explode your good intentions

and implode your fragile humanité

conventions.

Oh Leon, merci for your short-lived

Premier swan chanson.

Quel est ce bruit lointain 

nous entendons? 

Oh Leon dear,

what is that distant noise we hear?

 

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Disturbing video, 1936

January 1, 2013

In my present writing project, a novel named Smoke, the protagonist is a young American, Philip Marlowe. Living in London during the year 1937, Philip finds himself drawn into a terrible vortex of European political currents.

I find that writing this story, which takes place mostly on another continent, and seventy-years ago, is a challenge. Some may think I’m crazy to have undertaken it. We shall see.

For this endeavor, every hour of writing requires, oh, ten or so hours of reading and research to substantiate it. Otherwise the story that I concoct would be implausible and unrealistic. My theory is that search tools on our worldwide web enable new possibilities for global storytelling that are unprecedented. So I’m  forging a sort of historical fictional frontier. We shall see, in the next year or so, if I can pull it off.

Anyway, since the whole thing happens in the year 1937, maintaining a credible level of authenticity in the story is a constant challenge, and requires a lot of work.

My character, Philip, although originally a simple fellow from the mountainous region of North Carolina, is nevertheless representing a worldwide tobacco company, and working accounts in London. The story begins May 12, 1937, the day that King George VI, the stuttering sovereign, is crowned in Westminster Abbey.

Out in the crowded streets of London, Philip and his friend Nathan find themselves suddenly witnesses to the untimely death of an old gentleman. One thing leads to another, and a week or so later Philip finds himself on an unusual mission on the Mediterranean coast of France, after a journey that skirts the Pyrennical edges of the Spanish civil war. In the background and underneath it all are the immense political tectonics of communism and fascism that are slowly, or perhaps not so slowly, catapulting the nations of Europe toward a terrible war.

With my meandering plot lines having brought Philip to the southernmost tip of France, and him having an inclination to travel from there all the way to Belgium on the North coast, I am now researching France in 1937. This is hard to do, because most of the documentation readily available pertains to the war which started two years later, in 1939.

I am more interested, for purposes of this story, in learning and writing about what caused that war than about the war itself.

The main reason World War II happened was one evil megalomaniac, Adolf Hitler, who duped the good German people into following down a perditious path of antisemitic racial hatred and obsessive vengeance against the French and other Europeans, most notably the Russians.

After the first WorldWar had ended, the victorious Allies got together and wrote up a treaty, the Treaty of Versailles,that, as time went by, put a severe crimp on German rebuilding of an economy and society. By the early 1930s, Hitler was able to, in his fanatically diabolical way, take advantage of a resentment that had been mounting inside Germany. He absconded what had formerly been a proud Prussian military tradition, and subverted its nobler aspects with hateful plans for genocide and war.

In 1933 Hitler and his band of national socialist radicals came to power. In taking over the German government, they broke all the rules of law and decency. Because of the dearth and extremities of the times, they were able to get away with it.

In spring 1936, Hitler made an arrogant military move that–probably moreso than any other historical event–set the stage for the terrible destruction that followed during the next ten years–the German reoccupation of the Rhineland. This was an area between France and Germany that had been disputed in earlier times.

Because France had been weakened by its war weariness, still hungover from 1914-1918, and also its debilitating internal contention between socialist and nationalistic factions within its own government, France did not prevent, nor resist, the German reoccupation of the Rhineland. There was, in fact, a sizable German population in the disputed area. There was a similarly problematical situation on the other side of Germany–the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.

The choice of the French Third Republic to not stop Hitler and his goons at that point turned out later to be a fatal mistake.

But who knew?

History in the making is only explicable when viewed in hindsight. There were a few who could see, in the midst of what was happening at the time,  what was coming–Churchill, perhaps DeGaulle, an American congressman or two.

During my present search to ascertain the character of France during that vulnerable period, I found a very disturbing propaganda film from 1936 Germany. It captures images of that fateful, though bloodless, German advance into the Rhineland, and also the words of the diabolical genius who had ordered it.

It’s creepy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w_8ReKlFVI

Nevertheless,  here is a lesson in history now viewable in 2013, but obtained originally from old 1936 film.

Think about this: What is it that is happening now in our world that will inform our grandchildren, watching utube or whatever, decades from now, about the failings of this present generation?

We cannot know until, if human nature remains the same, it is too late to do much besides talking and writing about it, and watch old videos.  But that is life and death in a fallen world of 21st-century perplexity.

Glass Chimera

The one thing that stops politics

January 22, 2012

A politician was talking about the unfortunate condition of his government:

Since the economic had begun…

…growing numbers of Agrarians maintained that the state was ungovernable without their participation, and that their party was the only one capable of managing the state…In the summer of 1933, Beran himself was of the opinion that the rising root of aggravation was an exaggerated school education, and (that), for a child subjected to education, a country person ‘began to stink of horse piss.’

‘We have the most educated proletariat…the government has to perform miracles, so as to be able to maintain an army of tramps who mainly despise work…so that an unemployed worker would not have to leave town for the countryside and ask a farmer for a job.’

The state would never get out of its difficulties without reducing lavish unemployment benefits, ‘this social monster which the socialists have created…’

The politician who presented this position was Rudolph Beran, a leader in the Agrarian party of Czechoslovakia during the 1930s. His assessment was supported largely by rural folks who populated a region known as Sudetenland. Many of the these Agrarians were ethnic Germans whose loyalties were gravitating, during the ’30s, toward support for German occupation of their region of the Czech lands. The passage above was quoted from The Life of Edvard Benes, 1884-1948, by Zbynek Zemen with Antonin Klimek (Oxford, 1997)

However, after a while the extremist rhetoric didn’t really produce much benefit to anyone. In 1939, all the polarizing politics that had been cranked out between fascist and communist extremes in eastern Europe went up in smoke, because Hitler’s war blew all the manipulative politics to smithereens.

Europe in the 1930s was a festering boil of political infection and belligerence that eventually erupted as World War II. At the  core of the contagion was a warm-up war of opposing ideologies:  fascism and communism. Fascism was being force-fed by Germany and Italy.  Communism was perpetrating through the nascent Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, led by Russia.

Pretty much the whole developed world was suffering through an economic depression. The democratic nations, primarily France, Great Britain, and their smaller allies, were grasping at security straws. In their faltering attempts to preserve peace and what was left of prosperity, the liberal democracies were attempting to follow a political course between the two extremes of fascism and communism. This was no easy agenda, given the extremities with which Nazi Germany and the Soviet Russia were polarizing their own internally bloody pathologies along with the other nations under their influence.

The most fervent expression of these death-wish ideologies was being hammered out in eastern Europe. Czechoslovakia and Poland, two regions or “nations” that had long been areas of exploitative manipulations between the larger powers, were destined to become the flash points of the world’s next “great war”–the one that the last “great war” (1912-1918) had purported to avoid.

Czechoslovakia was a fledgling democratic republic during the ’20s and ’30s, having been established in the remnants of the Austria-Hungary empire that had dissipated after 1918 and the end of World War I. But this new Czech nation was a fragmented check-list of ethnic groups: Czechs, Sudetan Germans, Slovaks, Hungarians, and a few others.

A multiplicity of political identities in 1930s Czechoslovakia generated a swirling frenzy of discontents. The most intense Czechoslovakian rivalries were in the western border districts,  the Sudetenland, where a  plurality of ethnic Germans held to Deutschland traditions and loyalties. This hotbed of opposing discontents is where World War II found its first militarized eruptions.

During 1938, Hitler’s impudently pagan will-to-power intimidated British and French politicians into submissive strategies of appeasement. The Munich Pact conceded Sudetenland to the third reich, and assigned the Czechs to an impotent role as pawns in the game. Czech leaders had not even been consulted; nor were they present when the sellout deal with the devil was signed in Munich in September. The Nazi wehrmacht‘s ensuing occupation of Sudeten Czech lands set the terrible stage for Hitler’s invasion of the Czech lands in March 1939.

But Czechoslovakia was just a wehrmacht warmup for the full-scale blitzkrieg of Poland that came in September of ’39. That’s when the Allies finally woke up to smell the smoke of hitlerian deception and destruction. Then they began to mobilize the Allied resistance that ultimately became successful by 1945. But World War II was no walk in the park.

A lot has changed in our world since then. Today our politics and war rationalizations display a few discernible parallels with those turbulent times past. Now the players on the stage are the same, but different. European ideological extremities have synthesized somewhat, a la Hegelian dialectics, morphing to “the West.” Meanwhile in Eurasia the old kid on the world block–Islam–rises as a newly energized force-field. It will exert  polarizing effects to religiously neuterize our old ideologies into kaffirific irrelevance. Could be a volatile situation, especially if you factor in the spark-breathing dragon in the far East.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress