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Sat Sep 7, 2013, 05:47 PM

Mermaid

"Oh say can you see it's really such a mess
every inch of Earth is a fighting nest
giant pencil and lip stick-tube shaped things
continue to rain and cause screaming pain
and the arctic stains from silver blue to bloody red ...."
-- Jimi Hendrix, American scald; 1983 ....(A Mermaid I Should Turn to Be)

I decided to not watch the news today. The same recycled commentaries about US intervention in Syria -- we must, we mustn't -- tend to present a limited range of opinions on what "options" the nation faces. It's not that I do not appreciate the insight of some commentators, be they journalists, politicians, or other guests. But today, I venture out to the quiet of my pond, armed only with two books and some food for both the fish and the birds.

I am accompanied by one of my dogs, Kelly. He is a white boxer-mix, with beautiful blue spots -- one could easily imagine one of his ancestors riding a fire truck. Kelly is one of my best friends; usually semi-hyper, he too relaxes at the pond. There is one spot on the stone retaining wall that he sits on, staring in amazement as the fish splash about, consuming their food. A couple of times, Kelly has ventured in to sample fish food ..... the koi are rather used to him, and compete with him for what is floating nearby. But today, he simply sits quietly, watches the fish for about ten minutes, and then lays down for a nap. I wonder: why does he lay on the rock, rather than the ground? While I like to sit on rocks, I find the ground a more comfortable place to lay down.

One of the books is Reza Aslan's "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." Since buying it last month, I've had two friends ask me with great discomfort: "Why are you reading this?" (Perhaps for the exact reason Kelly sleeps on the rock. I have read it three times now, and I sense that I'm okay.) I've told them that the book takes Jesus off the stained glass window, and views him in the context of human history -- where I suspect he not only belongs, but can do the world the most good.

The book tells of numerous wars, in and around that region known as the Middle East. Of an empire that expanded, over-reached, and fell. Of human beings killing and dying for reasons political and religious on the surface, but all saturated by hatred. "Jesus, your eyes," another North American scald sang, "they shine like the sun. I wonder why?"

It's written that he healed a leper. Halldor Laxness, the Nobel Prize-winning writer from Iceland, called war "the leprosy of the human soul." That was in the early 1970s, when my generation questioned the nation's war in Vietnam. The second book I have is: "The Eloquence of Protest: Voices of the 70's," edited by Harrison Salsbury (Houghton Mifflin; 1972). It contains powerful speeches, including the April 22, 1971 testimony of John Kerry, before the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. Likely a majority of folks my age have thought of that testimony recently, as they watch film clips of Secretary of State John Kerry speak with absolute certainty about the moral necessity of the US bombing Syria.

As evening approaches, Kelly lifts his ears, well before opening his eyes and raising his head. It's only then that I hear a couple "clucks" coming from a distance ..... behind some tall grass, and inside a cluster of gnarled shrubs and dead trees. It is a small group of wild turkey; I can't see them at this point, but recognize their voices. They know that there is food here, but they also know there are two beings they do not want to encounter. Wild turkeys are in ways smart, in ways dumb. Thank goodness that the same can't be said about dogs or people.

The image of the turkeys reminds me of the great philosophical question regarding chickens: which came first -- the hen or the egg? If I could answer that, I could likely understand why "war" has been a constant human reality, not only in my lifetime, but since the beginning of this country, even back to the days of that rabbi from the other book.And what,exactly, did we humans not learn from the last war? Or the one before that? Or WW1? What am I missing here?

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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply Mermaid (Original post)
H2O Man Sep 2013 OP
bigtree Sep 2013 #1
H2O Man Sep 2013 #6
bigtree Sep 2013 #7
MicaelS Sep 2013 #2
malthaussen Sep 2013 #3
H2O Man Sep 2013 #5
malthaussen Sep 2013 #10
H2O Man Sep 2013 #4
kentuck Sep 2013 #8
kentuck Sep 2013 #9
H2O Man Sep 2013 #11
G_j Sep 2013 #12

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat Sep 7, 2013, 05:52 PM

1. humility

We are the hen; we are the egg.

We are the American; we are the Syrian

We are the turkeys.

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Response to bigtree (Reply #1)

Sat Sep 7, 2013, 08:11 PM

6. This is a

strange time, Brother BigTree. I read that our beast fiends, the necroconservatives, are planning a big push for war next week in Washington. How in the heck can anyone listen to them, and take anything they say seriously?

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #6)

Sat Sep 7, 2013, 08:22 PM

7. I see that

. . . my own view is swirling with insidious justifications for war from quarters which served as a reliable bastion of protest against it -being fed the same neocon garbage as justification that we firmly rejected a mere decade ago.

'Production for use.'

All of this focus on employing these devastating forces as if they were some panacea that we're just being selfish in withholding. All the while there are major ambitions behind their unleashing which will surely overtake any humanitarian concerns which are hoped to be alleviated behind military strikes at a dubious and nebulous set of targets.

But, we must do 'something'.

If we don't succeed in teaching peace, Brother WaterMan, all folks will know in the future is war. Vigilance!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat Sep 7, 2013, 05:58 PM

2. The egg came long before the chicken.

After all reptiles including dinosaurs reproduced from eggs long before chickens came along. And the first chicken had to come from an egg laid by something close to a chicken, since the first chicken had to be a mutation.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat Sep 7, 2013, 06:25 PM

3. As to the conundrum, the answer is: the rooster.

As to the larger question, I have to echo George Carlin: we love war. I frankly do not see how anyone could read the WWI poets or anything about WWI and not be opposed to this mass insanity of testing-to-destruction if the human breast can turn aside a one-ounce lead projectile moving at 900 fps. And the sad part is how gleefully the young go off to war, how gladly their mothers surrender them (ever see the statement of "UK Mothers for the War" in WWI? I think Sassoon quotes it in the last book of his biography), how their girlfriends put flowers in their gun barrels and cry tears more of pride than fear as the poor bastards march off to be shredded.

But perhaps we have learned some over the past 100 years. Not our leaders, no: war costs them nothing, so there is no incentive for them to avoid war. Crocodile tears aside, and appropriate breast-beating about the "tough decisions" that must be made by our Fearless Leaders. I suppose I could be wrong, but it is hard for me to imagine Western wives, mothers, and lovers sending off their young men with a song in their hearts. (Aye, okay, sexist imagery, no contest there) But the Disconnect has become so great in the West that our leaders continue to happily make the "tough decisions" that benefit none of those wives, mothers, or lovers. And outside the West, where passions are greater and the crisis imminent and present, the young men will march gladly because they believe it in some way proves their manhood.

I have come to one conclusion in this regard at this point in my not-so-very-long-really life, and that is this: So long as our culture continues to define "strength" as "the ability to impose your will on another," there will be war. And rape. And assault. And all the catalogue of crimes and man's inhumanity to man. Perhaps it is a "true" definition. Perhaps it is a "necessary" one, for the survival of the culture, or indeed the species. That lies beyond my small wisdom. But there it is: to be strong means to make others do your bidding. And who would be so weak, as to desire not to be strong?

-- Mal

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #3)

Sat Sep 7, 2013, 08:08 PM

5. Thanks for

a very interesting response.

European "war songs" can be fascinating to study. A lot of scholars believe that up until around the industrial revolution, it was the female elders who taught them to the children in their groups (although that does not imply that they wrote them).

While Ireland has a reputation for "glorious" songs of battle (happy in war, sad in love), plenty of other European cultures did, too. In fact, it seems that it really wasn't until that industrial revolution that there came to be "unhappy" songs of war -- perhaps they were written, but didn't become "best-sellers"? Then those songs came to reflect the pain that war brings, and to both ask serious questions, and make moral arguments against war.

The old Irish lyrics to the song we know call "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," for example, aren't anything one would burst into "hurrah! hurrah!" about. Rather, it was among the most haunting lines ever authored.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #5)

Sun Sep 8, 2013, 08:40 AM

10. If you read war memoirs...

... from before the industrial age, it is not hard to see that the people who wrote them never had so much fun in their lives (exceptions do apply). Of course, the memoirs were mostly written by officers, who are from the upper classes, and for whom mud and blood and a glorious death were indeed most sweet and proper. This should have changed around the Boer War, but the lessons learned there didn't carry over into 1914-1918, where suddenly everybody involved seemed to realize that war was a really bad idea. Might have had something to do with the casualty rates, although in that case you'd have thunk that the US Civil War would have had a salutary affect on US war-mongering, at least. Not Europe, however, who drew no lessons from that war despite sending observers to watch it.

Casualty rates, as I say, may have something to do with it. Although people remembered 1914-1918 well enough in 1939 that the previous participants didn't send their men off gaily, if one compares, say, Eastern Front memoirs with African memoirs, you can see that in the latter participants on both sides (still mostly officers, of course) were having a ball and perpetuating the Dulce et Decorum for all their little hearts were worth. The view from Russia, however, is not so light-hearted.

Looking at the Wikipedia articles, it appears that When Johnny Comes Marching Home and Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye are different songs with the latter coming after the former. It also appears that the latter was originally seen as "humorous!" Which I suppose shows that some things never change. Not hard at all to imagine a pack of privileged good old boys nowadays making fun of someone who had his arms and legs blown off to line their Daddy's wallet. Feel free to accuse me of cynicism.

-- Mal

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat Sep 7, 2013, 07:57 PM

4. without feathers

kick

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat Sep 7, 2013, 09:38 PM

8. kick

good post!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat Sep 7, 2013, 10:01 PM

9. What would Jesus say?

About this planned bombing??

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Response to kentuck (Reply #9)

Sun Sep 8, 2013, 02:15 PM

11. One of the strange

things is that -- and I say this based upon an hour-long phone conversation I just had with an associate from a university on the west coast -- in the next week, the administration will be "fronted" by the same "perception management" group that Cheney et al hired to promote the first two wars in Iraq; that group, of course, is directly tied to a domestic group that lobbies for the interests of another nation.

Because the general public is presently opposed to the intervention in Syria, the perception management group will be pushing the images we're seeing on tv last night and today, and appealing specifically to the segment of the public that is pro-stained glass Jesus, which sadly means it will be an appeal to the fears and hatreds they hold towards "others." The sad thing is that, while we really know what Jesus would say, there are dark forces who are trying to excite the crowd into yelling, "crucify him!" again.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sun Sep 8, 2013, 02:19 PM

12. thank you

for your humanity. That was fine read. T

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