We the Living
by Bruce Patterson, April 5, 2017
“Men come and go like the waves of the sea. A tear, a medicine man, a dirge, and they are gone from our longing eyes. Even the White Man, whose god walked and talked with him as friend to friend, is not exempt from the common fate. We may be brothers after all. We shall see.”
—Chief Seattle, 1853
If I’d’ve known I’d live so long (I’m 66), I would’ve drank more whisky. I’d’ve trekked through more exotic slums, pitched more nickels, played more penny ante, pot limit Poker and more Hollywood Gin at five cents a point and two bits a box. Would’ve shot more money pool, broke more laws, picked more fights, chased more women and, in my foulest moods, hurled more curses at the gods. True grit lifer paratroopers liked getting themselves buried upside-down so the world could kiss their asses and, postwar young and on my own in the big city and, later, in the big country, that was my sentiment exactly. The most pleasant way to survive jungle combat is to pretend you’re already dead, and I was starting to get pretty good at it.
Until, through very little fault of my own, I got permanently hitched at age 24 (I got back from Nam when I was pushing 19 and I got out the Army a month after I’d turned 20). Suddenly a father at 28, I realized I’d best start thinking like a civilian again. Having already accumulated a long rap-sheet consisting of reckless decision-making, I knew I’d best start thinking like a father and a husband and say goodbye to my old bush bunny holemates, dead and alive, and forget about the fucking army, and the VA, and my obscene war—in a world getting gang-raped by obscene wars—and start focusing on the here and now. I needed to focus on me and mine and making the best of my cards even if it only means minimizing our losses. You know, as much as possible, seeing how I was way beyond ever again giving unconditional loyalty to any man, woman or beast, country, cause, god or devil. Both literally and figuratively, I knew what rotten people looked like. So in my old age I get to die humping a sundown re-supply day rucksack chock full of my C-Rat secrets.
And I sure didn’t expect I’d live long enough to see so many of my people interpreting Jefferson’s famous proclamation that “Life is for the living” to mean we the living get to trash humanity’s future. We who so foolishly believe that the rocks and the dirt, the winds and clouds, oceans and glaciers are dead things.
When we breathe, how many mini-paratroopers swirl in and out of our lungs? How many critters swim in a thimble full of our spit? (My grandmas, mom, big sister, little step sister, stepmom and about every girl and woman I’ve ever known knew what a thimble is good for). Ever wonder how many rowdy individuals are colonizing a square inch of your skin? How many square inches of skin do we have serving as the hostess with the mostess for their particular kind of clientele (nobody has ever gotten nostril dandruff or eyeball crabs; nobody’s ever grown a booger under a fingernail).
So how’s it possible to believe that when we die, the world dies with us? Who do we think we are? Pharaohs getting entombed with our servants and slaves, favorite bookkeepers and palm leaf fan wavers? Ah, we’ve been running with the herd. Everybody knows how it feels. But when it’s the herd you’re running with that defines who you are more than the other way around, what happens when your herd has lost its way? Must you still follow? Since the correct answer is No, why do so many of us say Yes?
When German civilians celebrated in the streets after Poland unconditionally capitulated to Germany’s mechanized Iron Will, were they looking forward to a glorious 1,000 Year Reich? In 1939, how many Germans foresaw that pretty quick German cities and “strategic assets” would be subjected to unrelenting Allied terror bombings? That, by the uncounted scores of thousands, German adults would get to eyewitness Germany’s children getting BBQed and blown to bits? How many Germans foresaw that Berliners would so soon suffer the fate of the residents of Warsaw?
When Thomas Jefferson boldly declared that “Life is for the living,” he was asserting a people’s right to throw off the shackles of the past. History has purpose, as people have purpose, and one generation sets the table for the next. That’s the process that allowed European Civilization to emerge out of the unending tribal wars of the Dark Ages. It’s how, over the next 1,000 years, European Civilization birthed three great social Renaissances and then the Age of Enlightenment; the philosophical mother and father of the American Revolution, Modern Science and Modern Man. Coming in its wake, the Age of Science put an end to a whole slew of Europe’s ancient scourges and superstitions; superstitions most dramatically expressed in the countless pogroms, witch-burnings and “religious wars” that had stained sixty human generations with rivers of blood. Religious wars fought for Gold and Glory that led to famine for the conquered and the plundered, which led to plagues that left behind only bleached bones, ruined villages and scorched earth.
It wasn’t we Moderns who invented genocide. Once, in the late 19th Century, we came into possession of dynamite and the repeating rifle, we just industrialized it and helped spread it around the world. Outside of China, nothing in all of human history approaches the scale and depravity of the battlefield butcheries during Europe’s WW1. Nothing until, once a new generation of soldiers had reached maturity, WW2 at least doubled the body count, this time the great mass graves, as in medieval days, stuffed with slaughtered civilians.
Seeing how both European Wars consisted of young, mostly single White Male Christians massacring all kinds of White Christians while pretending to speak for God and Country (be it Austria or Hungary, Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox), how can we today still so passionately believe in such murderous fools and hypocrites? Can’t we see they’re bankrupting us in more ways than one? And for what? To “secure” Afghanistan? To “secure” Iraq and Syria, Libya and Somalia? Sure, while we’re at it, we may as well clone a cow that jumps over the moon.
If we really wanted peace, we’d mind our manners and get the hell out of where we’re not welcome and absolutely don’t belong. At long last at peace, we’d thank our Lucky Stars we got out alive with all our fingers and toes.
“What now? You say God commands that we Shall Not Kill? Oh yeah? Is God under attack by Radical Islamic Terrorists? Is He surrounded by their financiers, fellow travelers, appeasers, holy warriors, copycats and lone wolves? When God Himself comes under attack by Radical Islamic Suicide Bombers flying in formation and coming straight out of the sunrise, tell Him to come talk to us. Till then, shut your mouth and pass the ammunition.”
In martial terms, there was nothing during the blood-soaked 20th Century that was more disgraceful than the American Air Force’s saturation bombings (using mostly B-52s) of the Plain of Jars in Laos during the 1960s and ‘70s. Not only were the victims totally helpless, they were totally innocent. Yet, like bugs getting sprayed with DDT, they never knew what hit them. Those who survived the bombings couldn’t understand what was happening. Had their villages with roots reaching back to the beginnings of time suddenly enraged the land’s spirits? Would they get bombed again?
Since there was no valor on the American side, American school children never hear the words “Plain of Jars.” If the ancient chickenhawk “God and Country” Militarists who currently rule us have their way, soon no American schoolchild will ever again hear of the “battles” of Wounded Knee or Washita Creek, Dresden or Nagasaki. When he pointed out that those who control the present write the history, and those who write the history control the future, Orwell nailed it.
And so, judging by how we spend so much of our tax money on financing unending long lost wars and expanding international gunrunning, war must be good. War is profitable and profitability—and only profitability—creates jobs (“the government doesn’t create jobs,” asserts the members of our Foreign Legions and their Camp Followers spread out around the world). Which is more profitable? Exporting rice or exporting guns and ammunition and expert advice? It’s a no-brainer, right? Who takes peanuts when he can get clams?
According to our new State Religion, there can be no separation between war and profitability: Jesus is all business and running the USA is like being a Pentagon Contractor strictly accountable to your stockholders even if they themselves are bundles of stock no more substantial than the digits appearing and disappearing on computer screens. We’re surrounded by enemies who must be killed because American lives must be saved. The kill/ratio is irrelevant. Always killing, never dying—how much sweeter can war get on God’s Green Earth?
And so, ladies and gentlemen, here’s this year’s bill for our Peace Keeping Missions, weapons research and development, infrastructure investments, wages and benefits, salaries and dividends, etc. What, you don’t have the cash on hand? You forgot to put the money aside? No problem. We offer endless lines of credit; as much credit as you please. In return for facilitating the deal between the old and the young, we wish only to become filthy rich—the filthier the better, if you don’t mind. We do not appreciate wasting our time.
When, back in March of 2015, I read that, while fully subsidized by the US taxpayers, the God and Country Saudi Arabians were using American made fighter-bombers to exterminate—or bomb into submission, though the distinction is all but meaningless to those under the bombs—the Shia of Yemen, I was reminded of that old crying shame called the Plain of Jars. If only we could see and talk with our Yemeni victims. If only we could wake up lying next to the corpse of some dead Yemeni child killed in action while sleeping in his room. Maybe then we’d start paying attention to where our money goes.
During thirty-six hours recently, the Trump junta unleashed more air strikes (20+) on Yemen than the Obama administration had launched during their last twelve months in office (he was meeting another campaign promise). In recent weeks, hundreds of Iraqi and Syrian civilians have been slaughtered by American airpower, armor and artillery. And look what the Americans and the Saudis have done to the ancient city of Sanaa. What have the people of Sanaa ever done to the Americans? How did they suddenly become such a mortal threat to us? Can a mouse really swallow an elephant?
Is it right and proper that we as taxpayers should be slaughtering civilians without us even knowing about it? Myself, I’m mighty tired of watching us making the same catastrophic mistakes over and over while the corpses are piling up like cow manure behind a long row of automated corporate milking barns. As if, to our new way of thinking, life is for the killing. As if, in righteous self-defense, we’re pretending we’re already dead.
FOOTNOTES: According to the UN, so far there has been at least 50,000 Yemini killed and wounded, a third of them children. Out of a national population of 27,000,000, 2,000,000+ are now homeless refugees. An estimated 14,000,000 are short on drinking water and proper sanitation. 17,000,000 are subject to famine. California has a population of 40,000,000. Yemen is 203,850 Square miles; California is 163,696.