Thursday, February 21, 2013

While Poetry Holds the Mirror

In returning this morning to a poetry anthology from the early 1970's, I was again amazed at how little things have changed. We appear doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, brandishing our weapons and then using them, whether they be guns, bombs, or drones. I urge you to familiarize yourself with what is happening, and not just how we are using drones to conduct warfare around the world, but how they are being used right here at home. The FAA has issued 30,000 permits for drones here in the U.S. which have the capability of gathering and cataloging our every move. Many drones are armed, which means they can be detonated anywhere, at anytime, with no advance warning. I don't know about you, but I don't sleep as well as I used to.

I'm very concerned about the direction this country is taking, our utter disregard for human life in other parts of the world. What our government refers to as "collateral damage," is really the tally of those we've killed along with the intended target, and that number continues to grow. The official number of children killed in Pakistan since early September of last year still stands at 176, children murdered by our drones because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it's a number which has really grown to just under 300. Somehow it never gets updated.

This poem by Olga Cabral, rediscovered in my anthology this morning, reveals the sad, awful reality: war has become a way of life and greed is commonplace. Poets continue to hold up the mirror that reveals the truth, a truth we may not like, may even blanch at, but ignorance is not bliss, it's just ignorance, and in this day and age there is no excuse for not being informed. Change the geographical location from Vietnam to, well, pretty much any place in the world where we are taught to believe the Other exists, and here we go again:

"Another Late Edition"

This morning the sun
for the first time in 7,000,000 years
reported late for work.
A major disaster was declared,
the major crawled underneath Manhattan
with his Mark Cross survival kit,
governments in Saigon
chased each other through revolving doors,
molten metal fell from the eyes of Bartholdi’s Statue
which went public and was sold at noon
on the Stock Exchange.
    Leaving our dinosaur footprints through the streets of cities
    what future tarpits will reveal our bones?
    what amber of what eye
    preserve this age?

Sheriff Rainey shifted his plug
of Red Man tobacco
and spat clear to Washington,
staining the White House and the white walls of the Capitol
with dark runnels of derision.
Whose blood? Whose Blood
on the Lincoln Monument?
Chaney’s. Goodman’s. Schwerner’s.
They are dragging Walt Whitman through the streets of
(Bearded Jew from Brooklyn.)
They’ve got a rope around Abe Lincoln’s neck.
(What’d we do that’s wrong if we
killed two Jews and one Nigger?)

    Then all the ovens of Maidanek
    opened their mouths.
    I saw the enemy, a seven-year-old boy.
    I heard him screaming for his cooked eyeballs.
    I saw the granny blazing like a bundle of reeds,
    heard the infant wailing in a winding-sheet of flame
    in a village of thatched huts
    hit by napalm.

The stones hate us.
The eyes are bitter.
Every tree is out to strangle us.
The grass mistrusts us.
We are strangers here at a million bucks a day.
They say the richest man in the world has just
foreclosed Fort Knox.
A million bucks a day can buy
a President. A war. A world.
    But not one hair of the head of the
                   seven-year-old boy
    in a village that went up in napalm.

~ Olga Cabral

Olga Cabral was born in the West Indies and then moved to New York (1909 - 1997).

Painting "Under the Palms," by Winslow Homer.


  1. Hello Teresa:
    This is an exceedingly powerful poem, so perfectly reflecting the age in which we live. And, your heartfelt words are so apposite, but what is to be done?

    For certain we must not remain silent and nameless for that is to allow all manner of atrocities in our names. This is all so very disturbing but still small voices in the dark when they make a cast of millions can be heard!!

    1. Jane and Lance, Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I cannot remain silent. Perhaps, as you suggest, every voice counts and ultimately will be heard.

  2. I think the very best that each of us can do is to continue to hold up that mirror wherever and whenever we can.

    1. Yes, I agree. It's a tough subject that many people would prefer not to look at, but look we must...

  3. What I don't understand is the Apathy these days.....the least in the Vietnam era people were angry about the situation.Where did the concern go?

    1. That's the Big Question, Tony. I see acceptance and apathy. The most dangerous thing in today's scenario is this indifference to the suffering of others and blind submission to the state. Everyone wants to believe there's a big perfect plan and there isn't. Just more killing and greater disparity between the serfs and the kings. Goosestepping to the Left is as dangerous as to the right.

    2. I'm with Tony here. It's full steam ahead with these things and the ones who can make a difference remain silent.

      We are not wrong here on this issue or others but are the very few who do speak out.

    3. Thank you! I appreciate your commenting on this.

  4. Drones, however packaged or spun, embody the sanitisation and marketing of death. Obama is a marketing man as much as an orator. There is a job waiting for him as Professor of Oratory and Rhetoric at Harvard.

    1. The way this is marketed is especially odious. I hope people choose to wake up earlier rather than later.

  5. I along with you feel extremely uneasy about this direction. Good info post for those that are uninformed about this situation -- barbara

    1. It's much needed info, and I feel very strongly about this... thanks, Barbara.

  6. I did not know drones were flying over America, but have been reading up on it after reading your post. One report said that a fly-sized drone is being developed to follow individuals. Meanwhile our minds are occupied with whatever CNN decides we should be concerned about today, the Oscars maybe.

    1. Drones all along the borders now, and many more we never hear about...

      There are many ways we are distracted. It's getting very weird out there, Jill.

  7. Here is a drone report you can trust. On Monday, January 28, I was working at a marina along Clear Lake, south of Houston. Sometime around 4 or 4:30, I heard the sound of an aircraft. We're used to plenty of Coast Guard helicopters flying between Galveston and Ellington Field, army helicopters, private small planes, military jets, aerobatic planes and such, but this sounded different.

    I looked up and saw something I couldn't identify approaching from the east. As I watched, I became increasingly concerned as it descended to fly just a few feet above the water - maybe the height of an average mast. I honestly thought it was going to crash. It didn't.

    I figured out it wasn't a pontoon plane, either, and then, as it cruised on down the lake, I realized it was a drone. There simply was no question.

    Of especial interest was the fact that that same afternoon, the US military and local law enforcement had carried out an "exercise" at an old high school. The sky was filled with helicopters, and there were reports of live fire on the ground.

    No notice had been given, and the 911 lines were full of grandmothers, shoppers, kids, and worried out-and-about citizens wondering what the h*$& was going on.

    There's no question in my mind that the drone was connected to that exercise. The next day, another "exercise" had been scheduled for Galveston, but it was cancelled once the word got out about it.

    I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don't lie awake at night listening to Coast to Coast with George Noory and I don't stockpile food. However. There is a reason the government has stockpiled more than enough ammunition to mow down the entire country, and there's a reason these "urban warfare" exercises are taking place. I just don't know what that reason is.

    We need to find out.

    1. It's happening around the country, these military exercises in public areas, which I think are meant to instill fear, intimidate even. No I'm not a Noory listener either, but many conspiracy theories that were out several years ago have now been proven to be true, so...

      I agree... we need to find out...

  8. There is just SOOO much I want to say about this, I'm afraid it would turn into an unbearable rant if I start. Bottom line for me is that we're living in a culture of death and violence, and few seem to give a rip. There is no real antiwar movement now. Most of those who used to populate it now sit at the feet of their hero, gazing up adoringly into his eyes. He who decides over his morning coffee who he will assassinate today. (And I don't believe for a minute the end result would be much different if a different warmonger from the other team sat in his office instead). I reckon I'd better stop at that.
    I saw John Dear speak powerfully on this subject at last years Wild Goose Festival. Here's a link:

    It takes a while to watch this, but if you should find the time there's some good stuff in here. Unfortunately the video picks up a few minutes into his talk (leaving out some of the best parts).

    1. Bill, I will find the time this evening to watch the video. Thank you. I agree completely, that adoration of our so-called leader with a kill list who has apparently very little or no compunction over the loss of innocent lives in the process of eliminating those they deem kill-worthy, is beneath contempt. People really need to wake up and I agree, no difference would be noticed no matter who holds that office. This is where we are in the leadership of this country. I deeply appreciate your comment

  9. Dear Teresa, these are hard and bitter truths to read and digest. It takes courage today to read our newspapers and watch the news and to know that we are being lied to right and left. To whom can we go to find a modicum of truth?

    In Debra's most recent posting she had a link to an article about the poet Stanley Kunitz. I think you'd enjoy reading this article. Here's the URL for Debra's posting in which the link appears.


    1. We live in a time when hard and bitter truths must be digested if we are to retain our souls.

      I will enjoy reading the Kunitz piece. He's a great poet.

      Thank you, Dee. Peace....

  10. This is a sad and scary thing, isn't it?

  11. On the local news here they were talking about how a lot of people here in Oklahoma want a revolution because of the gun control issue. Frankly, it scares me, but it leads me to understand why our government may find drones necessary. I have been working on cultivating a Zen attitude because I feel it too late for change for the good.
    The difference in the 60's and today is that money/materialism has corrupted many and the poor have succumbed to drugs or other means of escapism with many sent to prison. We have no leaders and if/when leaders do emerge, they are removed.
    I'm just looking for a mountain top.

    1. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg... distrust of our gov't, perfectly warranted, might have much to do with excessive arming of the populace... I try to stay on that mountain top but the wind is blowing even there...

  12. Teresa, I'm very clear in that we had not learned the lessons of Vietnam, having lived through those bad years. Bush stampeded our country into an unnecessary and unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq even more brazenly than LBJ did before. And Obama has unjustifiably prolonged our presence in Afghanistan after the termination of Osama bin Laden. (The use of drones in Pakistan comes from the perceived need to protect troops in Afghanistan!) As in the case of Vietnam, we have overstayed our Mandate from Heaven. That is the source of our problem. Drones, themselves, don't bother me. If drones amount to an alternative of bombing, invading, and occupying, they're not so bad. Not so good either. But not as bad as the earlier technologies. As for domestic surveillance? As long as I trust my government, I'm kinda all for surveillance: life in the times of global community...

    I can find agreement with some of what Rubye Jack says above, but I can expect a lot of argument from others.

    1. A better style of warfare just leaves me shaking my head... I'm tired of seeing the choices in the lens of either or... My problem is, I don't trust our gov't. Not one bit...

  13. Oh Teresa, Teresa,, if only there were more like you. Or maybe if women, mothers, wives and girl friends had a say.

    Will we ever change?

    1. I don't know, Friko, but your comment is heartening, to say the least...

  14. Strange days indeed. The pendulum has swung so far in one direction it may never find true center again. During the Vietnam war Congress was not completely controlled by Big Biz, today it is. It's really hard to no what is going on because media is also Big Biz. The charade will continue until the Supreme Court decides that corporations are not people and we outlaw all forms of lobbying and special interest money.

    1. ...not something I expect to see any time soon.... :)

  15. This post speaks to me on so many levels Teresa...

    1. I don't know how you find my site, but I'm so glad you did...

  16. I wonder if what we are seeing is the darkness before the dawn. Is it possible there can be a shift towards the light on a global scale? It seems that the best in us comes out in the worst times. The more serious the crisis, the more heroes appear. So maybe that's what will happen. I don't know.

    1. I've wondered the same thing, Galen, and keep going back to where it has to start: with me. I'm struggling lately with seeing what I know I need to see. I just know I feel compelled to speak out on this issue...

  17. Inexhaustible storehouses of revenge and vengeance have been accumulated by humankind for thousands of years, scattering across the earth and if we can peep unto the unseen future, the outer space too shall be filled with inhuman qualities. And, cocoons of indifference forming in the minds of humankind...who is becoming less and less kind nowadays (including me as well:)). The beasts in the forest are far off better than man in the cities, who is wearing the masks of modernity and advancement. Fear and selfishness are needed to sustain us as part of survival, but when that become phobic elements, the result is not just drones over our head, but in our dreams too. Many innocent people died in the course of wars and many other violent incidences. As you pointed out, the term, 'collateral damage' is now being used by many governments around the globe to 'incinerate' their sins!!. Human lives are becoming breadcrumbs.

    A power pact poem. Hits the core of my being. Wonderful post. Hat's off to you.

    1. Your comments, as always, are very insightful and well-stated. I'm so grateful you take the time to read and respond. Thank you very much.