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Monday, November 12, 2012

This, and only this, is patriotism

Monday, wet, grey, and low-ceilinged. For me, no commute this morning. Today is the compensating federal day off (here in the US) because Veterans Day (11/11) falls on a Sunday.

Veterans Day was officially established to note the formal end of the Major hostilities of World War I, which happened when the Germans signed the Armistice at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Now, it is a more-general (no pun intended) holiday to honor all the men and women who have been or are in military service.

These days, though, Veterans Day has become an impatient holiday that many acknowledge only as a day off. While some communities still hold parades with flags and veterans, most mark the day with retail sales. Restaurants offer free or discounted meals for veterans as a marketing opportunity, some homes will stick a flag in a bracket out front for the day.

Wars are no longer "Great" or generational, and they rarely require our entire country's collective and visceral sacrifice the way World Wars 1 & 2 did. The collective sacrifice to war these days is huge national debt and the resulting impact that has on politics, taxation, and social services, all kept deftly and patriotically distanced from discussions about balancing the federal budget. Instead, the debt of war is blamed on those who need social services ("takers"), the size of "big" government (never mind that military spending is government's biggest growth program), and that rather vaguely-defined monster "Wall Street."

As a result, our contemporary wars are not daily-headline-daily-life stuff. Identifying what our soldiers serve for is harder to honestly define these days, though we have our comfortingly simple patriotic slogans to fall back on. We have our yellow ribbon stickers to place on the rear-ends of our gas-sucking oversized consumption-mobiles, so we can both ensure the need for more soldiers in the field and pretend to be patriotic on their behalf. We have red, white, and blue sales at the mall.

Meanwhile, countless men and women continue to enlist, serve, and sacrifice. For those who return home we offer an impatient holiday once a year, gutted social services and difficult-to-obtain medical care just when many of them need it most, and a total lack of understanding for the experiences many of these men and women have been through or the adjustments they have to make as they attempt to return home to what for the rest of us has remained a steadily-normal uninterrupted life. War? What war?

So long as we continue to send our men and women to war zones around the world, then, we owe it to them to be consciously informed and aware. We must hold our politicians (who, after all, are merely an extension of our votes and of the corporations who fund them) accountable for this cost, and we must only allow them to spend military service when and where truly necessary. We must make sure we fully fund the full range of services and support our military families need during and after service. We must also fight against the comfortable illusion that war is something other people do or that it has little to no impact on our lives here at home. We must also ensure that our military is only an extension of our country's values, and not allow it to be used for any other reasons.

We are paying dearly for our wars, and it does not honor that sacrifice when we pretend otherwise. This, and only this, is patriotism.

To the men and women of our nation's several military services, to those who have served or who are currently serving, I offer my sincere thanks for your service and commit to do everything in my power to make sure such service is not taken for granted.

I wish you all a very mindful Veterans Day!

- Posted via Hermes.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Frost and Pumpkin

The frost is on the pumpkin this morning, as well as the rooftops, lawns, and the cars parked along the curb. Clear skies, already lightening to faint blue in the early morning first-sunlight, are here and there strung with wisps of thin clouds that look like leftover Halloween decoration cobwebs.

The trees outside my office window are now mostly denuded. Only a few days ago they were full of leaves ablaze in orange and gold. Now they cling to the last few shriveled browned leaves, those of the recalcitrant sort that cling on through winter. The only gold left is fading on the ground along the roots, matching the yellow fire-lane strip on the parking lot in front of them.

Today's random "spin" of the Poetry Foundation app brought up an Epiphany, by Joanie Mackowski, which begins:
A momentary rupture to the vision:
the wavering limbs of a birch fashion

the fluttering hem of the deity’s garment,
the cooling cup of coffee the ocean the deity

waltzes across. This is enough—but sometimes
the deity’s heady ta-da coaxes the cherries

in our mental slot machine to line up, and
our brains summon flickering silver like

salmon spawning a river; the jury decides
in our favor, and we’re free to see, for now.

Fortunate we are for that. A clear autumn morning like this is achingly ripe for seeing, smelling, feeling. (Do take a few minutes to follow the link above and read the rest of Epiphany. It's worth it, I promise.)

More seasonally and descriptively apropos to this crisp and clear fall morning is James Whitcomb Riley:
They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here –
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.


Today's full commute playlist:
- Brandi Carlile: Tragedy
- Philip Glass: The Chase (from the music of Undertow)
- Buena Vista Social Club: El Cuarto de tula
- Sixpence None The Richer: Don't Dream It's Over
- Five for Fighting: Angels and Girlfriends

- Posted via Hermes.