HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

March 12, 2007
Two Poems

Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com
This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel.  If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at velvel@mslaw.edu.  Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.


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Let Us Now Praise Honest Men

It is often said that truth is dead
When “the guns begin to shoot.”
Truth is mute, maybe moot,
When the important point
Is to anoint
Those who face mortuary or reliquary;
Who must shoot and wound and maybe kill
Arabs -- who pay the butcher’s bill;
Or bomb a village --
Which we would never, never pillage;
And may lose an arm, a leg, or more,
Or leave bits of brain on an Iraqi floor.
No, when this is what we face
All must salute who are in our place,
And cheer the leaders Bush and Cheney
And ignore their many lies profaning
What once was hoped a nation moral
Or at least partially,
What once was hoped a nation honest,
Or at least passably;
Where torture was thought beyond the pale
Of what could be done in Iraq or jail;
And lies from government might excite
Immediate obloquy as a blight
On the escutcheon of what we thought was right,
Where the lies of Johnson inspired hate,
The lies of Nixon, Watergate,
And the lies of Clinton plain contempt
For one of tongue so strangely bent.


Thank God we’re now sophisticated
And have learned to love a war we hated.
One that will not be abated,
Or mitigated,
Or terminated
By Congress --
Not because it lacks the guts --
Oh no.  Rather because it’s seen the light:
Protect the troops by making them fight --
By making them face the improvised shell
Designed to blow them all to hell
In trucks and Humvees with armor lacking,
Or on foot patrols without the backing
Of Iraqi soldiers worth a damn,
Who won’t in a fight go on the lam;
While our troops know the next stop’s Iran.
As once it was Viet Nam,
And before the Bomb, imperial Japan.


This Congress of our admiration,
The best we can buy in this whole nation,
Gives us candidates for President
Who must be from heaven sent
In the sense that Lincoln meant
In March, 1865:  that is, as punishment
Visited upon the guilty.
There is John McCain,
Now of Letterman fame.
Of two admirals a descendant,
A warrior transcendent(?)
Who hasn’t met a war he didn’t like,
And the number of troops wants to hike.
To what? 200,000? 300,000? Still more?
The theory being: more deaths till we win the war;
Who regrets nothing that he’s done, I’m guessing,
Except for being bought by Charles Keating.
And then, of course, there’s Hillary.
Whose tongue makes Bill’s look straight;
With major liars she does rate
(According to Geffen).
Ah, a perfect type to nominate
Since experience with liars is so great,
And we would hardly know what to do
With a leader who feels what she says should be true.
Make no mistake: Hillary made none,
And does not regret what she has done,
When she voted for war
On the basis of what she knew then,
Of what she was told by lying men,
The type with whom she had much experience,
Yet to whom she gave great deference,
And of whom she asked few questions
Though they’d order thousands of deaths in a forlorn cause
Unless the vote of Congress forced a pause,
If not an outright stop;
Thus showing yet again,
As so often before on her long ascent,
That she would do anything to be the wife of,
And then be, the President.
This is the kind of person we should want --
Would you rather we were honesty’s haunt?
Or the kind of people who won’t lie to advance --
To become king or queen of whatever their dance?



The Long Line

Walter Reed
Is a huge misdeed,
Yet not momentous
Nor portentous.
For it’s only the latest in the line
Of serial crime
That has victimized men
When they’re home again
From the wars.


After World War I
There was poverty
And then the attack
On the bonus army.
After World War II
The South’s racist crew --
Which meant nearly all Southern whites --
Kept blacks in suppression
With Jim Crow repression
Though they’d helped win the war
(At Iwo Jima, on D-Day, in the air, nearly everywhere).
This had happened before
After the Civil War
And the Spanish war --
Blacks always thought
That if they fought
And proved they were men
They’d be treated as befits a citizen.
But it was never to be
Until, in part to avoid World War III,
That is, in part as foreign policy,
They received rights that belong to the free.
And after Viet Nam,
When victimized men came home again --
Men victimized by Johnson’s stupidity
And his mendacity,
And by Nixon’s political cupidity,
And his mendacity
And his plain evil soul --
Once again men weren’t treated right
Though we’d sent them to Viet Nam to fight.
It should not have mattered
Whether one opposed the war
Or had filled the air with “Patriotic Gore.”
Men who carried the fight
Should have been treated right --
This is just decency --
But again they were not.
Most despicably not
When by superpatriot
Who had urged the war.
But culpably too by almost everyone else,
Especially seekers of political pelf --
The swine.
Will no one rid of us of them, as Shakespeare said?
Though I’m not suggesting that they should be dead
(As he did).
But only that a better class should arise
Even if this would greatly surprise.
So Walter Reed, you see,
Though in memory
Will be remembered for ignominy,
Is but the latest in a long line
Of misdeeds towards the men “Who shall have borne the battle” (as Lincoln put it).


Kipling had it right:
“‘[I]t’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that,’ an ‘chuck him out, the brute!’”
But it’s not “‘savior of ‘is country’when the guns [no longer] shoot.”
Then it’s the rat infested infirmary,
The holed and dirty room contrary
To everything we’ve learned since Koch.
It’s the careless incompetence of those who botch
The care they provide troops in their care,
And with bullshit excuses fill the air --
They and behind them everyone
Responsible for the atrocity that is Iraq,
For the disaster that’s Bush’s biggest crock
Of all the many he has foisted on us.
Will no one rid us politically
Of this horrid, mishapen monstrosity?