During our recent “celebration” of Memorial Day, I heard the rumblings of muscular motorcycles outside my window, on the streets below my apartment in Washington, D.C. There seemed to be many such displays in public places or on TV. A former judge in my apartment building told me about “festivities” taking place at the Kennedy Center, to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of John F. Kennedy.
But, none of this felt right. Or, at least, not more than partially right. For, while we must acknowledge the sacrifices and contributions of those who help and defend, how can we neglect those who continue to mourn lost friends, lost lovers, lost parents, children, siblings? Lost limbs, lost hopes and dreams?
War is the failure of humanity–a collective failure to be better than we might be. It is the failure of all “leaders” to collaborate on peaceful settlement–to work towards “positive peace” (as Johan Galtung has it: shared responsibilities and benefits of peace) as well as the usual “celebrated” “negative peace” of non-conflict.
Some years ago, I heard poet Robert Bly (author of “Iron John” and other notable books) talk about the need to “mourn.” He described it as a means of “stepping into grief,” acknowledging our losses, our sorrows.
Not simply to “move on,” as the simple among us believe and exhort, but to move deeper–into ourselves and into our common humanity.
On Veterans Day and Memorial Day and the 4th of July, let us remember the Peace Veterans, too. And let us grieve for those in all nations who share the losses of lives and hopes and dreams.
During the Vietnam War, long ago (but not so long ago!), my thoughts coalesced in a poem I wrote for one I loved: a poem to contrast the “high town” of love–sexual, sensual, spiritual–from the scarred earth of scattered bones and broken lives….
Now Float Me Down
By Gary Corseri
Now float me down from that high town, my love;
For we are born to sorrow, men have said,
And cannot travel where the angels rove;
Now float me down to ground where men have bled.
There, heartache cannot thunder through our skin;
We’re drenched to magic, drunken out of time;
The hours dance like refugees between
Our arms; the cool moon’s hanging like a dime.
Here, where we’re waked by sudden storms of bombs,
The infant’s world is strangled with a groan;
Death, perched on crutches, pesters us for alms.
O, do not rush me here, now float me down….
The ghosts of many gunners chafe the ground
Where we dance heart to heart without a sound.
Bio: Gary Corseri has published/posted articles, poems and stories at VeteransNewsNow.com TMS (TranscendMediaService.org), DissidentVoice.org, The Greanville Post, ICH, Redbook Magazine, The New York Times, Countercurrents, Counterpunch, Village Voice, Common Dreams, Boiling Frogs, Global Research, and hundreds of other global venues. His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and at universities and public schools. His books include novels, poetry collections, and a literary anthology (edited). He has been a professor in the U.S. and Japan, and has taught in prisons and public schools. He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.