He remembered the war, of course he did, but he never talked about it. That’s just the way of it. Not that he dwelled on it, or in it. Not many of them did. Was it a different era or were they just a different breed? Now the movies and T.V. and press show the soldier as an initiate into some secret brotherhood that marks them as special. And the more the system screws them, the more aid to vets is cut, the more scandals in their health care, the more tours of duty are stacked onto their lives till their homes and careers threaten to break, the more fevered becomes the rhetoric. “Our heroes”; “protecting us overseas”; “putting your lives on the line so we can enjoy our freedoms, or football, or Walmarts, or whatever is celebrating itself at the moment by grabbing some second-hand glory for whatever tarnished and shabby institution they represent. The shabbier and more senseless the war…the more hollow its objectives and justifications…the more one-sided our advantage…the more distorted the news from the front…the more random the casualties on all sides—the shriller and more meaningless the phony adoration of those who are treated first as pawns and then, so often, as cast-offs.
That wasn’t the way it was back then. Any supposed big-shots who laid it on so thick back then would be seen as showboating fools who just didn’t know enough about life to know that death had nothing to do with glory. Just wanted to get home and get life back on track. But somehow it seems to have gone off-track. Probably plenty of soldiers today feel the same way, but it’s not their voices that we tend to hear. They’re drowned out, I think, by the overly sentimental rhetoric of adoration, an orchestrated chorus of corporate, media, and political propagandists who, by inflating the image of those who go to war, intend only to justify the war itself and, of course, its profits.
Could it be that fighting Hitler and Tojo in World War II was great publicity for war in general? It’s rare that evil incarnates with such undistilled fervor. Those monsters did a favor for the military that’s been paying off ever since. The masters of war learned to sell the public on demonic bogey-men who, like crocodiles in Whack-a-mole, keep popping up ever more rapidly, providing grist for war, one more war to end terror, to end drugs, to end doubt.
They can’t even wait for an enemy anymore. The war on terror. They say it’ll take decades, maybe forever. Is that what our soldiers fought for? A nation dedicated to perpetual war? What can be more impossible to end than a war on terror? Terror is a feeling. Like that song, “Stuck on a Feeling”. Terrorist acts are violence against innocents that aim to inspire terror in a population. We fight terror with horror. We say the one-sided bombings we inflict on you are war. They may be horrible, but they are unavoidable because we just want to stamp out terror. A fine distinction, the one between horror and terror. And whose terror? If we kill to prevent terror, then the terror is already our own, already within us.
Inflicting horror against terror costs. Trillions. Ever ask where it goes? America, we’re screwed. We’d rather fight terror than provide people with decent medical care. Rather have young men and women so desperate to join the military than offer them a decent education or job. Rather allow our bridges and roads to crumble than cut back on bombers so advanced there literally is no threat to justify their existence. Hospitals, schools, city and state budgets, the entire economy has been turned over to banks and privateers and insurance companies and hedge funds. To defense. To defend the profits of the banks and privateers and insurance companies and hedge funds The commodity is sacred, profit is god, and marketing is its Bible. And the people, as in “we the people”, the people are expendable.
It was easier back then to believe in the war. The enemy was evil, the task ahead so clear. No need to bang your drum about it. The medals were kept in a draw. He was a radio-machine gunner, a waist gunner on a B-24 Liberator. The B-24 was known as “the Flying Coffin”. Their plane’s name was Big Time Operator, though they weren’t the only crew that chose that name. They had a reputation for being lucky, for always getting back no matter how shot up, and it was considered good luck to fly in formation with them. It was their plane on the monument at their old air field in East Anglia. Casualties were very high. He never thought about that. Or maybe he did. He just never talked about it.