Waking The Dead, Redeeming The Living
“They make a wasteland, and call it peace.”
— Cornelius Tacitus
“Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice will not
— Thomas Jefferson
Thich Nhat Hanh.
From the exact to the sublime,
the timely to the timeless,
the perceptive to the transcendent,
my mind begins to awaken to the magnitude of the crime,
my mind begins to open to my complicity in the evil —
The Black Wall in Washington
is not a monument to dead soldiers,
it is a continuous dirge to a nation’s lost honor,
an innocence lost over and over again,
a loss of soul.
Nothing can ever be right until we expiate that crime,
a crime that continues
by the willful ignorance, the convenient unknowing
of we who enjoy the bounty of this American life.
Oh, dear God, don’t call us to accounts for a thousand years!
for it would take at least that long — even if we tried —
to compensate for the enormity we have created;
how sad to think our gods could be so cold,
our universe could be so empty and soulless,
that retribution for such evil could not possibly arrive —
What other comfort can the peasantry of the world have
as they shiver under the lengthening shadow
of our remorseless empire?
Monsoon-soaked ground bubbles up mines like a deranged apocalypse —
playthings for children —
and rivulets of poison trickle out of air-dropped wastelands
to seep into the veins of a new generation
and wither its fruit in the womb;
and here, in Jefferson’s land of the “ignorant and free,
in a state of civilization” that “never was and never will be,”
reflection on a withering career bubbles up memories,
fresh, gnawing, immune to time’s erosion,
buoyant against convenient forgetting,
stinging in their rebuke against my compliance to the course of evil.
Yes, even us little nobodies are faced with moral challenges,
inconveniently, unfairly, when we are young, when we are fragile.
We survive, we connive, we comply,
we feed our children and make our way,
but dare not hold out a cupped hand of water
to Jesus on his way to Golgotha.
My God, think what it would do to your career —
So we let others stretch out their hands
and we survive, quietly, into this future —
are we proud of it?
what great truth and what measure of courage
do you pass onto your children setting off on their own?
“Do you remember the Vietnam War, dad?”
We tell our children nothing about this,
we lie, we deny,
we glorify garbage myths for commercial exploitation,
we honor our greatest living war criminals
with prizes, bank presidencies, book contracts, speaking fees,
and we honor our greatest dead war criminals
by naming airports for them, by entombing them in televised temples.
Yes, I remember the Vietnam War.
I was not brave,
I did not challenge evil,
I looked out for myself,
and I am here.
All I can offer you is the truth,
and hope in that to find some redemption for my moral weakness,
and some grace in awakening you to greater good,
to deeper meaning,
to honest judgment that unfolds in your actions.
I want to cleanse my children’s country,
I want to cleanse my soul — in this world;
let the trials begin.
25 June 2001