Posted by: MC | July 5, 2010

The Day after Independence Day


Feelin’ it?  The independence?

Last night I sat under a sky that, after a day blanketed with marine clouds, cleared for this:  The exquisite blues riffed from Curtis Salgado’s voice and Lloyd Jones’ fingers dancing the way they do on the neck of his guitar.  But that’s not all.  The music those guys sent into the air around the Willamette River bounced off the buildings of the city, soaked into the vast lawn of the waterfront and some ten thousand listening ears until it finally surrendered and exploded itself into a brilliant contagion of pyrotechnics.  Best ever.

And that’s only one version of Independence Day in the U.S.  It was going on everywhere.  Each of us in our way, celebrated this thing from which we benefit daily, even when we don’t quite know how or what it is.

Also acknowledging the day were the combat troops and the other service people in the belly of the beast.  I know none of them personally.  That’s likely class privilege.  I do know veterans of other wars.  Some of them are very dear friends.

I’m also not of any remotely military background or family.  Nonetheless, this year I’m finding those women and men on my mind.  I wish them the comfort and joy of Salgado’s voice and Jones’ guitar and the innocence of the explosions that followed.  I wish them an end to our country’s struggle with the crazy web of conditions and circumstances that keep them in the big middle of harm’s way.  I wish them easy stories to remember, perhaps to tell, when they return – not the nightmares they likely are actually experiencing.  I wish they and the people of the country’s where they work were not being hurt so horribly – or even at all.

I wish lots of things.  That wishing is a large part of our individual and shared motive for change.

So, today in the spirit of that motive these voices of the EX:Change are on my mind.

Ed K., Jr. – Jackson, MS. “I went in the navy.  Flew an airplane in World War II.  Made 20 take offs and landings on carriers.  Spent time all over the United States – part of that time in Astoria, Oregon and Klamath Falls, Oregon.  The Japanese saw me coming and quit.”

Bob B. – Walnut Creek, CA. “I turned 21 in combat in Korea.  I had to stand guard duty from midnight to 4 a.m. on my birthday.  I didn’t tell anybody it was my birthday because the guys would say something like, “Let’s go get drunk and get laid.”  I’m on the front line.  That’s the way they give you a tease.  At end of the night, wouldn’t you know, I get guard duty again, 8 p.m. to midnight.  So, I spend 8 hours on my birthday standing guard.

“I’m standing out there about 11p.m. kind of feeling sorry for myself.  I say to myself, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’  Then I said, ‘You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to prove this war was caused by a political problem.’  The Korean War was, all these wars are.  I said, ‘I’m going to see if I can do something about it.’”

Art G. – Portland, OR.  “I decided to go into the army during Viet Nam because it seemed like the best job option I had.  No one had ever talked to me about college, so I didn’t give that any serious consideration.  The money wasn’t there anyway.  I did know I was on my way to becoming a full blown drunk.  I thought the army would help me pull out of that.  Instead it pushed me further in.

”I’d sure like to see our veterans coming home.  I think war has come to cost too much.  We might have been making money for awhile, but I think we’re losing money now, so I think it’s time to get people back home.

“They’re understanding a little more about what the veteran’s need when they come home.  More than with Viet Nam.  But I heard there have been problems with equipment supply over there.  Soldiers are having to buy their own equipment.  The government’s money wasn’t being spent on the soldiers.  There was a lady colonel who said they were having to buy their gas masks and flack jackets.  So, I don’t know where that money was going.  Somebody was getting it somewhere.

“Follow the money trail.  I know there’s a lot of money being spent on this war.  Somebody’s benefiting.”

Bob P. – Santa Barbara, CA. “My name’s Bob Potter and this is Steve.  We’re with the Veterans for Peace here in Santa Barbara and we have a memorial here called Arlington West that we’ve been hosting every week since November of 2003.  Steve was actually the person that got it started, but I’ve been working on it through most of that time.  So, for the past five years we’ve been asking for change.

“We’ve been trying to demonstrate the necessity for change through the cost of the current war in terms of human lives especially American soldiers, but also Iraqis.  So I’d say change, in the most pressing instances, comes from a situation which is so impossible that it can’t continue – that has to be changed.”

Most citizens of this country likely don’t think often of how precious independence is.  Our independence as individuals within a nation comes from lots of sources, not the least of which is our interdependence, the way we can rely on one another.  We rely on the military in ways we don’t necessarily like and for sure don’t fully appreciate.  We can’t unless we’ve been there.  On this day after Independence Day I’m feeling deeply grateful and a good bit sad for the cost of that privilege – that independence.

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