When I was younger
You were an ocean
A terrifying beauty
There were colors in your coral reefs I’d never seen before
Sometimes I drifted into your depths
until I couldn’t see the shore
Body surfing in your waves
until my muscles were sore
was as much fun as I had known
As much as I will ever know
The beasts that stirred in your depths
Could tear me apart in their teeth
And the dream of drowning in you was real
You covered so much of my world
Now that I’m older
You are a river
A soothing place to rest and watch the clouds roll by
I lie on my back and float in your current
and never lose sight of the shore
I skip my stones across you
and see my reflection in your placid surface
I see the sun setting across your lee shore
with all of the colors of coral
but behind it, the darkness is coming
Sometimes in the winter when you’re cold and hard
I walk over you
And have no fear
That I will drown in you
I wouldn’t mind, now, if I did
Against all odds and evidence
All you need is love
I still believe, impossibly, the best is yet to come
All the fractures, strains, and breaks are as valuable as privilege
as precious as the prejudice of
knowing without seeing
flinching without being hit
crying with nothing to cry for
talking with nothing to say
losing good money to a machine
or an instrument that doesn’t play
This is the time when the evidence cracks
and the blood that is flowing belongs to us all
and belongs to nobody
and belongs to the people who haven’t been born yet
who will know prejudice against us
This Veteran’s Day I am thinking about the legacy of veterans that goes beyond wars and weapons, to the ideas that compel people to take up arms, and to the wisdom that is gained through experience, especially such transforming experience as war.
Germany, in the early 1930s, was a shithole country. Not that our current president would categorize it that way – most of its residents being white – but it had debts that it could not pay. It rang up those debts in the first World War and thought it might be better to commit further atrocities than to pay off those debts. It was correct. Germany was allowed to prosper after the second World War, regardless of its offenses against the human race, in part because of the Marshall Plan.
Unlike the behavior after previous wars, the Allies did not confiscate the land and property of the Axis powers, or subjugate their people. Instead, the United States government from 1948-1952 gave roughly $100 billion in today’s dollars to rebuild their economies.
On June 5, 1947, US Secretary of State George Marshall spoke these words to the graduating class of Harvard University:
The modern system of the division of labor upon which the exchange of products is based is in danger of breaking down. … Aside from the demoralizing effect on the world at large and the possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned, the consequences to the economy of the United States should be apparent to all. It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is not directed against any country, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Any government that is willing to assist in recovery will find full co-operation on the part of the United States. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.
The plan had bipartisan support from the Republican Congress and Democratic White House.
From the early 16th Century until the end of World War II, Europe’s militaries conquered or subjugated almost every other country on Earth and fought continuously against each other. Other than the warfare that accompanied the collapse of Yugoslavia, and Russian invasions of Crimea and Ukraine, Europe has known peace for seven decades.
The changes in America were profound as well. Before the second World War most Americans were isolationist but as we learned the interconnected nature of human society in the 20th Century, we developed more globalist views. The realization that all the people of the world have more in common that opposition has brought peace and prosperity that the world never knew during millennia of nationalism. The wave of nationalist movements in the US and across the globe today pose a threat to the internationalist policies that we pioneered and whose value have been proven by experience.
Anxiety, of course,
and unknowable future heartlands
where malleable mountains ache to
satisfy my soul
wait with a mouth still wet from a hungry kiss
to tell that strange and potent ancient truth
Like most people, the first time I saw a ghost it was hanging over the bathroom sink. Part of him was me but most of him was not. What was most recognizable about him was the fact that it would take very little effort to shatter him into shards.