War Resisters Song
by Thomas McGrath
Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove—
Or such as presidents may spare
Within the decorum of Total War.
By bosky glades, by babbling streams
(Babbling of Fission, His remains)
We discover happiness’ isotope
And live the half-life of our hope.
While Geiger counters sweetly click
In concentration camps we’ll ****.
Called traitors? That’s but sticks and stones
We’ve Strontium 90 in our bones!
And thus, adjusted to our lot,
Our kisses will be doubly hot—
Fornicating (like good machines)
We’ll try the chances of our genes.
So (if Insufficient Grace
Hath not fouled thy secret place
Nor fall-out burnt my balls away)
Who knows? but we may get a boy—
Some paragon with but one head
And no more brains than is allowed;
And between his legs, where once was love,
Monsters to pack the future with.
Have we lost the moral compass of peaceful resistance somewhere? Possibly the worst thing that ever happened to the peace movement was elimination of the draft. It gave permission to politicians, the Pentagon and the entire industrial war complex to move forward endlessly without question, without the questioning resistance brings. When you have an all volunteer fighting force, it becomes a matter of choice, except for when it isn’t. For many, the GI bill offers the only path to being able to afford a college education. But it is a mighty tuition that still is paid by the young men and women who sign up for something that might change them forever, for good or for bad.
We now fight wars that go on and on and on, without any proper declarations and no sense of purpose to bring them to a close. No resistance, no moral outrage, there is only this overly patriotic fervor that allows us to ignore the impossibility of the situation. Every Presidential candidate promises to end the things begun by their predecessors while campaigning and then if successful finds that their hands are tied with the same tethers to stupidity as the President before thm.
Is there such a thing as a just and honorable war? I was in San Antonio this week. I walked over and went through the Alamo museum. I was struck with tge thought as I read the timelines that led up to the crushing defeat with somewhere upwards of 250 killed at the Alamo; “Is death the only way men inspire others?” Would the names Bowie, Crockett, Houston be known as heroes if they had negotiated a truce? Would they be held in equally high regard if they had saved the lives of the civilians and their own men rather than lead them to a proud but certain death for a piece of ground that would change hands many times again before it become the state of Texas? The myth of American independence is tied to the myths we create of the nobility of self sacrifice with a gun in men’s hands, rather than the nobility of a pen or a poem or retreat.
Thomas McGrath was one of the writers investigated by the FBI for being a communist and forced to testify at the McCarthy hearings. A long commitment to resistance, McGrath was a prolific writer and though his appreciation is vast among academics and other writers, he labored in many other jobs to support his habit of writing. Primarily a poet as a writer, he wrote screenplays and novels as well, his left leaning politics took him out of the mainstream in literature, not that I think it mattered to him. MacGrath was a proud North Dakotan. He wrote with a sense of purpose informed by his beliefs. The documentary below a good overview of his life and writing.
All The Dead Soldiers
by Thomas McGrath
In the chill rains of the early winter I hear something—
A puling anger, a cold wind stiffened by flying bone—
Out of the north …
and remember, then, what’s up there:
That ghost-bank: home: Amchitka: boot hill ….
They must be very tired, those ghosts; no flesh sustains them
And the bones rust in the rain.
Reluctant to go into the earth
The skulls gleam: wet; the dog-tag forgets the name;
The statistics (wherein they were young) like their crosses, are weathering out,
They must be very tired.
But I see them riding home,
Nightly: crying weak lust and rage: to stand in the dark,
Forlorn in known rooms, unheard near familiar beds:
Where lie the aging women: who were so lovely: once