Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mr. Bush the First Goes to War (2)

The following journal entry is from February 1991:

I’m haunted by the question, What if someone generations hence reads this journal and wants to know re: the war, and I say nothing? I try not to write self-consciously for an audience, but of course one always looks nervously over one’s shoulder as one scribbles in a journal.

Another difficulty is that all I would want to say about this war is prosaic and trite in the worst sense of that word. Or perhaps better to say it feels prosaic and trite. Having lived and thought through Vietnam, I read the newspapers now in a kind of daze. Can people really still believe these clichés? All that poets and others were already seeing during Vietnam—the demonic technologization of war that makes war a macho blood-sport pursued from an easy chair, the subversion of plain sense in military rhetoric (body bags as human remains packages)—only seems accentuated now, so outré that one assumes everyone reads the news to laugh and cry at the black absurdity of it all.

In this war, adding to the above, of course, is the almost breathtaking arrogance of the political and military manipulation of the media. What strikes me in this regard is not just that the conservatives have begun to manage the media with this war (or the Panamanian or Grenadan one), but that they began to do so immediately between the Vietnam debacle and the mediazation of America in the Reagan period. We had a president who was pure image—and false image—precisely because the media enabled us to penetrate the façade of the military-industrial complex in Vietnam.

The intent of the powers that be to give us a media-driven, media-groomed, façade-president had everything to do with the way the media allowed us to see what was really happening in Vietnam. The powers that be were determined not to allow this to happen again. And they have been effective about controlling the media ever since. And the media have colluded.

All of which is to say that I feel a great sense of futility about saying anything re: this war. The government’s ability to manipulate the media has grown so strong and is so cunning that one senses whatever one says in opposition to the war actually becomes one more way of supporting the war—no matter how violently one’s words oppose it.

And this makes me want to make a more personal decision to live outside the controls the government and all powers that be want to place on my thoughts. I want so much to lead a life of quiet and intense protest and to write poetry that distills my grasp of the other that lies beyond control.

+ + + + +

Wars and rumors of war,
And one lone heron on the bayou shore.

It stitches the shallows,
Here a silent sentinel,
There a shadow sliding over the still dark water
To stand again nearer, then past, the bridge.

At each cycle
My dogs lunge in mock fury,
Strain their leashes out towards the teasing game.

All along my walk,
I think, try not to think, of our latest little war.
I shut mind room
To what's better left unthought,
But back again it comes:

Live oaks sporting jaunty yellow ribbons,
Car antennas flying tiny flags,
And--most startling but not unexpected--
Police motorcycles swathed in red, white, blue,
As if the flag extends the power of the driver
Out, behind, to all the world and space
One could ever dream.

The heron comes as welcome antidote
To my shadowboxing with futility,
Keeping apocalypse at bay.

It, this one thing perfect and complete, invites me
To consider the healing promise of the everyday,
The never comprehended fullness of the flight,
The shore, clouds floating, sinking
To water's mirror.