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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

'The Remission of Order': 'Hallowed Be Thy Gun' by Gary Beck

Hallowed Be Thy Gun
by Gary Beck

I
The war went on for eight more years.
I managed to come home alive,
but didn't laugh much after that.

I couldn't ignore the call to arms
when my neighbors grabbed their muskets
and rushed to the village green.
I went to the mantelpiece,
took down Pa's musket,
gathering dust
since Washington's men
managed to stagger home
after being shot to pieces
by the French and Indians,
when blundering Braddock
led them into an ambush
and almost got them massacred.
Pa was one of the few
who hadn't been wounded.
He didn't laugh much after that.

Once we gathered on the green
we bragged we'd whip the redcoats,
until we spotted their column,
bayonets gleaming in the sun,
and my knees turned to water.
I figured we'd talk first,
but the boys opened fire
and a few of the redcoats fell.
My body was trembling so much
I fired without taking aim.
Then they fired a volley
and a lot of the boys went down.
We were getting ready to run
when the Concord boys showed up
and shot at the lobsterbacks
from behind trees and walls.

A redcoat captain remembered
the treacherous Indians
never faced the British square
and ordered his troops to retreat.
We whooped and hollered like redskins,
and chased the hated invaders
halfway back to Boston town,
but stopped when our powder ran out.
Then we whooped and hollered again,
until we found out who was dead
and it was no longer a game.
The war went on for eight more years.
I managed to come home alive,
but didn't laugh much after that.

II
A lot more boys died of disease
than ever died in battle

Then the cry went out in the land:
'The redcoats are coming again,'
I went to the mantelpiece
and took down daddy's musket.
He tried to tell me I shouldn’t go,
but I wouldn't listen to advice,
desperate to escape the farm
and it's backbreaking routine.
I eagerly went off to war
with the rest of the local boys
and we boasted how we'd whomp
the redcoats, like our daddys did,
but we just marched and retreated.
A lot more boys died of disease
than ever died in battle,
but somehow I survived
and gladly returned to the farm.

III
My young son wanted me to go
and didn't understand when I said:
"I wasn't going to fight for thieves."

Tired of fighting the rocky ground
for crops that barely paid the tax,
me, my wife, and one year old son
set out for Texas and free land.
When I said goodbye to dad
he gave me granddad's musket
and said: "I hope you won't need it."
No one warned us that the Mexes
thought we were invaders,
but the fight started far away
so I didn't have to join up.
My young son wanted me to go
and didn't understand when I said:
"I wasn't going to fight for thieves."
He never forgave me for that,
but I had seen enough of war.

We went to war with Mexico
and my son kissed his son goodbye
and enlisted in the army.
His squadmates boasted they'd be home
after they whipped the Mexicans.
They marched and marched, back and forth,
with hundreds dying of disease
before they met the enemy.
A lot of youngsters got killed
in battle after battle,
cause the Mexicans could fight.
But America won the war,
so the troops came home in triumph
and my son brought home our musket.
I could tell from his weary face
he had seen the horrors of war.

IV
My son came home a skeleton.
I knew what he meant when he said:
"Daddy. I saw the elephant."

Many Texans were divided
if we should be slave or free
and when Texas seceded
most of us supported the South.
Then my young son told me:
"Daddy. I'm going to join up."
"You're only fifteen years old."
"I'll be sixteen in a few months
and the Cause needs every man."
"It's not our Cause. We don't own slaves."
But no matter what I said
he had made up his mind to go.
I couldn't keep him a prisoner
and he was much too big to spank,
so he went to the mantelpiece
and took down great granddad's musket.

I didn't see him for four long years.
At first the South won victories,
but the men still fought face to face,
just like the earlier wars
without learning to preserve lives,
and mowed each other down like grain
in the bloodiest of harvests.
When I read about the battles
with the dead in tens of thousands,
I thought of my Mexican war,
when the dead numbered in hundreds.
Then the tide turned against the South
and they were forced to surrender.
My son came home a skeleton.
I knew what he meant when he said:
"Daddy. I saw the elephant."

V
We couldn't invade Canada,
we already beat Mexico,
so we looked at the wider world
and selected the decaying Spain

My tormented son didn't forget
the sufferings of his long war,
but we survived Reconstruction
and my son finally married.
Soon after my grandson was born
and this healed some old wounds.
America became modern,
we had electricity,
other new inventions
the wild west had been settled,
so what could restless people do?
We couldn't invade Canada,
we already beat Mexico,
so we looked at the wider world
and selected the decaying Spain,
an empire ripe for the plucking.

Spain 's treasure fleets once sailed the seas
and brought home fabulous riches
that let her exercise control
of a large part of the world,
until she lost preeminence
to the growing might of Britain.
Then the empire began to fray
and lost many possessions,
Louisiana, Florida,
eviction from Mexico .
Then just before daddy died
he told my son: "Don't go to war."
But as soon as war was declared
my son went to the mantelpiece,
took down the family musket
and eagerly rushed off to war.

They laughed when I arrived
to enlist at the recruiters.
"What's that piece of junk you got there?"
a tough sergeant asked with disdain.
"This is the modern army, kid."
My fellow recruits laughed at me,
'til we took the enlistment oath,
then they began to strut and brag
how they'd eat the Spanish alive.
The tough sergeant looked at them
with a sneer on his weathered face.
"You got no idea what's coming,
or you wouldn't behave like dumb kids.
Now shut your mouths and form a line."
He marched us to the train station
and we were on our way to war.

First we went to training camp
where many died of disease,
others died of exhaustion.
Those who survived Florida swamps
got sick on the boat to Cuba,
where more died of typhoid fever
then were killed in all the battles.
Luckily, Spanish generals
were worse than our generals,
so we managed to win the war.
One man emerged a hero,
and Teddy Roosevelt rode his fame
into the vice-presidency.
While we suffered in obscurity,
trying to regain our lost lives,
Teddy moved into the White House.

Soldiers in our family
always carried the musket
they used for generations,
but now was obsolete.
It was too important
to be casually discarded,
since so many of our men
had hallowed it in battle.
So it sat on the mantelpiece
and we didn't let it gather dust.
Instead we formed a tradition,
whenever we left the house
for anything important
we touched the musket for luck.
It may have seemed superstitious,
but it brought our men home alive.

VI
It rained and rained by day and night
and we stood or slept in water,
until our clothes began to rot
and we caught awful diseases.

It took a while for Dad and me
to understand technology.
Machine guns made the cost of war,
too bloody to fight anymore.
I married and had children,
just like my forebears did,
then suddenly one hot summer
Europe erupted into war.
Millions of men marched to battle
and were slaughtered by the thousands,
until they cowered in the earth,
from merciless machine guns
that drank deep of soldier's blood,
while devastating cannons
blew young flesh into pieces,
as the carnage went on and on.

Then America went to war
and my son wanted to join up.
"You're only seventeen," I said.
"So were you and granddad
when you enlisted for your wars."
No matter what I said or did
I could not change his stubborn mind
and off he went to training camp
that at least had sanitation,
so most deaths were from accidents,
rather than horrid diseases.
Then tens of thousands sailed to France,
most of them seasick, or scared,
while others boasted how they'd show
the frogs and limeys how to fight,
and wouldn't hide in trenches for years.

We landed in Le Havre and marched
into town in orderly ranks,
so the frogs could see the doughboys,
Springfield rifles on our shoulders,
made by the modern company
that once made the muskets by hand
that my ancestors had carried
when they went to war long ago.
The French heaved sighs of relief
that the Yanks were finally here,
though they also resented us
for taking so long to arrive,
while their sons were killed and wounded
like cattle in a slaughter house,
going mindlessly to their deaths
for a few muddy yards of ground.

We finally got near the front
and those who weren't scared before
weren't boasting anymore.
We went to a quiet sector
next to the veteran French troops
to allow us time to adapt
to conditions in the trenches.
It rained and rained by day and night
and we stood or slept in water,
until our clothes began to rot
and we caught awful diseases.
The French poilus detested us
and never answered when we asked:
"What is it really like up there?"
We waited, then waited some more,
as winter brought influenza.

Those of us still alive in spring
finally went into action
and we all thought it was better
to get killed fighting the Germans,
than rot away in the trenches.
The whistles sounded the attack
and off we went over the top,
and saw our buddies blown apart
by the big guns that deafened us,
while blood and guts splattered us
from the enormous explosions
that destroyed many of our men.
We took our objective that day
at the cost of hundreds of lives
for a small piece of muddy ground
that wasn't worth a single death.

Those lucky enough to survive
the ignorance of generals
who sent wave after wave of men
across the barren land of doom
where chattering machine guns played
the song of death upon our flesh
that later would enrich the soil.
When the guns at last were silent,
we went back to the rear for rest
without much time to parlez-vous,
or meet the vision of our dreams,
Mademoiselle from Armentieres .
Some of us drank vin ordinaire,
not enough to forget the war,
then we were sent back to the front
and the battles went on and on.

Sometimes my buddies and I talked
when the barrages fell silent
about the weary frogs and limeys,
because we just couldn't understand
how they survived in the trenches
before we finally arrived,
bringing young, fresh cannon fodder
to feed the consuming machines
that dined on a diet of flesh
that was butchered from far away.
We never dared to ask ourselves
how long we thought we could endure,
so we fixed bayonets and charged,
until there were no more battles.
Then they shipped us home for parades,
but none of us felt like heroes.

A lot of American boys
were unprepared for modern war
and some reacted with shell shock.
There wasn't much understanding
that some youngsters were unsuited
for the horrors of the trenches,
the butchery of battlefields,
a scale of death not seen before.
So they returned home woeful wrecks,
sometimes pitied, mostly despised,
having failed to do their duty
in the eyes of their countrymen.
But most of them had done their best,
had endured dreadful conditions,
the terrors of modern warfare
and had crumbled under the strain.

VII
Throughout our bloody history
we always forgot the soldiers
as soon as the war was over.

Our leaders promised: "Never again",
then forgot the ravaged men
and didn't let their fate remind them
to find alternatives to war.
I managed to rebuild my life
with the loving help of my dad,
then I finally got married
and my wife gave birth to a son.
That day I took a solemn vow:
"My son will never go to war."
My dad shrugged when I told him,
he knew the lure war had for youth.
We went about our daily lives
while the country grew and prospered,
until the stock market collapsed,
destroying the hopes of many.

Some veterans of the Great War
were forced to go to the breadlines.
Then they remembered promises
made soon after peace was declared
to give the doughboys bonuses
to reward them for their service.
At first they didn't know who to ask,
so they went to their congressmen,
but nothing ever came of it.
The hungry men grew hungrier
and decided among themselves
to march on Washington, D.C.
and get what they're entitled to.
The government didn't welcome them.
Instead General MacArthur
led troops and tanks to disperse them.

Throughout our bloody history
we always forgot the soldiers
as soon as the war was over.
While America recovered
from the terrible Depression,
Italy, Germany, Japan,
prepared their countries for war
and men began to march again.
Flames of war spread across the globe,
with armies numbered in millions,
and the deaths numbered in millions,
as battles raged across Europe
and battles raged across Asia
and battles raged in Africa
and the machinery of war
was in motion throughout the world.

VIII
That didn't stop them from enjoying
our cigarettes, chocolate, nylons,
while we enjoyed their young bodies.

On December 8, 1941,
I told dad I was enlisting.
"I hoped you would go to college,
but we've always done our duty,
so I knew you would join up.
A legend in our family
relates that all the fathers
tried to prevent their eager sons
from going off to fight a war,
but when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor
it wasn't like earlier wars.
This one shocked us awake.
We were completely unprepared
when the enemy attacked us
and we need time to get ready.
It'll go on for many years."

I didn't know how to answer him,
so I gave him a hug goodbye,
took the next bus to Dallas
to sign up at the recruiters.
The line was long when I got there,
but pretty soon I found myself
face to face with a tough Sergeant.
"You hardly look old enough, kid."
"I'm here to serve my country, sir."
I guess I answered the right way.
He said: "Strip to your underwear.
Get in line for a physical."
So I hurried, then I waited,
until an impatient doctor
roughly poked and prodded me,
then pronounced me fit for service.

We hurried to the train station,
where we waited and waited,
until they hurried us aboard,
then we waited and waited,
'til the train sped to training camp,
where they taught us how to soldier.
When we finished basic training
they gave us thirty days furlough
and I went home feeling my oats.
Dad was surprised to see me.
"This is a new kind of army,
that sends its soldiers home to rest
before they've gone to war."
"It's going to be a long war.
I'll be gone for a long while, dad.
It's our chance for a last goodbye."

I hurried to join my unit,
then we waited and waited,
until they shipped us out to sea
on a filthy, old rust-bucket
that rolled so much we got seasick.
And on we sailed, day after day,
like the 'Ancient Mariner'
I read about in high school.
No one knew where we were going
and rumors spread across the ship.
Some said Italy. Some said France.
But wherever we were going
we knew we could defeat the foe.
The rumor spread that we sailed past
an island fortress, Gibraltar,
so we knew we wouldn't land in France.

Late one night warships passed us
and we woke up in the morning
to the sound of naval gunfire,
the deafening explosions
made most of us aware
it wasn't a game anymore.
Yet some of the boys still boasted
they would whip the enemy.
The experienced Sergeants sneered,
because they knew what was coming
that the boys who made it ashore
would grow up suddenly.
Then rumor spread across the ship
we'd hit the beach in Africa
and some of the boys boasted
they could beat any Africans.

We landed safely, unopposed,
and everyone grew confident
that the enemy was afraid.
The experienced Sergeants sneered,
because they heard it all before,
yet secretly most of us thought
we already won the war.
It didn't take long for us to learn
foolishness had made us think
it was over before we fought.
Then one morning we grew up fast
when the Germans and Italians
launched a terrifying attack,
sending us fleeing in retreat
back to where we started from,
with many killed, wounded, missing.

After we won in Africa
they gave us a needed rest.
Then we invaded Italy.
Those of us who hadn't learned
that talk is cheap and lives are dear
were reminded by German guns.
When we conquered Italy
they gave us a needed rest,
which most of us spent on Vino,
or seducing Signorinas.
Then they shipped us off to England
on a filthy, old rust-bucket
that rolled so much we got seasick
and we were almost torpedoed,
but survived all the attacks
and safely reached good old England.

Most of the British men were gone,
serving somewhere else in the world
in their fight to retain empire,
and the British girls welcomed us,
yet resented that we were there.
That didn't stop them from enjoying
our cigarettes, chocolate, nylons,
while we enjoyed their young bodies.
But soon invasion day grew near.
We kissed the English girls goodbye
for colder beds in rusty ships
and crossed the English Channel.
Battleships bombarded the shore,
hundreds of planes bombed and strafed,
they said they wiped out resistance,
but we heard that claim before.

We fought our way across France,
and invaded Germany,
'til Germans lost their will to fight.
When the Russians reached Berlin
my war was finally over.
The Pacific war went on,
until they dropped atomic bombs
that ended the second World War.
Then we occupied Germany,
divided it into sectors
for the Brits, French, Yanks and Russkies,
all of us hated by Germans,
Russians most hated of all.
Then we returned home to parades,
quickly took off our uniforms
and tried to resume peacetime life.

IX
In the first American war
(although we didn't call it a war.
We coined a term: police action.)
that didn't result in victory

Like many other ex G.I.'s
I needed education
to build a better way of life,
since I just got married
and we were expecting a child.
I went to a Dallas college
where I studied hard for three years
and became an accountant.
I went to work in suit and tie
for a prestigious company
and started to make good money.
We bought a house in the suburbs
and each morning I commuted.
On weekends we went to the ranch
to help dad, who was getting old,
but still refused to sell the place.
We had the American dream,
while young enough to enjoy it.

Like many citizens,
the Cold War didn't affect us much,
except for occasional fears
there might be nuclear war.
But the Cold War erupted
in divided Korea,
when the North invaded the South.
Once again my country called me,
but this time I didn't want to go,
yet didn't seem to have much choice.
I kissed my wife and son goodbye,
put on a new uniform,
since now I was an officer.
We sailed on an old rust bucket
and most of the kids were seasick,
then we arrived in Japan.

Our once terrible enemy
was now an occupied country,
where G.I.'s had become fat
from easy garrison duty.
But our army was disordered
from fierce North Korean assaults,
so they loaded the rust-buckets
with inexperienced, young troops
and rushed us to South Korea,
where they hoped we'd stop the retreat.
The enemy attacks went on
and our boys panicked in battle.
Many dropped their weapons and ran,
unable to overcome fear.
We almost withdrew from Korea,
but held a defensive line.

For three bitter, bloody years
we fought up and down Korea.
First we fought the North Koreans
and finally defeated them.
Then the Chinese intervened,
drove us back with heavy losses,
until once again the tide turned
and we pushed them back in defeat.
Yet the Chinese and their ally
wouldn't admit they were beaten,
so the fighting went on, went on,
as armies moved back and forth,
over and over the same ground
that devoured many brave men,
until both armies returned
to where they started from.

In the first American war
(although we didn't call it a war.
We coined a term: police action.)
that didn't result in victory
we suffered many casualties
and most of them had no idea
what they had been fighting for.
Then we came home without parades,
because we neither won nor lost
and people looked at us strangely,
as if we were the ones to blame
for not winning a foreign war.
So we took off our uniforms,
returned to civilian life,
but now we were apprehensive,
since we didn't defeat Asians.

X
They asked me why police with dogs
attacked peaceful demonstrators
who only wanted equal rights.

The winds of change began to blow
across a great divided land
between the white majority
and seekers of equality.
The resistance to civil rights
for the American negro,
a brutal, violent struggle
that finally opened some doors
which denied opportunity,
had been carried out by the best,
although maybe not the brightest
that America has produced
with the fervor of crusaders
who overcame personal fears,
put their bodies in harm's way
for the worthiest of causes.

My sons grew up in the fifties
watching the civil rights struggle
on our new television set.
They asked me why police with dogs
attacked peaceful demonstrators
who only wanted equal rights.
They had seen discrimination
in our Texas school system,
where they cowered under desks
for protection from atom bombs,
the most moronic policy
made by the densest and dumbest,
that would vaporize everyone,
regardless of race or color.
It wasn't easy to explain
we were really all the same.

I told them I saw negro troops
killed or wounded in two wars
and their blood was as red as ours.
Our neighbors never felt that way
and expressed prejudice
against people they considered
an inferior race.
When my sons refused to agree
with prevailing attitudes
they were attacked by some classmates,
school proponents of bigotry,
compelled to defend themselves
when officials didn't intervene.
This went on for almost a year,
until tired of persecution
we moved back to my daddy's ranch.

XI
We supported the South
that claimed to be democratic,
with the Buddhists and Catholics
opposed to the communist North

Then Asia again intruded
in what had been our peaceful lives,
when our troops went as advisors
to another divided land,
North and South Vietnam, victims
of Cold War geometry,
that took half of a country
rather than let the other side
rule the entire land.
We supported the South
that claimed to be democratic,
with the Buddhists and Catholics
opposed to the communist North,
along with various war lords,
rival sects, drug gangs, criminals,
a land to confuse anyone.

Once again our troops were sent
to fight another foreign war,
but except for a mere handful
of Washington D.C. schemers,
no one had the faintest idea
of why they were really sent there.
So escalation began,
the number of troops increased,
followed by new confrontations,
greatly expanding our presence
'til we found a provocation
that let us to send in the Marines.
The war was growing in Vietnam,
but resistance was emerging
from anti-war activists,
who refused to support the war.

Suddenly for the first time
in American history
an entire generation,
skeptical college students,
refused to enlist for service,
choosing, 'turn on, tune in, dropout',
a preferred alternative
to a war they didn't understand.
The powers-that-be used the draft
to fill the army's hollow ranks
with the nation's poorest,
trading the slum for the jungle,
as offspring of the privileged
remained in school with exemptions,
where they were sheltered from danger,
while soldiers got wounded, or killed.

Our bitterly divided land
never saw anti-war fervor
affect so many young people,
setting fathers against sons,
employers against workers.
When my sons got draft notices
it almost split our family.
Daniel, the eldest at nineteen,
packed his bag and prepared to leave.
Billy, the baby at eighteen,
decided that he would not go.
He burned his draft card, packed a bag,
pleaded with us to understand,
then left to live in Canada.
It was hard for me to endure
loss of my sons to war and peace.

The war escalation went on
as more and more boys were drafted
from ghettos and small towns,
and after brief training
were rushed off to distant jungles
of an alien, Asian land
completely unprepared to meet
a fanatical enemy,
willing to pay any price
to drive out hated invaders
flaunting Western arrogance
that attempted to determine
the destiny of a people,
who wouldn't accept domination
by imperialist powers
playing dominos in Vietnam.

The media grew so bold
they defied the president
and military policy.
When our troops destroyed a village
because they wanted to save it,
and the surprise attack at Tet
caught our leaders with their pants down,
the media refused to see
light at the end of the tunnel,
then broadcast loss of confidence
in the management of the war.
Suddenly the despised hippies
became slightly acceptable
to people who once scorned them,
as long as they chose to make love
as an alternative to war.

Our strategy of attrition,
made by ignorant generals
who didn't know the nature of war
had undergone revolution,
as all our vaunted firepower
couldn't defeat a guerilla force
willing to sacrifice their lives
to win in the people's struggle.
So America 's will crumbled
as anti-war activists
disrupted college campuses
in efforts to end the war,
because of fierce resistance
from unattrited North Vietnam,
who lost almost all the battles,
but refused to accept defeat.

A weary President gave in
and refused to seek a new term.
The tricky new President,
elected for a secret plan
to end the most divisive war
in our violent history,
deluded us with hopes of peace,
although the war went on, went on.
The words were often repeated:
'Peace is just around the corner',
but the fighting went on, went on
as casualties grew and grew
people began to blame
troops who were fighting the war,
instead of the bad architects
who actually started it.

At last we admitted defeat,
ended our part in the war,
abandoned South Vietnam
to relentless communists.
Our returning troops were despised,
spat on, called baby-killers.
There were no parades of welcome.
They took off their uniforms,
sought civilian life again,
but nightmares of the jungle
twisted their sleep into torment,
and endless days of rejection
ended hopes of normalcy.
My son came home a broken man,
crushed by the horrors he saw,
so different from what I had seen.

XII
The loss of capital and jobs
turned the land into the rust belt.

We sullenly licked our wounds
from the communist victory
and the army sulked in its tents.
The Generals looked for scapegoats
to blame for shameful defeat,
while refusing to blame themselves
for leading the best trained, equipped
fighting force in our history
against a poor peasant army
that outsmarted our Generals,
who forgot West Point lessons
about accountability
for devising a strategy
that proved unsatisfactory,
instead blaming politicians,
rather than accept their failure.

Our army that fought in Vietnam
was different than in other wars,
mostly young, ignorant draftees
who hadn't the faintest idea
why they were fighting in Vietnam.
They were strangers to discipline,
resenting military life,
the need to obey orders.
They resisted authority
smoking pot, using drugs
to escape extremes of war,
tedium almost all the time,
marked by dull, repetitive chores,
contrasted with brief terror
of clashes with the enemy
that left them dazed and exhausted.

So unlike earlier soldiers
who accepted the chain of command,
many disgruntled young draftees
forced to serve a tour of duty,
struck back at their superiors
by tossing grenades in their tents
and repaying them by "fragging"
the Sergeants and Lieutenants,
the men who gave them orders
to carry out dirty details,
like cleaning officer's latrines,
or who sent them out to be killed.
Most trainees often fantasized
about killing their drill Sergeants,
but "fragging" was reality
and one cause that ended the draft.

Now our nation was traumatized
by disastrous loss of the war
and the anti-war sentiment
pervaded our society,
as doubt shaped foreign policy.
We didn't want to be involved
in complicated world affairs
that distracted our citizens.
Our energies turned domestic
just as our industries and jobs
began to be outsourced abroad
while political upheavals
confused many people at home
struggling to earn a living.
The loss of capital and jobs
turned the land into the rust belt.

My disturbed son worked on the ranch
and gradually got better
from the reassuring routine
necessary for daily life
and decided to get married.
After a while they had a son
and my son swore a solemn oath:
'My son will never go to war'.
I only hoped that he was right.
Then finally an amnesty
was proclaimed for draft dodgers
who ran away to Canada
instead of going to Vietnam.
My younger son returned to us
with a wife and new-born son
and for a while life seemed normal.

XIII
But the Mujahadeen fighters,
with the help of the C.I.A.,
retreated into the mountains
.. … …. … …. ………..
until they used Stinger missiles
to beat the soviet army.

The world changed after Vietnam.
Resentful Muslims feared the West
of decadent, licentious ways,
would undermine the one true faith
with the gift of democracy.
Religious fervor and unrest
began to grow in Muslim lands.
Islam saw the wounded giant
uncertain how to meet the threats
from once cooperative lands
that produced the world's oil supply,
who now hinted at cutting off
the vital industrial juice
that nourished our economy,
which was completely dependent
on oil for our energy needs.

The grasping Soviet empire,
our enemy in the Cold War,
intervened in Afghanistan,
installed a puppet president
and tried to subjugate the land.
But the Mujahadeen fighters,
with the help of the C.I.A.,
retreated into the mountains
where they steadfastly resisted
superior technology,
soviet helicopters
that drove fighters into caves
because primitive rifles
couldn't shoot down modern monsters,
until they used Stinger missiles
to beat the soviet army.

The soviet empire had a great fall
and formerly enslaved nations
threw off hated hegemony,
as confused soviet troops
withdrew behind their own borders,
while struggling to understand
how so much could be lost so fast.
America bestrode the globe
a powerful colossus
that no longer had a rival
exerting some limitation
on its leadership of the world.
Now the target of hate became
the American oppressors,
who once had shared the enmity
with the feared Soviet Union.

XIV
Some said: "the volatile Mid-East
needed a balance of power
to maintain regional peace."

Turmoil arose in the Mid-East,
and the European Union
was reluctant to intervene.
China was flexing its muscles
for the Pacific Rim nations,
who feared for future safety
if America's umbrella
of nuclear deterrent
was arbitrarily withdrawn.
Nuclear proliferation
became one of the widespread fears
that occupied America,
the European Union,
completely dependent on oil,
mostly produced in the Mid-East,
where some sought nuclear weapons.

Saddam Hussein was accused
of seeking acquisition
of weapons of mass destruction.
America launched a crusade
approved by the U.N.,
most member nations
to prevent the dangerous threat
from becoming reality.
I gave thanks my sons were too young
to rush to the horrors of war.
Many Americans worried
about their sons and daughters
(I gave thanks I didn't have daughters)
being fed to the inferno
of weapons of mass destruction,
waiting to consume their children.

Then the coalition unleashed
an overwhelming air attack
with dazzling precision bombing,
followed by a stunning blitzkrieg
that quickly crushed resistance
from Saddam's demoralized troops.
But America triumphant
and its victorious allies
surrounding Saddam's capitol,
stopped the war outside of Baghdad
and quickly negotiated peace,
still leaving Saddam in power
in what we called a rogue nation
that threatened world stability,
causing some of us to wonder
why we bothered to go to war.

Some citizens blamed it on oil.
Others claimed they believed the threat
of weapons of mass destruction.
Some said: "the volatile Mid-East
needed a balance of power
to maintain regional peace."
When the usual suspects yelled:
"Capitalist conspiracy,"
they didn't get much credence,
because they couldn't articulate
exactly who was conspiring.
But there were many citizens
who doubted their own government,
no longer blindly accepting
the statements of officials
elected with oligarch's funds.

American hegemony
reached across the entire globe,
our troops in dozens of countries,
our fleets dominating the seas,
our air force ruling the skies.
This made few of our friends happy
and most of our enemies mad,
for a nationalistic world
resents any ├╝berpower
infringing on its sovereignty,
however benevolently.
Then suddenly we stood alone,
except for the dependent Brits
who already lost their empire
and now linked their future with ours
in a world menaced with chaos.

Each day new threats appeared,
that undermined stability
of fragile globalization.
Nukes peddled by North Korea
to America 's enemies;
Al Qaeda training terrorists
for deadly suicide missions;
Indian and Pakistani
confrontations on their borders;
Russian yearnings of nostalgia
for their lost former USSR,
some dreaming of democracy,
others trapped in autocracy;
China 's harsh strangling of Tibet;
unrest in South America;
events breeding mass confusion.

At home many thought things were good.
We wallowed in prosperity,
at least for so many of us
that we neglected to notice
when so much of our industry
was either moved to other lands,
or left to rust away at home,
resulting in the loss of jobs,
well-paid jobs, never to return.
For American workers made
a crucial laborer's mistake;
they expected a fair day's pay
in return for a fair day's work.
Scrooge's fictional conversion
to a generous employer
is just a capitalist myth.

The owners of America
found it easier to control
underpaid service workers,
who barely managed week to week
to pay for necessities
required by their families,
rather than highly skilled labor
certain of their basic value,
willing to challenge the bosses
for what they were entitled to.
But profit rules the oligarchs,
not concern for men and women
who contribute to the coffers,
yet demand too much of a share
to suit insatiable owners,
who bought cheaper workers abroad.

Without an industrial base
the economy still flourished,
mostly from finance and housing,
and no one spoke of the dangers
of a service economy
with a vast, low-paid underclass
well trained by TV to desire
the same luxury goods
they could no longer afford.
The price of oil went up and up
that fueled gas-guzzling cars
in the foolish Detroit gamble
to compete with foreign makers
of cars that captured the market.
The once proud American car
lay rusting on lawns and backyards.

Then a mad fever swept the land
to build new condominiums
at a time when job outsourcing
cut consumer's ability
to finance expensive housing.
While the real estate bubble
continued its wild inflation
many families were tempted,
despite insufficient income,
to take out loans from predators
for mortgages they couldn't afford
if the economy crumbled.
The nation urged education
as the path to prosperity,
yet many desirable jobs
had already traveled abroad.


XV
So war was declared on terror,
but where was the land of terror?

9/11 smashed illusions
of safety and serenity
in a land grown too complacent
about the dangers of the world.
America watched in horror
as innocents jumped from buildings,
rather than be consumed by fire,
as the World Trade Center perished,
devouring police and firemen
who rushed in to do their duty,
despite risk to life and limb
and died with hundreds of workers,
condemned without a trial
by fanatical terrorists
claiming to be killing for God,
while the Arab street danced for joy.

So war was declared on terror,
but where was the land of terror?
Who would be punished for the crime
that struck our financial heart?
Our leaders searched for culprits,
but just found individuals,
not a country they could target.
Someone had to give us payback
and since we couldn't find Osama
we decided to choose Saddam.
We unleashed the best blitzkrieg
the war-torn world had ever seen
and even showed it on TV,
as the best trained, best equipped
modern American army
displayed its high technology.

Our forces overran Iraq
faster than a speeding bullet,
or so it seemed to friends and foes,
hoping for our failure of arms.
But the wounded giant prevailed
and soon raised the flag of conquest
above the walls of Baghdad.
The cheerleaders in Washington
basked in the glow of victory,
but didn't know what to do next.
The guns were barely silent
when chaos swept across Iraq.
We had removed authority,
disbanded their military,
so no one was left in control
who could reestablish order.

Shiites were avenging themselves
on Sunnis who had oppressed them.
Criminal gangs were running wild
and the police could not suppress them.
Al Qaeda stirred up the people
to resent hated infidels.
Violence was everywhere.
The infrastructure of the land
rapidly ceased to function.
Water and electricity
only flowed erratically.
The continuation of life
became a daily struggle.
Everyone blamed America
who conquered Iraq easily,
but couldn't govern what they conquered.

The menace of democracy
undermined stability
of primitive mentalities
ruled by calculating leaders
corrupt as any infidels
against whom they cried for jihad,
especially Americans,
fearing decadent Western ways
they claimed would corrupt the faithful.
And some opposed us openly,
while others acted secretly
to insure we wouldn't succeed
in creating a new Iraq
with a unity government
that would treat all people fairly,
ruling democratically.

But what about North Korea
who tested a nuclear bomb?
And what about evil Iran
exporting religious terror?
Were they too strong to be attacked?
What determined our policies
in the narrowed internet world?
Was it decided by the rich
who ruled our land behind the scenes
and always put profits first,
purchasing our legislators
to ensure no interference
in their quest for acquisition
at the expense of our people,
most of whom the working poor,
hovering near destitution?

XVI
The only practical places
for a military assault
were Africa and the Mid-East.

The wealthy needed to divert
the public's growing suspicion
that all was not well in our land.
Iraq was already engaged,
a new target was needed
to absorb public attention,
so our rulers studied the map
of the confusing world,
as warm with many enemies
ready for retaliation
in the event of our attack.
The only practical places
for a military assault
were Africa and the Mid-East.
We were leery of Somalia,
and selected Afghanistan.

The land was almost primitive,
impoverished by the soviets
in years of violent warfare.
Al Qaeda had been driven out
and lurked in tribal areas
on the border of Pakistan,
while no one feared the Taliban's
religious extremists.
Once again our volunteers
were sent to fight another foe,
and once again, as usual,
without proper preparation
for hostile conditions,
without language training
to meet an alien people.
Our troops were hated invaders.

Our generals were still fighting
the disastrous war in Vietnam,
where despite our firepower,
our vaunted technology,
we couldn't defeat guerilla foes.
Now in this landlocked country
our navy had no role to play,
no beaches to assault,
nor decisive air-sea battles.
Our air force did ground support
without the possibility
of thrilling air-to-air combat,
blissful strategic bombing.
So once again foot soldiers
faced the dirty job alone
in an unforgiving country.

Warfare is and has always been
influenced by economics,
paid for with the blood of the young
for domestic prosperity
and imperial expansion.
In a land without industry
to sustain the population
and pay for the cost of war,

our nation has a growing debt
without means to repay it.
The financial sector's collapse,
the burst housing bubble
caused the rich minor losses,
the middle-class was ravaged,
the poor devastated,
making us fear the future.

Author’s Bio: Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn't earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. He has published chapbooks Remembrance (Origami Condom Press), The Conquest of Somalia (Cervena Barva Press), The Dance of Hate (Calliope Nerve Media), Material Questions (Silkworms Ink), Dispossessed (Medulla Press) and Mutilated Girls (Heavy Hands Ink). His collection of his poems Days of Destruction (Skive Press) and Expectations (Rogue Scholars Press). His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway and toured colleges and outdoor performance venues. His poetry and fiction has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City.

The Remission of Order explores the search for stability in this confusing life, in which so many of us want security, but fail in our efforts to achieve a satisfactory existence.

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