Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sweetness, sweetness...

I was standing lopsidedly to give my bad leg a rest, putting the finishing touches to an apple pie I was baking for our dinner with Joel and Daniel tonight, when on the ABC radio came a distinctly American voice--how the perpetually youthful sounding vowels jump out at me now--talking about the My Lai massacre of March 16, 1968. Every brown-sugared curve of apple that I set in place was accompanied by another voice, testimony from the past, detailing the revenge killings by Charlie Company and others it is now known of over 300 "unarmed combatants" as the soldiers were carefully trained to say--children gunned down as they fled, as they stumbled across American soldiers, who had orders to wipe out the village. "We had to destroy the village to save it." The program was a radio documentary following the investigative trials, the words of survivors on both sides, the unlivable lives of some of the soldiers haunted years afterwards by their actions, the courage of the American war photographer who made his photos of the event part of the public record, the journalist Seymour Hersh who would not let go of the story, the judges who pushed for the "truth" and those who did not. Apple slice after apple slice slipped so comfortingly into its pastry home; how American was I at this moment, I thought. Baking the good old American standby, as American as apple pie, while listening to the archived horrors of the madness of an American war, how domestic a woman I was, even if I was living with a woman and planning a dinner for other queer loved ones. How old I was, thinking of the wars that have held me in their grip--of the notion that "revenge" for the losses of friends in battle is piled on top of the required aggression to fight any war, that "revenge," that almost most domestic of human failures, so often coupled with jealousy, becomes a "new" emotion over and over again, so the regular killing continues but massacres are a special moment in war, that last death was just one death too many, that was my pal, and now all will pay. The innocence that has so long been slaughtered by the bullets and bombs is reborn in the blinding flash of personal hatred, and in My Lai, in Iraq, in the streets of Palestinian villages in 1948, civilians are lined up against a wall, chased into ditches, blown up with their homes. The after rage within war, birthed by war, soldiers still mourning loved ones lost in the Holocaust turn their guns on the exiled civilians of another place, the absolute thirst for relentless toughness as a national image, the revenge for once having been perceived as too weak in the face of the Nazi onslaught, when in reality, what we were was no more, no less then civilians, unarmed citizens of nation states who became the national enemy. Never never say to me again "like Lambs to slaughter." No, like human beings who thought life was their dignity, who tried over and over to be the citizens of their countries, and we take our revenge on them, by saying they were not war like enough, they did not kill in preparation for their lives. We will be their killers. Or we use the death of 3000 to kill hundreds of thousands, we use the madness of the few to be the torch to the calculated madness of nations. How did I get here, from bum leg and sweet smelling apple pie, from a pearly gray Melbourne early winter morning in June, from a woman simply cooking an old favorite for friends, to a ghost floating above atrocities that pour out of the war-jumbled frailties of the human heart. How simple Iago was in his revenge plans of the white handkerchief, but how deep the loss of two once so brave lovers. Desdemona, the loving civilian and Othello, the too needful soldier.

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