Some of Us Remember
by Joel A. Wendt

there's a war in Iraq
I see it on the news
images of dead and dying
pictures of exploded trucks
bombed cities
crying mothers
maimed children

I've seen it all before.
oh, the country side was different
Vietnam was jungle
not desert
water and trees, dark shaded shapes
instead of rock and sand and too much light

but the dead were the same
and the senselessness was the same
and the stupidity was the same
and the horror was the same
and the blood was the same

the young faces of the soldiers are the same
young faces made old in one night of terror
innocence lost forever
mind ripped apart and the remaining
moral nature raped and lamed
even if the body comes home intact

the only difference now, is that
so many Americans don't remember

you can hear it in the political dialogs
in the speeches made by politicians
in the idiotic words spoken by news readers
in the vapid empty entertainments on TV
and in the songs without pain

too many Americans were born
or came of age
after the Insanity of Vietnam
so they don't remember
but only know as stories
they never lived

they don't see yet what we
for numbing endless years
the body bags, the caskets
the crying neighbors and friends

the hopelessness of a people
whose leaders had gone around the bend
and cracked open hell's gates
and let the demons loose

so many Americans don't know what
we who remember know
Iraq hasn't gone on so far yet,
only a thousand dead,
while we who do remember
remember 50,000

and endless nights of TV
a nightmare never over
never over
even when over
for hell came back

in lost limbs
and missing faces
and drug addictions
and minds lamed and broken

strange, how many of those lamed
in not so distance a past
wander our streets now
talking to themselves, and
waking screaming in the night

yes there is a monument
in DC
a long black wall of names
but that is not the same
as memory
of politicians' promises
that broken led us deeper
into hell on earth

you can hear it in the dialogs on TV
the difference between those who
and those to whom Vietnam
is only a name from something an
older generation laments
and can't seem to let go

the young don't know what it cost
us as a Nation
and many think, as many did then
that we are well led
and so they buy the lies
and history begins its
repetitious and ravenous
eating of our young

and some, like me
we sleep not well, and
find ourselves looking for distraction
ways to forget
what won't be forgotten

memories of a war that didn't die
but now comes to be reborn
yearns in fact to come again
for demons like such darkness
and love to live in hate
and arrogant ignorance

is it worse?

how can it not be,
for the sellers of war
are better at the dark arts now
the politicians better at their lies
the TV better at ignoring truth
and people better at hiding
heads in sand

we do it all better now
all of it, we can only hope

for maybe those who protest
will be better too
those who opposed will be more
able to educate
 those who want to stop the madness
more willing to sacrifice

maybe, while the politicians
and the arms industry
and the idiots on the news
the talking heads who can't remember
or never saw even then
tell their lies and plead their dark dreams
as wisdom

maybe their vain foolishness
will stir us deeper inside,
those who refuse to forget
that we fought this war
before and lost
not only national pride
not only dead and lamed young
not only unity of purpose
but the very moral ground on which America once stood

maybe this is what it takes
for heads to be pulled from sand
for politicians lies to be seen through
for our true nature as Americans to rise again

maybe it is justice and karma
that once again we let ourselves be led
into folly so colossal that even the imagination
cannot contain it

maybe there is a price that has to be paid
for what we did so many years ago
or what we didn't do

maybe there is a price to be paid by those
who lied, and got their profit out of blood,
or pretended nothing was happening

maybe there is a price to be paid by those
who tried to stop the madness, but
didn't really risk as much as needed risking

maybe there is a price to be paid by those
who forgot what should never have been

maybe there is a price to be paid by those
who heard the stories and have not believed them
and who swallow the same lies once again
in spite of history's lessons

but it isn't a price that should be paid by others,
is it?

politicians should pay it
arms merchants should pay it
idiots on TV should pay it
those who refuse to remember should pay it
those who didn't try hard enough to stop it
should pay it

by why should the children pay it?
why should the soldiers pay it?
why should the world pay it?

maybe that is the real legacy of Vietnam
many many questions

we need to face these questions
or be haunted justly all
our days and nights

haunted with good reason
by the ghosts of children
all the so-called collateral damage
and even the young soldiers

haunted we will be
justly haunted
deservingly haunted
for our sleep
for our acceptance of lies
and for our refusal to resist

haunted all  our days
until we stand
and wake up
and insist

no more vanity wars
no more claims that might makes right
no more pretense that politicians
know what they are doing
or that conviction means truth
or belief and opinion are knowledge

war is too dangerous
too permanent
to be sold
on the basis of someone's belief
and conviction that they
know what to do

there needs to be evidence of
evidence of truthfulness
evidence of understanding
evidence of contact with reality
evidence of wisdom
evidence of morality
evidence of humanity

before the drums of wars ever
beat again
some of us remember

go to next poem in the Quartet: the Rape of the Republic