Tuesday, September 25, 2007

After the War

If my father were alive today, he'd be 87 years old.

My son and I watched all of tonight's installment of the current Ken Burns documentary on World War II. Burns deftly targets issues like race and ethnicity and milks the homefront poignancy while delivering difficult footage backed gracefully with a range of soundtrack music from Elgar to Delta Blues. The stories of men and women and their families are truly riveting, particularly when framed with the interviews of survivors. And we are made fully aware that this kind of conflict was a war with a purpose, with tacticians who knew their objectives, and service men and women fully aware of the risks. Even I didn't realize how brutal and drawn out were some of the battles of the European theatre. Italy was horrible.

I wished my father were here to know his grandchildren and to share with my son what it was like in those days. Because he had had osteomyelitis as a child, my father served stateside as a flight engineer for the United States Air Force. He continued to serve after the War. He and my mother eloped; they lived in Spokane, Washington for a time while he was stationed there. My mother always said she learned how to make proper refried beans from a Mexican couple who were US citizens and also stationed in Spokane.

It was a crazy time. Today is also crazy, but in a different way. People take so much for granted now and enough is never enough. By 1944 standards, I would be considered very well off, with a three-bedroom home, a car, and a job that helps me to take care of my two children. Their education is my number one priority but it seems a distant reality. At least I have my home to wager, although it's a good thing no one is headed to Harvard tomorrow with the housing market as it is.

When I hear the stories told in Burns' film, I feel vastly fortunate. I have all my siblings. No one in my immediate family was killed in any war, although I have relatives who were badly injured and a cousin on my father's side who managed narrowly to escape the fate of some of his comrades strifed through at Pearl Harbor. My oldest brother escaped Vietnam by virtue of his unbearable hay fever which in the jungles of Southeast Asia would alone have been enough to kill him.

After tonight's episode, I looked at my son who seemed a bit shell shocked and reminded him that there was a time when America knew what war was for, and the world knew and everyone pretty much was all in. Hitler was a monster. Japan was overambitious and paid a horrible price that taught the entire world a serious lesson about nuclear warfare. What a horrible discovery that was. Then, people really scrimped, put anything extra toward ending the war, and felt fortuitous if anybody got to go to college. Today, most Americans are completely over their heads in personal debt and just trying to get by while living mostly obliviously, unable to cope much with todays brutal and endless war in Iraq. It's no wonder today's homefront families feel overlooked and abandoned; most other Americans are fighting their own psychological wars against the implosion of their psyches and their families.

Bluegrass music really didn't "happen" until after World War II. Up until that time it remained an entirely noncommercial venture and served primarily as dance and entertainment. But once the boom came along, what started as early country music with the Carter Family was taken in any number of directions by the likes of Ralph and Carter Stanley and Bill Monroe, and another Post WWII Boom was born.

It's hard to imagine getting through a horrible time like World War II without bluegrass music. But music of all other kinds surely was of great comfort to the boys in the foxholes and their families back home, to the nurses gluing GIs back together and to Rosie the Riveter back in Waterbury, Connecticut making more rounds of ammo. And many many millions of people did make it through. And they never would have felt anyone was quite as lucky as they were.

Here's a tune from the Nashville Bluegrass Band that chronicles one man's post-War experience.


At September 26, 2007 9:14 PM, Anonymous two lil' hitlers said...

Did you learn to make the refrieds from your mother? If so , hook me up, i wanna know how.[minus lard, or other animal parts] Gotta be better than the can, even if the can is organic.

Hitler was here long before he we was born, and is still alive and thriving. He still permeates this self centered world with a thousand differnt faces, in a thousand differnt places.

by today's standards you are well off! Even the homeless in america are well off, by todays world standards. Try Myanmar/Burma where hilters are busy doing the same old work they've been doing for thousands of years now for instance, or any number of places around this fine enlightened world in which we live. You are well off, indeed! So am I!

Yes, so right, americans are oblivious.[here he breaks into a loud and overwhelming rendition of "god bless america, land that i love...etc. etc. "] Oblivious to the endless war that permeates this world. Oblivious to the war and hatred, the fear and greed, the ignorance. the collective consciousness of our I ME MY society is so low that the average is oblivious to anything more than serving the self. NOT thinking of how they can help the world, but thinking of how they can take more, no matter the cost.

A Question occurs, what can we do to change that? What are you doing to change it? Because change begins with you.

What am I doing to look outward instead of looking inward in a self centered way, and effect positive change in this world? A serious question to ask yourself. We should all ask ourselves this question throughout each day, maybe some good would come of it.

My answer is that we can always do more and push a little further in a positive direction, no matter how far along we are individually.We can always add a little more to the mix, so to speak.

What is your answer?

At September 26, 2007 9:37 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Interestingly, my answer is in the model of the 1940s. It didn't matter whether you liked someone or not, you just pulled together for the sake of taking care of one another, and everyone worked in the same direction. There was too much at stake.

I wish the world were like that now. There is even more at stake. But many people would rather die divided in their castles surrounded by perfect and well-ordered lawns than live together among victory gardens. Expectations of each other fall into trite, neatly lined little cubbies: I am not a person with whom you might share a common fear, or delight, or dream. I am instead a single mother, an ex-wife, a first-wife, a Democrat, a hillbilly, a headhunter, a danger to society, a libelous bitch. But role-play never did suit me. I may be all those things in someone's head, but meanwhile here in conscious time I am here on this planet now, and so you with the mental harnesses had better back the hell up, take a deep breath, and roll up your sleeves because as long as you are standing on the same dirt with me, you are standing on the same dirt with my children. So you might hate me but I won't give up trying to make peace with you and move forward because I owe it to you and to my neighbors and to my colleagues and my friends and family, and most of all to my children, to make sure the Hitler, the judger, the dictator, the holier-than-thou absolute ruler and killer of creativity that lurks within us and that drives our blind leaders stays good and dead.

Indeed the secret ingredient in Mrs. Blanco's refried pinto beans was bacon grease. I'm willing to try with peanut oil, which my sister says is the only thing that comes close.

At September 27, 2007 7:14 AM, Anonymous two lil' buddhas said...

Looking deeply I See that hitler and jesus, buddha and bush are all within the scope of me. With consciousness expanded they are all within my realm. I am you and you are me, I am truly universal. The first creative step towards realizing peace in this world may begin here. See, why hate and kill yourself?

Can you love hitler and bush? they were once little boys playing with their toys, and looking for love just like you. Another of yourself.

At September 27, 2007 8:47 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Good question. Both men are monsters. Can I love them? Thich Nhat Hahn wrote that if we love our enemies, we begin to understand them, and they are no longer our enemies. I think I have a long, long way to go where Hitler is concerned. But at least I have pity for Hitler. For Bush, I have barely any feeling at all. And you know, indifference is worse than hate.

At September 27, 2007 10:07 AM, Blogger Ipsissimus said...

Check out this:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7011371.stm
Pictures of the guards at Auschwitz death camp having fun after a hard days work. They look like you and I. I'm sad I've been missing the WWII documentary - the MIL doesn't like stuff on war. She leaves in less than 24 hours!

At September 27, 2007 11:08 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Greetings ipsissimus, and a hearty congrats on getting your house back...

Thanks for the link. It's true. In last night's episode, a Japanese-American veteran who had fought in Italy recounted how hard it struck him when he saw two dead German soldiers, about his age at the time, lying by the side of the road. He spoke through tears, "If we had been Stateside, we might have been schoolmates. That hurted me."

At September 27, 2007 1:43 PM, Anonymous one big ego said...

Hitler and Bush are the self centered ego raging in all it's shining glory. Who created hitler? it wasn't hitler, it was masses of unconcious people. Hordes. Without them hitler would never cross your lips. Who are the monsters? Have pity on the masses.May all awaken.

At September 27, 2007 2:18 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Jung would agree with you, Ego. Or, he might say that Hitler represents the collective Shadow. Hm, in fact, somebody did say that...it was a great observation, sort of the way war itself is an expression of shadow energy that goes unexpressed for too long a time.


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