Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Testimony

What One Veteran Said

Vietnam veteran Wayne Smith: We were broken. I had so much anger and pain. I was crushed. I left like I had blood on my hands. I resisted calling the Vietnamese gooks and dinks, but near the end of it I found those vulgar words would come out of my mouth several times; I had contempt for myself. How could I have been so stupid and foolish to believe this country? How could I have been so foolish to think that I could really save lives as a medic? How could I really make a difference in the face of so many catastrophic injuries? Read the rest of this entry »

What More Is There To Be Said?

“My eight-year-old daughter was killed.
My three-year-old son.
Nixon, murderer of civilians.
What have I done to Nixon that he should come here to bomb my country?
My daughter died right here.
She was feeding the pigs.
She was so sweet.
She is dead.
The pigs are alive.
My mother and my children took shelter here.
Here they died.
Planes came from over there, no targets here.
Only rice fields and houses.
I’ll give you my daughter’s beautiful shirt.
Take it back to the United States.
Tell them what happened here.
My daughter is dead.
She’ll never wear the shirt again.
Throw the shirt in Nixon’s face.
Tell them—

She was only a little school girl.”

—Vu Duc Vinh, A North Vietnamese father

heartsandminds

Source: Peter Davis, Hearts and Minds (1974)

A Proposal from Marilyn

Marilyn Vazquez
Dr. Chmiel
Western Culture
16 September 2016
Empathy Practicum

After considering what suffering concerns me most, I decided to center my Empathy Practicum on the struggles of the undocumented Hispanic and Latino population in the surrounding areas. I attended meetings for many clubs and organizations but the Latino Student Alliance (LSA) spoke to me personally because I am also undocumented. My practicum will focus on two key issues the undocumented population face: education and healthcare.
Read the rest of this entry »

On Susan Sontag, Trip to Hanoi

Journal, July 2005

Susan Sontag spent two weeks in North Vietnam in 1968, and wrote 90 pages about her experiences. (Perhaps I will cull from those notebooks I kept in Gaza and the West Bank to feed my imagination as to what the truth is about Palestine.   Would it be a long essay? Would it be something that I work into a novel, with all my students mixed up together? Will it be a series of short articles that I post at CTSA?)  I wonder if Sontag didn’t just brainstorm a list of questions and then primed her pump thereby, so that her notes responded to  her questions.  Ah, to have her Surplus Attention Disorder, her “moral appetitiveness and lust for variety,” her “intense, uncomplicatedly attentive concentration.” I don’t think this is the same thing as Mindfulness, though.

Sontag is “a stubbornly unspecialized writer who has so far been largely unable to incorporate into either novels or essays my evolving radical political convictions and sense of moral dilemma at being a citizen of the American empire.”   And  she admits she is “one more volunteer in the armchair army of bourgeois intellectuals with radical sympathies in the head.”  Still, she went where she was not supposed to go, even though it appears that she could not get out of her head for very long. Read the rest of this entry »

For Carlos, Every Day Is Mother’s Day

Katherine Kelliher read aloud the following letter  at tonight’s Share the Wealth on the Restorative Justice Movement.  From their week in Los Angeles, Katherine and Anne gave  a lot to fill our hearts.  Please pass on to others, if so moved.

April/May 2015

CARLOS — KVSP — H89998

I was born a Mama´s boy, from as far as I can remember. I´ve been very close to her and consider her my best friend along with my wife. I always tell my mother the truth, although I don’t tell her everything because I don’t want to hurt her.

She´s been by my side when we crossed the border from Mexico to the U.S.A., when I started kindergarden and learned to speak English, when I graduated elementary and junior high school, the many times I got kicked out of different schools for fighting and gang activities, when I got shot on my mouth with a .22 caliber handgun in a drive-by shooting, the many times I got arrested and she picked me up in the juvenile halls Eastlake, Los Padrinos, Sylmar and Juvenile Camps Lancaster (Challenger), Camp Miller, Camp Holton, plus several police stations around Los Angeles County. She was there at my court dates and visiting me everywhere. My mom doesn´t speak English, but she was there supporting her son always.

Read the rest of this entry »

Respecting the Vietnamese

On John Balaban’s Remembering Heaven’s Face: A Moral Witness in Vietnam

For Chris, Carol, and Cristina

John Balaban declared himself a Conscientious Objector during the VietnamWar; he ended up going to Vietnam, but as a member of the International Voluntary Services (IVS).  Wounded during the Tet Offensive, he returned home before going back to South Vietnam to work for the  U.S.-based Committee of Responsibility To Save War-Burned and War-Injured Children (do you know of any comparable organizations for the children of Iraq and Afghanistan?).  The group brought  children damaged by the war to receive operations and care that was unavailable in their homeland.  Balaban accompanied them back and forth.  He experienced the pangs of his exile from Vietnam as he found work as a professor (in Berkeley, “I was stunned by a realization: not everyone was preoccupied with the war.”)   He did find a way to return, through support by the National Endowment of Humanities, as an agent of peace.  Balaban was intent on interviewing Vietnamese about ca dao, their folk poetry, which is typically sung.  He later became settled in the U.S.,  and taught and worked as a poet.  When he traveled to Hanoi, it was to teach American literature.

Within this story as sketched above, there are many passages worth meditating on.  When speaking of his time with IVS, Balaban spoke highly of Dave Gitelson, who “had really entered their world, maybe the only one of us who had.”  How does one enter another’s world during a time of chaos and violence?  Evidently, Gitelson learned Vietnamese and respected their culture, something unimaginable to the hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops there.   Gitelson was also capable of self-criticism, too, when he said about the IVS workers, “We’re nothing more than sugar-coating for the genocide that’s going on here.” Read the rest of this entry »

Simple Words

Give back my father, give back my mother;
Give grandpa back, grandma back;
Give my sons and daughters back.

Give me back myself.
Give back the human race.

As long as this life lasts, this life,
Give back peace
That will never end.

–Sankichi Toge, citizen and poet of Hiroshima, died 1953

To Be Radical Is Habitually To Do Things Which Society at Large Despises

1.

I have seen the victims.
And this sight of the mutilated dead has exerted such inward change upon me
That the words of corrupt diplomacy appear to me more and more in their true light.
That is to say—as words spoken in enmity against reality.

2.

Instructions upon return.
Develop for the students the meaning of Ho’s “useless years.”
The necessity of escaping once and for all the slavery of “being useful.”

On the other hand; prison, contemplation, life in solitude.
Do the things that even “movement people” tend to despise and misunderstand.
To be radical is habitually to do things which society at large despises.

3.

An adequate peace movement could not satisfy itself
With assuaging the sufferings of the victims
By medical help at the point of impact.
The radical work consisted rather in staying with conditions at home
Trying as best we might to work changes upon a society
In which military victims were the logical outcome
Of a ruinous, power-ridden national ethos in the world at large.

 

–In 1968 Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan and historian Howard Zinn traveled to North Vietnam to accompany back to the U.S. three U.S. pilots who had been captured by the Vietnamese. Berrigan gives an account of their journey in his Night Flight to Hanoi, which contains the above passages.

 

Dan Berrigan

“Agent Orange Has Given Me a Death Sentence”

Through information provided by Virgina, who works with Veterans for Peace, I have been examining more closely the on-going effect of Agent Orange and came across this recent testimony from the Guardian.

Mark

 

During the Vietnam war, the US army sprayed 18 million gallons of the toxic chemical Agent Orange over Vietnam to destroy food sources and defoliate hiding places of the Viet Cong. Thirty years after the war, three million Vietnamese are still suffering from the effects of the poison, which can cause birth defects and cancer, has had a devastating impact on the environment and is now affecting a third generation of victims. Vietnamese victims have yet to receive any compensation. Dang Hong Nhut was 29 years old when she joined the resistance forces against the US army and was heavily exposed to Agent Orange. She works with The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange and The Vietnam Agent Orange Campaign to lobby for compensation for the victims.

I was born in 1936, in the Cho Gao district of Vietnam, close to the Mekong Delta. Life was very hard when I was a child. The French had colonised Vietnam and there was a resistance war, and a lot of fighting in our village. Read the rest of this entry »

The Prophetic Voice (Accompaniment)

A Reflection on Rosalie G. Riegle, Dorothy Day: Portraits by Those Who Knew Her

Convert to Catholicism, unapologetic pacifist, denizen of the Lower East Side, comforter of the poor, journalist by trade, and nay-sayer to secular authority, Dorothy Day is a fascinating person known to many from her autobiography, The Long Loneliness.[1] Indeed, like countless others, I was introduced to her and Peter Maurin’s Catholic Worker movement through that book. In the fall semester of my senior year at Bellarmine College in Louisville, Kentucky, I read the Harper and Row reissue of The Long Loneliness and she was like no Catholic I had ever encountered in all my many years of Catholic schooling. That edition contained a compelling introduction by Daniel Berrigan, which led me to his other writings, which serendipitously led to a personally decisive encounter with a Catholic priest in Louisville, Kentucky, Jim Flynn, who was also the only person I knew at that time who was reading Berrigan.[2]

In short order, Jim invited me to join him in an experiment in community living and peace-making. By this time, the spring semester of my senior year in 1982, I was all too eager to pass on going to law school and so, after graduation, I chose to live in community in Louisville’s West End. Through Jim, who was like no other priest I’d ever met and for whom the word “prophetic” had a resonant accuracy, I soon met Pat Geier, who became my best friend and who encouraged me to apply for a ministerial position in justice and peace at her parish, the Church of Epiphany. Read the rest of this entry »