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Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Refrain"

My Girl Scout troop sang in public a lot.  We went to the mall when that was new, and a pretty woman gave us hot cider and candy.  I liked singing, and liked it even more when I got candy.  I’m sure we were adorable.  People smiled a lot.  The newspaper printed our performances and names.  It’s too bad the media doesn’t do more of that kind of feel-good stuff these days.

I was feeling semi-professional by the time we were sent to the nursing home.  We knew our song list and had it down pat.  I happily went off to “cheer up the old people”.  I liked old people, so cheering them up was fine with me.  Besides, old people were usually good for some cookies.

The nursing home was a low, dark building.  It was hidden behind trees because nobody really wants to look at old people or to be reminded that we’re all going to get old someday.  Once you’re sent there, you’re just waiting to die.  I knew that.  My great grandpa got sent to one when he was really old and he didn’t last very long after that.

Inside was dark too.  It took me a minute for my eyes to dilate and see my surroundings, and I gasped when I did.  Old men were lined up in wheelchairs in the dark, ratty lap afghans were clutched by arthritic hands – if they had hands.  Crippled feet were tied to footrests – if they had feet.  Their heads hung listlessly and slobber dripped on their shoulders.  Their eyes were blank, or ashamed, or missing.

It was a nursing home for WWI vets.  I knew about war because Viet Nam was going on.  I knew people could die, but I didn’t know about this.  I tried to tame my sick stomach while we were arranged in front of the broken men.  I tried not to cry.  I didn’t want them to know they made me sick, that I was glad the nursing home was hidden from regular people having regular lives.

One old man sat in his chair and watched us.  He and another man seemed like the only ones actually living in reality.  He gave a little smile, and I sang just to him.  I couldn’t bear to look at the others.

WWI is so much ancient history now, and it was back then too.  Was it worth wrecking those men’s lives?  Was Viet Nam worth it?  Afghanistan?  WWI created the circumstances that created WWII.  WWII victors drew arbitrary borders in the Middle East, which created ongoing wars there.  Nothing good comes from wars except making the rich richer, and in my opinion, they’re already rich enough.  My life experiences made me a life-long, non-apologetic pacifist.

I’m upset Congress plans to wreck Obama’s deal with Iran, just because it’s a deal that Obama arranged.  They hate him beyond any kind of reasonable discussion.  Idiots like John McCain want to live in a constant state of war and don’t want to negotiate with anyone, but there’s no reason to have another war in Iran.

Iran will develop nuclear energy whether we like it or not.  Making a deal with Iran to oversee and limit that development is only good.  War is stupid and the price is too high.  Maybe we should send all those old men in Congress to the nursing home?

The refrain from The Ballad of Billy Jack

Go ahead and hate your neighbor
Go ahead and cheat a friend
Do it in the name of Heaven
You can justify it in the end
There won't be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day
On the bloody morning after...
One tin soldier rides away.

I know this is isn’t a great video, and if you’re too young to remember Billy Jack it probably looks stupid, but I’ll admit that watching it made me cry.  Same things then are the same things now.  “Give peace a chance.”

16 comments:

  1. Oh man. Billy Jack. That sure brings back memories... saw it at the theater with my young friend Mike, who was like my little brother. I think we were both in tears at the end. Thanks for doing that Linda. :) Lovely peace symbol painting.

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  2. Beautiful image - it really captures the era. It, along with your story and conclusion and the video has been resurrected to fit today's dilemmas and woes. Touching.

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  3. I'm sorta in your court. My grandfather came home from the war with shell shock. If it hadn't been for my wonderful grandmother, the whole family would have disintegrated. War is beyond ugly. Yes, refrain.

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  4. Thanks everybody! Now if only the people who decide about such things would pay attention, I think the world would be a much better place. Thanks for sharing Rand. I'm glad I'm not the only one who cries over Billy Jack :)

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  5. You know this is one of my favorite pieces of artwork you've done. It's beautiful and so was your message. I loved Billy Jack, I mean I really loved him. I was 11 when they made that movie and I had such a crush on him! I still love that song. I'm proud of my grandfather for serving in WWI and dad for serving in WWII. But I too am a pacifist.

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  6. Thanks ML! I loved him too, but I'm not sure I even knew what love was back then. I didn't realize just how long ago it was when that movie came out.

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  7. Peace sounds like common sense. But it sure is hard to get. Your peace sign really glows.

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  8. Aw thanks! This post was harder to write than sometimes which makes the compliment all the nicer :)

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  9. Very thoughtful and heartfelt, Linda. Thank you for for the reminder about the suffering of soldiers. It is so often kept out of sight.

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  10. Heartfelt and passionate. That's why I always enjoy visiting here! I live in a "military town". Lots of disabled vets, young and old. I hope the girl scouts still sing to them.

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  11. So well said, Linda! I think there will always be foolish, greedy men. And women. But if could all be just a little kinder to each other, it could make a difference.

    The pink and yellow is so pretty!

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  12. Maybe I should go back to singing to cheer people up, but I'm not so sure I'm as cute or sing as well any more. If everyone does what they can to make people happier, or at least less miserable, the world would be a better place. I appreciate your comments!

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  13. A beautiful image, and what a powerful childhood memory! Our veterans should never be tucked in the shadows. Thank you for sharing!!

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