Is it war-time, yet?


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Not unlike 150 years ago, there is a shared feeling across political allegiances that we are deep into a renewed civil war over rights and values, over the very definition of what it means to be American—especially in an extended time of pressures from outside forces like inflation, war and climate change. We’ve seen judges rip away abortion rights with invitations for more, a yet-looser attitude towards carrying guns, and halt the government from being able to address emissions that threaten to hasten climate change.

From that perspective, it is no wonder that politics, the game-like outer expression of all this introspection, feel more out of control than ever. States with Republican legislative majorities are limiting voting and allowing for the overturning of election counts; voters, meanwhile, are choosing more extreme candidates on all sides. Donald Trump, who may be facing criminal charges from the January 6 insurrection, reportedly is ready to announce he is running again, along with a Joe Biden who is resisting calls about stepping aside over age…

The fundamental question here: Have our values changed or are we seeing them as if they have as the result of temporary political realignments and now-constant bombardment of made-up issues and invented disinformation campaigns. Have we truly decided that the American Dream is about protecting a predominately white, Christian male culture becoming another of many minorities by demographics, but exaggerated by our most extreme politicians or by Fox News or some competing cable network?

On one hand, we can enjoy the ignorance of most members of our society, our nation…as to what civil war really means. Ignorance that extends to the processes already in motion to bring the birth of the death of a nation into reality. That is as it always is.

That mask of ordinary life is as much a protective shield for those who would split our lives asunder…as serve government to cram us into the steel helmet of unity. That, too, is as it always is.

A single photo can change the world

Can a photograph help end a war?

Pictures from Ukraine by combat photographers, including contract photographer James Nachtwey and Associated Press photojournalists Felipe Dana, Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka, have brought to light the horrific consequences of Russia’s invasion and the unconscionable treatment of innocent civilians.

Fifty years ago, I was in the same position as those photographers, working for the Associated Press in Vietnam.

On June 7, 1972, I learned about fighting taking place in Trang Bang, a small village roughly 30 miles northwest of Saigon. I still have vivid memories of my drive the next morning to Trang Bang, seeing rows of bodies by the side of the road and hundreds of refugees fleeing the area. I eventually arrived at a village destroyed by days of airstrikes. The residents were so tired of the constant battles, they fled their village to seek refuge on the streets, under bridges or wherever they could find a moment of calm.

By midday, I had the photos I thought I needed. I was preparing to leave when I saw a South Vietnamese soldier drop a yellow smoke bomb, which served as a target signal, near a group of buildings. I picked up my camera, and a few seconds later captured the image of a plane dropping four napalm bombs on the village.

As we came closer, we saw people fleeing the napalm. I was horrified when I saw a woman with her left leg badly burned. I can still see so vividly the old woman carrying a baby who died in front of my camera and another woman carrying a small child with his skin coming off.

Then I heard a child screaming, “Nong qua! Nong qua!” Too hot! Too hot! I looked through my Leica viewfinder to see a young girl who had pulled off her burning clothes and was running toward me. I started taking pictures of her.

Then she yelled to her brother that she thought she was dying and wanted some water. I instantly put my cameras down so I could help her. I knew that was more important than taking more photos. I took my canteen for her to drink and poured water on her body to cool her off, but it created more pain for her. I didn’t know that when people get burned so badly, you’re not supposed to put water on them.

Still in shock, and amid the confusion of everyone screaming, I put all the kids into the AP van.

I drove them to Cu Chi hospital, since it was the closest to Trang Bang. The girl kept crying and screaming, “I’m dying! I’m dying.” I was sure she was going to die in my van.

At the hospital, I learned that her name was Phan Thi Kim Phuc. She had suffered third-degree burns on 30 percent of her body. The doctors were overwhelmed by the huge numbers of wounded soldiers and civilians already there. They initially refused to admit her and told me to bring her to the larger Saigon hospital. But I knew she would die if she did not get immediate help. I showed them my press badge and said, “If one of them dies I will make sure the whole world knows.” Then they brought Kim Phuc inside. I never regretted my decision.

I have never looked at this photo without crying. The passage of time changes nothing about it. A war crime committed by my peers, my country. That poor child.

There is much more in this article. Much more for you to consider. If you read this blog regularly you know I won’t agree with it all; but, that’s not important. This post is about Nick Ut’s photo of Kim Phuc. A minute in the middle of terrible history and shame for the nation where I was born. And a photo that turned back a terrible contemptible war.

“Sometimes you have to pick the gun up to put the Gun down” — Malcolm X

I was born and raised in the state of Connecticut. Even if you also were born and raised there, you may not realize Connecticut is the arsenal of America.

I grew up with gunsmiths and guns. Every major industrial city in Connecticut often had historically critical gun manufacturers on the roster of local business. Colt, Remington, Sturm Ruger, Mossberg, Charter Arms, the list goes on and on. At peak, over 20 gun manufacturers toiled in their armories.

My extended family included a few of the real deal. Including one chief gunsmith for a firm rolling out military gear as well as sporting firearms on an international scale. The straight and narrow machinists as well as alley mechanics could have been employed like the folks in this video given similar circumstances.

War Pigs

Dedicated to every glorious, democratically-elected GOUSA government I’ve experienced in my lifetime. That hasn’t changed since the first time I posted this anywhere online.

BLACK SABBATH first recorded WAR PIGS in 1970.

The original title of “War Pigs” was “Walpurgis”, dealing with the witches’ sabbath. “Walpurgis is sort of like Christmas for Satanists. And to me, war was the big Satan”, said bassist and lyricist Geezer Butler. “It wasn’t about politics or government or anything. It was Evil itself. So I was saying ‘generals gathered in the masses / just like witches at black masses’ to make an analogy. But when we brought it to the record company, they thought ‘Walpurgis’ sounded too Satanic. And that’s when we turned it into ‘War Pigs’. But we didn’t change the lyrics, because they were already finished.”

Geezer Butler interview in NOISECREEP.