Vietnam Vets

Old men gather
To remember
When they were young
And stood so tall
Despite it all
Life but a song
To sing out loud
For they were proud
Of being called
To serve their land
To take a stand
To risk it all

They remember
These who gather
Those who paid it
And didn’t come
With the rest home
The dust they bit
“Never forget”
We try, and yet
Never is long
Years roll on by
And tears do dry
As youth is gone

But still they gather
And remember
The prisoners
And MIAs
Full fare they paid
On foreign dirt
So when they meet
To see and greet
Those who remain
They see it still
The bloody kill
Again, again

Stooped they carry
The memory
Haunt the nation
That would forget
And shun regret
To vacation
They won’t let us
Escape from this
Bright dream that died
In rice paddies
Where these laddies
Fought, bled, and cried

They will gather
And remember
What they did for
God and country
‘Neath canopy
Of jungle war
Now folks thank ‘em
Try to shelve ‘em
On dusty racks
Where none will see
This memory
Upon their backs

But that’s okay
Folks are that way
These remember
Who lives, who’s dead
What they all did
When they gather
To honor those
Who never rose
To come on home
But still stand tall
Despite it all
To those that know

I had the privilege, not long ago, of providing the invocation and benediction at a POW/MIA remembrance ceremony along with several veterans of Vietnam, and a couple from the Korean War.  There weren't very many in attendance beyond those who came with those having a part in the ceremony.  These veterans are obviously getting older, but they'll have their parade and their memorial even if the only people who show up are themselves. They don't forget.  They can't.  They know full well what they did and they're proud of it, even if their country is not.


Riots Don't Help

In Ferguson, MO, once the facts were known, it quickly became clear that the young man shot and killed was hardly the innocent paragon of virtue portrayed by some of his associates.  He had earlier in the day robbed a convenience store, had a history of bullying and intimidation both within his family and his circle of so-called friends, and not long before the shooting had physically assaulted the police officer in his squad car and tried to steal his gun.  He then thought he could run fast enough to tackle said police officer before that officer could pull the trigger on the gun pointed at Mr. Brown.

The facts didn't fit the narrative, but it didn't matter.

And the response of the ostensibly oppressed Black community in Ferguson was to loot their own town, destroy local businesses, and rampage through the streets.

That made the situation in Ferguson so much better than it had been before Mr. Brown was shot and killed, didn't it?

I do not know what, exactly, happened in this most recent incident in Charlotte, NC, but regardless of these specifics, there is some reason to believe that police have not always behaved as they ought in that area.  The suburb, North Charlotte, is home to an incident not long ago where a cop shot a Black man in the back as he was running away, then tried to make it look like the man had struggled with him and took his taser.  Was that a lone incident, or a too-common occurrence that for once just happened to get recorded on someone's phone?  I don't know, but it is not a good thing.  So even if, as I suspect, the current triggering incident is more akin to the Ferguson incident in its particulars, that doesn't mean the Black population in the Charlotte, NC area doesn't have some legitimate complaints.

But the response makes no sense at all.  Looting local businesses, destroying or attempting to destroy cultural and charitable institutions (United Way and NASCAR Hall of Fame among others), and generally smashing things does not do anything to improve the lives of Black citizens.  Indeed, it does much to make those lives harder.

Black unemployment is high.  Black youth unemployment is still higher.  Black youths looting a Walmart is not going to improve that situation.  It took decades for the Watts district of Los Angeles to recover from the riots there in 1965, if they can be said to have recovered at all.  After the Rodney King riots, most destroyed businesses were never rebuilt.  If there was despair and hopelessness and a lack of opportunity in South Los Angeles before, it was worse after.  And that is also what the end result of these Charlotte riots will be.

I'm not saying the situation isn't bad, but I am saying the response of the Black community in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Ferguson, and now Charlotte, has largely been to make a bad situation much, much worse, and not for the ostensible oppressors.  They'll do fine.  But for the Black community itself.