I am posting this essay in it’s entirety. It is penned by a fellow Marine named Hal Arness. This Marine was all Recon and executed some of the most dangerous missions in the Vietnam War. A sensitive and extraordinary literate man who is a graduate of USC and played football for infamous John McCay. I was honored to have recently attended a Retreat for combat veterans with him at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The Retreat center is known as the “Casa” and is curiously the location where I elected to not join the Franciscan Order in 1973. Suffice it to say, the weekend was packed with dual nostalgia.
. Also in attendance were my Sgt. from Vietnam, Bob Boytor and two other close friends who also served in the Vietnam War. Bill Black a former Army Officer who saw action with the Phoenix Program. Black is a published Western Cowboy writer and poet. My other Marine pal Ron Reibslager is a fellow Marine who was with a Phantom 4 Air Wing Unit. The five of us did indeed have a few tales to share and some healing to occur.
Facts without human intelligence is are of little value. Truth comes with a narrative, often one that takes years to surface. In war literature it is often said, “the first casualty of war is Truth.” The following personal narrative has some long held truth to share.
The experiences and places of battle that are stamped in our psyche remind me of a quote from Virginia Wolf…. these places and experiences are “shell like coverings our souls have excreted to house themselves.”
WE KNOW THE FACE OF PERFIDY by Hal Arness
We are the American soldiers of the 60’s. This means little to the people of our country and understandably less to others. That tragic time begs to fade away….but there are those of us who just can’t forget…we are perpetually angry …and we are still there. We don’t wear false faces of apology for our acerbic natures…or seek forgiveness that we do not really want. Instead we rail for honor and search for lost trust…diligent to be reasonable in our grouchy proclamations. Our demeanor is “sparky”….our content sound….our style often ugly and insulting. Those of us who have been pitched into the crucible of terror and deceit by the call of our country…..have returned warily caustic…prickly! We detest furtive angling and elitist secrecy among those who attain positions of authority over our well being and interests. We lash discourteously at those who spin their flaccid leadership proclaiming excellence and deft handling… when their weakness is ruefully obvious….and humbly confessing the need for support and consensus would have engendered our fiercest allegiance…our affection. We only understand protecting one another! We strive and die for that idea in history! We seethe with anger at those who disrespect opposing views or the greater good…especially when reasonable rules of conduct are firmly fixed to protect the common good…especially when those empowered/entrusted by their peers to enforce those firmly fixed rules of conduct…make excuses, claim ignorance…refuse indignantly to take any responsibility whatsoever! We are a sorry lot we damaged relics…we have been betrayed by those who vehemently proclaimed their savvy wisdom and profound respect for us. We know all too well…that cowardly face! We have been betrayed by American presidents and virtually every political office holder, by sexy/rich movie stars, by our nation’s “fair and impartial” professors, educators and news anchors, by know-it-all college students and snazzy zip code intellectuals…by “you’re in good hands” insurance companies, back-slapping lawyers, hollow speech-sters and by our own socially driven…”friends” and most wretchedly some spouses! We just don’t trust like we once did…or forgive in that vacuum of trust. Though our presentation has been mangled and rearranged by a difficult duty past…we are all the more dedicated to responsible interdependence…to the healthy preservation of community…transparency-in-all-leadership…and…rigorous fair play! If we have learned to recognize one thing by our traumatized lives…it’s that elitist whispering campaigns lobbying for like-minded allies breeds contempt, division and destruction…every time. We are grouchy! But we still KNOW to demand responsible accountable citizenship. We KNOW the reprobate liars and smug takers among us can be forced to confirm. We KNOW there is sufficient numbers, strength and unity among those who are accountable to each other and protect one another…to prevail over those…who are not. We are old and grumpy now…but we ever stand our watch over the right-thing-to-do. Author: Hal Arness Marine Combat Veteran of the Vietnam War
From the horror of the jungles of Vietnam to 21st Century chaos, it is possible that the Vietnam Veteran has arrived as not the neglected but the light at the end of the tunnel.
I feel confident we have the tools and epidemiological expertise to address and abate the concerns with the Zika virus. I am not so bolstered nor assured there are any strategies in place to deal with the intractable epidemic of character disorders that have permeated every facet of our culture. Industry, Commerce, Government and Religion are being subsumed by tabloid culture. Behavior aberrancy has found a way to step to the front of the line and assume the mantle.
Feeding this viral character flawed population of alleged leaders is the 24 hour cable news cycle that has devolved to a visual form of Peoples Magazine and a highly profitable cottage industry that promulgates the historical journalistic adage, “if it bleeds it leads.” The purity of the Fourth Estate is being invalidated by corporate news narcissism that supersedes the individual citizen and concedes its news selections to ratings based on the new advocacy journalism. Attribution of material and lasting truth are the casualties. This trend alone will erode our democracy and poison the pure intent of free speech.
So who is in charge of this dystopia of advance payment disinformation that can seldom be discerned to be accurate? No one! It is like smoking cigarettes; a bad habit that consumed a nation, with no one in charge. The bad karma part of this trend is that much of the media; print and broadcast, and the politico ghost writers, are violating the 8th commandment. To quote Ted Koppel, ” the Ten Commandments were not called the Ten Suggestions.” The upshot being, there are consequences, most of which have their genesis in Citizens United. Remember the Supreme Court decision about “Stolen Valor?” It simply stated that it is not illegal to lie. To many of these earlier mentioned character flawed leaders, this is a green light to confabulate stories, character assassinations and revisionist history. The current treatment of returning frozen assets to Iran is a prime example of scant attention to historical truth. How many of the common citizens know that these monies were for military equipment that we sold to them but never delivered as a result of the Regime, that we propped up, collapsing in 1979. We sold them F-16 and trained their pilots in Tucson, Arizona. Will you ever see any of this back story in news outlets? Washed away with the wave of currency over all aspects of history. Just one example of the frozen Fourth Estate. Cable news is on a feeding frenzy of controversy and have no interest in digging deeper to its origins. Ongoing controversy gains higher ratings than thoughtful researched narrative. There are exceptions, the Wall Street Journal. Time Magazine, Atlantic, Harpers, New Yorker, Hillsdale ,New Max, The New American,(John Birch Society), Mother Jones. But how many read these?
The phrase, Fourth Estate is credited to Edmund Burke (1729-1797) a British politician who once asserted,” there are three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder there sat a Fourth Estate more important then they all.”
Our First Amendment to the Constitution grants freedom for the press and allows it to be the watchdog and source of vigilance for the commoner. Yet the bastions of investigative journalism that informs and elevates the collective consciousness is an empty desk in the daily news.
I return to my assertion, we have become a nation of polarized peoples who rely on news that violates the 8th Commandment every single day. Is it possible that this is antecedent to most other national maladies?
The 8th Commandment is thus, You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Admittedly, I was educated in Catholic schools, where we were instructed to engage in frequent “examination of conscience.” That meant giving attention to the nuances of the 10 Commandments. Some of those related to the 8th Commandment would be, deliberate lies, perjury, harming another’s reputation (slander or gossip), telling the faults of others (detraction), betraying trust, uncharitable criticism, rash judgements and false suspicions, deliberately misleading or deceiving and most important to this writer, is refusing to forgive.
In a nation that professes to be founded on Christian principles with a rising population of Evangelicals, should we not be reminded that these Commandments are not the 10 Suggestions.
Off to the Olympic Opening Ceremonies now. The perfect antidote to our news cycle.
In these times of polarized, pugnacious pundits of doom and gloom, it strikes me that the finest most honorable tribute to our fallen warriors would be a month of silence. commencing today and running two weeks after Memorial Day, so as to fully memorialize the depth of the meaning of the day, beyond a 3 day vacation bash.
Naturally one would not retreat as a monk, but the silence I envision would be a nationwide fasting from all political opinion and identity politics—none of which ever exist on a battlefield. Turn off all talk radio and cable news for 30 days in respect for the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the very existence of those entities. Show the world that we are united as Americans first, not because we have an opinion that trumps our neighbors. Loud opinions in combat are a security risk. So lets for one month imagine we are in combat for the soul of America and silence ourselves, knowing that we will not shrivel up without a pronounced proclamation of our position on the state of nation. That would sound trumpets of respect for the fallen warriors.
“Homo lupus Homini.” Man is wolf to man. We must find a way to mute the mounting rude and ruthless incivility that has become acceptable and oddly laudable. It is said that, “evil thrives on resistance,” making silence the only antidote to the chaotic cacophony that is subsuming the nation. The last degenerate Emperor of Rome in 509 heard the same angry wailing on the way out.
War shows no sign of lessening. From the Peloponnesian Wars. to the Crusades through the French Revolution, two World Wars, endless Revolutions amongst nation states, to the ongoing undeclared wars of assimilation in Korea , Vietnam and now 15 years in the tribal quagmires of the return of Ottoman Empire, , there has always been a dislike of the unlikes. Whites against blacks. Christians and Jews, Muslims and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Irish and British. Yet, in all my years, I have not witnessed such a brutal inhumanity to our own. All being aggrandized by a voyeuristic media.
The only First Amendment antidote to this calamity of voices that are not folding into anything fruitful or formative for posterity, is silence.
“Only the dead know the end of war.” Plato
In honor of Memorial Day 2016, lets imitate the deceased with our silence, they may hear such a tribute.