who our heroes are

October 1, 2009 § 3 Comments

when i first started working for this peace org.  was my first time meeting consciensious objectors to the vietnam war.  stop.  i should explain that my dad is vietnam vet.  and he suffered for decades from ptsd, depression, schizophrenia paranoia in response to his time in the war.  he hasnt held down a job for decades as far as i know.  spent years in an open veterans mental health home.  (when i say my mom was a single mom.  i mean, she paid for his medical bills.  we never received child support or alimony.  she sent him money.  bought us gifts and put his name on the card.  etc. etc. etc. as well as she sends money to various family members monthly to help them out…anyways…)  ok.  but my dad was a mathematical genius.  really.  all he did in his head sometimes was play with numbers.  he would have been a great engineer, or mathematician, computer scientist, something, right.  but his brain was shattered from the war.

the co’s i met in the peace org’s.  they always seemed so solid.  and had it all together.  with successful careers.  even though they weren’t as smart as my dad.  i really respect them tho.  there is this one guy.  who is like my dad’s age.  and he is one of my favorite people.  he went to jail rather than going to war.  he always talks to me as if i am a fully emobodied person.  but whenever i hang out with him.  i think of my dad.  my dad born and raised in teh ninth war in new orleans.  who got drafted into a war.  & i think how we venerate co’s.  but did my dad get drafted because a menonite or a quaker refused to?

i guess i keep thinking about all these white boys i know who chose not to go to war.  and all these black boys i know who didnt have a choice.  and how maybe if one of those co’s had gone.  maybe my dad wouldnt have been drafted.  and maybe he would have had his brain and nervous system in one piece.  and could have loved us kids.  or could have given something amazing to the world.

its funny sometimes.  who our heroes are.

i just think it is easier to be anti-war when you have the privilege to not have to go.

i mean my dad should have spent those years at mit.  not circling saigon.

the best thing my dad ever gave me was when he told me and my brother that the only thing we were not allowed to do was join the military.  absolutely not.  funny, considering how lil parenting he actually did.  but that admonition defined my life.

oh.  and he gave me an incredible soft spot for war vets, and war suvivors.  probably why i do the work that i do now.

sometimes i think that i am still seven years old trying to save my dad from himself.

i guess i just wanted to admit.  that sometimes i see these men who get so much cred because they refused to go to war.  and instead they went to college.  or they went to jail (and get white boy political prisoner cred…) or they became big time anti war activists (and forty years later are still living off the cred and rep they got from not going to war and yelling at buildings instead…) and i feel resentful.  that i never got to see who my father was.  because he was just one more poor black boy without a co card or contacts.


§ 3 Responses to who our heroes are

  • vikki says:

    Wow, this is amazing. I had never looked at the issue this way. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Walter Carpenter says:

    I am deeply regretful that your father had to go through an experience that not all of us had to endure.
    I would have loved to know him as you remember him best.

    • mama says:

      walt, i wish you could have known him as well. i think it would be hard to imagine safi or i as children, or to understand the choices that we have made as adults. if you dont have an understanding of who my father was or what he brought in our family. for instance, he was the one who named me. and who insisted that i be well read before the age of 12 in black history and literature.

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