Notes toward an introduction

  July 2020: As the book approaches publication WITHOUT an introduction, I decided to repost this from ten years ago, when it was still under the aegis of UC Press and Chelsea Manning was still imprisoned at Quantico. The book evolved as well, but the themes below whisper from between its pages. It’s been a long timeContinue reading “Notes toward an introduction”

Oceanside soldiers, John Brown, and how the Civil War flips the script on dissent

  I was reshaping my Civil War chapter, with a scene on May 12, 1861 — with soldiers in the newborn Union Army singing a song for John Brown. That happened at Boston’s Fort Warren, on the harbor’s Georges Island. As I was trying to evoke that day, I realized a potential problem; I’d begunContinue reading “Oceanside soldiers, John Brown, and how the Civil War flips the script on dissent”

Old soldiers, new century

Again with the cutting-room floor — this time with a section I’d worried was superfluous when I wrote it, but had been irrationally seized with wondering how my two Civil War storytellers had reacted to the beginning of the 20th century. Old Soldiers in a New Century The morning of August 18, 1906, is seasonablyContinue reading “Old soldiers, new century”

Intro, continued

After that loooong deconstruction of the book’s title… The following pages offer an idiosyncratic path from the country’s beginnings to the 21st century. Our guides: a handful of soldier-dissenters, who nudged that arc of history toward something resembling peace and justice. In the 1990s, when I was on staff at the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, I used to half-joke that “ifContinue reading “Intro, continued”

our wednesday five

From Civil War women to depleted uranium, nearly all my obsessions accounted for today. But first, the Pentagon finally attends to the VERY 21st-century issue of those “burn pits” searing the lungs of so many Iraq troops, first exposed by the remarkable Kelly Kennedy. On depleted uranium, still poisoning Gulf War I and OIF vets,Continue reading “our wednesday five”

The real Happy New Year’s of 1863

This day 150 years ago was, of course, pivotal to many of the figures in Ain’t Marching- from Quaker CO’s like Jesse Macy to Lewis H. Douglass.

So for my Civil War chapter I couldn’t resist from painting the scene myself, including its immediate aftermath. We can go on for days about who therein counts as a dissenting soldier, triply on that New Years’ Day — but how not?

For black soldiers, the wound goes that far back

The photo is of Sgt. Major Lewis H. Douglass, survivor of the battle of Fort Wagner, who never complained about  his pension but did observe,long before he became outspoken against the next war, that the supposed unity of the “Grand Army of the Republic” —given the differing treatment of black and white veterans groups —Continue reading “For black soldiers, the wound goes that far back”

Bring back the draft? A-gain?

Last time there was a national call to resume conscription, it came from former Marine and zillion-term Congressman Charles Rangel (left), who fought on the famous Hill 902 during the Korean War. Rangel’s bill to do so, introduced on the eve of the 2003 Iraq invasion, was mostly meant to highlight the still-deep inequity betweenContinue reading “Bring back the draft? A-gain?”

Nashville tea party? Not.

I wake up and  the ‘nets are buzzing with a speech last night made in Nashville by that shapeshifter from Alaska (Governor?  Talk show host? Avatar?). But another quiet buzz came in a report about another Battle of Nashville, one that was hardly a tea party. Unsurprisingly, it’s from a Fort Campbell-oriented paper, Clarksville Leaf-Courier, aboutContinue reading “Nashville tea party? Not.”

News you can use – and a taste of how I write

With the book’s pub date at least a year away, I know it’s too early for excerpts. But when Michael Archer, who has built a giant of online publishing since he and I parted ways as Fred Tuten‘s students at CCNY, asked if I had something that might suit, what could I do but pullContinue reading “News you can use – and a taste of how I write”