Some late ‘Veteran’s Day’ reading

imagesI’ve been so glued to reports from Fort Meade that I keep putting off commenting on the way it’s being framed by the media; I will soon, with links to cogent analyses by others. But in the meantime, one piece of unfinished sorta- Veterans Day business: I wanted to hype an amazing resource on soldiers, civilians and struggle, with some of the best writing out there.

The Dart Society, composed of journalists interested in trauma, devoted the November issue of its newish magazine Dart Society Reports to veterans, edited by star journalist Jina Moore. Included in its super-rich contents:

I did want to mention that in connection with the issue, the Society editors asked me for a Q&A or the Dart Society blog.  They asked me to talk about soldiers who dissent, which got me to elaborate on my definition of same:

Some of the early dissent was quite private —  a letter home bemoaning the war, a cryptic but elegiac poem — and some public but wordless, like desertion or a refusal to cross a border when ordered. When troops desert, it doesn’t always mean they’re dissenting — they could be homesick or felonious  – but when large-scale desertion occurs, it’s a symptom that something has gone very wrong.

From 1754 on, though, enlistees were also not afraid to confront their commands when they felt it necessary. They considered themselves citizens with rights and formed “committees” like the ones that started the Revolution. In a famous 1779 “riot,” Philadelphia militiamen marched on the home of the Treasury Secretary to protest inflated bread prices.

Wars that followed, especially wars more obviously of choice, were rife with both crises of conscience and insubordination. Two hundred years ago this year, we were trying to invade Canada in the War of 1812.  One of the reasons it failed was because some troops refused to cross the border, others deserting whole platoons at a time.

Even what most folks consider the “good” wars, the Civil War and World War II, engendered the most passionate critics of the wars that followed. Frederick Douglass’ son Lewis spoke out against the Spanish-American War after fighting in the Civil War’s famous Massachusetts 54th, and William Kunstler was an army major in Asia in 1944, before leading the early movement against the Vietnam War.

Then there are what I call the gender-dissenters: gay troops surviving purges and persecution, and women at first dissenting simply by serving. Harriet Tubman led operations in the South and recruited black soldiers, which at the time felt as revolutionary as you get. And the recent movement on behalf of survivors of military sexual trauma is so profoundly, brilliantly disruptive that it sounds chords with so many prior dissenters.

Whatever you think of my ramblings, go over and look at the issue: the writing over there will delight and change you. And the Society knows what she knows – that every day should be Veterans Day.

Some news and a promise

I almost literally crawled under a rock toward the end of the year, in an effort to finally get this book completed. I can now report honestly that it’s almost there. (For a cheat sheet on its ultimate shape, check out my draft introduction at the book’s own site.)

Some  bits and pieces from around here – some more personal than usual:

  • With the book’s delivery in sight (promises, promises, I know, but….), I’m now blogging daily (ditto) at the Ain’t Marching site. Subscribe to its feed if you can so you don’t miss out. Today, for example, I comment on two medical-whistleblower stories, and on the intrepid reporters who’ve been crucial in exposing them.
  • Speaking of intrepid reporters, the unparalleled Jina Moore keeps breaking new ground, and rolling out new features from her work in Liberia (a project of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting).  Check it all out at her new site: this week she has a LONG, smart piece in the Christian Science Monitor Sunday mag, but I’m also intrigued by her older, sly piece on the guy who stole all the lawbooks, citing intellectual-property laws. (He needs some African Stephen James Joyce to give him a spanking.)
  • The web magazine I edit, Women’s Voices for Change, just gave me a taste of what it’s like to be in the magazine world: huge changes, a few layoffs, and a hot new editorial director who’s promised to make it famous. I’ll keep you posted as things proceed.
  • Meanwhile, I’m waiting to see if these folks find my work interesting enough to invite me in and give me hell for a few years. Maybe I won’t have to write more than two books that took Ph.D,-level work without that degree to show for it.