11 March, 2007

1966 - Levertov & Ochs - "a dreadful future for America"

Change a few proper nouns in these pieces, and they could just as easily be speaking to the Situation today, 40 years later—sobering testimony to our failures. Their future is our present. The children of the children of 1966 are being sent to slaughter & be slaughtered once again, in a war that shows no signs of slowing down despite lots of hot air in Washington, one that holds the potential to spiral out of control into a much larger conflagration.

Denise Levertov:

I am absolutely opposed to the U.S. war of aggression in Vietnam. Not only is it an unjustifiable interference hypocritically carried on in the name of "freedom" while in fact its purpose is to further the strategic ends of a government whose enormous power has destroyed the morality of its members; but it is being waged by means of atrocities. This is a war in which more children are being killed and maimed than fighting men. Napalm, white phosphorus, fragmentation bombs, all used deliberately on a civilian population; poisoning of crops, defoliation of forests; not to speak of the horrendous blight of disease and famine that follows, the corruption, prostitution, and every kind of physical and moral suffering—nothing whatsoever could possibly justify these crimes.

Violence always breeds more violence and is never a solution even when it temporarily seems to be. Violence of this magnitude, even if the ultimate holocaust it is swiftly leading to is averted—i.e., if we at least stop in time to avoid a still larger war—promises a dreadful future for America, full of people tortured and distorted with the knowledge (conscious or unconscious) of what we have done. One does not need to be a bomber pilot to feel this; one need only be an American who did nothing to stop the war, or not enough; one has only to be a human being. It is hard to be an artist in this time because it is hard to be human: in the dull ever-accumulating horror of the war news, it is more difficult each day to keep remembering the creative and joyful potential of human beings, and to fulfill that potential in one's own life, as testimony. Shame, despair, disgust, these are the reverberations that threaten to silence poets thousands of miles away from where the bombs are falling. The struggles of all artists and all pacifists is to overcome their nausea and actively hold on to what their work has caused them to know—the possibility of beautiful life.

I believe that cessation of all violence and withdrawal of all troops from Vietnam is the only right action for the U.S. I would like to see this withdrawal followed by the penitent presentation to the people of Vietnam by the U.S. of huge quantities of food and supplies—such quantities that people here would actually feel a pinch, actually sacrifice something, not merely donate a surplus. I would like to see this given absolutely outright, and unaccompanied by U.S. "advisors," though large numbers of doctors, nurses, and other people who might really be of use in reconstructing the ravaged country might humbly offer their services to work under Vietnamese supervision. Such acts of penitence, distinct from the guilt that stews in its own juice, would do something to make the future more livable for our children.

from Writers Take Sides on Vietnam (New York, 1967), reprinted in the poet in the world (New Directions, 1973)
Phil Ochs:

Cops of the World

Come, get out of the way, boys
Quick, get out of the way
You'd better watch what you say, boys
Better watch what you say
We've rammed in your harbor and tied to your port
And our pistols are hungry and our tempers are short
So bring your daughters around to the port
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

We pick and choose as we please, boys
Pick and choose as we please
You'd best get down on your knees, boys
Best get down on your knees
We're hairy and horny and ready to shack
We don't care if you're yellow or black
Just take off your clothes and lie down on your back
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

Our boots are needing a shine, boys
Boots are needing a shine
But our Coca-cola is fine, boys
Coca-cola is fine
We've got to protect all our citizens fair
So we'll send a battalion for everyone there
And maybe we'll leave in a couple of years
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

Dump the reds in a pile, boys
Dump the reds in a pile
You'd better wipe of that smile, boys
Better wipe off that smile
We'll spit through the streets of the cities we wreck
We'll find you a leader that you can elect
Those treaties we signed were a pain in the neck
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

Clean the johns with a rag, boys
Clean the johns with a rag
If you like you can use your flag, boys
If you like you can use your flag
We've got too much money we're looking for toys
And guns will be guns and boys will be boys
But we'll gladly pay for all we destroy
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

Please stay off of the grass, boys
Please stay off of the grass
Here's a kick in the ass, boys
Here's a kick in the ass
We'll smash down your doors, we don't bother to knock
We've done it before, so why all the shock?
We're the biggest and toughest kids on the block
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

When we've butchered your sons, boys
When we've butchered your sons
Have a stick of our gum, boys
Have a stick of our bubble-gum
We own half the world, oh say can you see
The name for our profits is democracy
So, like it or not, you will have to be free
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

from The War is Over (Barricade Music, 1968)


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