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Poetry Magnum Opus



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Every single war

is necessary, I am sorry to say,

and so we need to kill people.


You can’t just allow things

to happen, because if you cannot

control them, the bad guys will take over.


We need to kill them all off,

without actually saying we are doing so

for which reason we depend on America.


America. Best propaganda in the world.

Democracy, freedom, human rights!

It’s all a total lie: it doesn’t mean a thing.


Every country that tries to be free

will be smashed into smithereens

like Cuba. Move on, move on


to Vietnam. That didn’t work out either:

the idiots wouldn’t surrender.

OK, never mind, we’ll attack Grenada.


The Gulf War, 1991, aha!

The Vietnam Syndrome is over.

9/11 then happens by accident


Why do these people hate us?

(listen, says Europe, do you really want to know?)

Not really. Let’s attack Iraq.


We have learned so much from Vietnam,

so much so that we’ll do it all over again.


Dead kids. Crippled teenagers.

It’s all very sad but the thing to remember

is we don’t have the draft.


No college kids need to die,

just the kids from the poor families

and the sons of the immigrants we despise.


These are the guys who do the fighting and dying

along with all those weird military Southerners

who are the backbone of the Army.


It doesn’t matter. Of course it matters!

People are plunged into poverty.

These kids are dying for no reason.


Politics has become the playground of millionaires.

Liberty and freedom has become a distant memory.

This shining Republic is in mortal danger.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Oh, the simplicity of it all: Republicans, especially Southerners, the rich,(or the poor if they are religious), all evil concentrated in one country. Never mind Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, India, China, Russia and numerous other African and South American states. Oh, and Mexico. Sorry, didn't notice any proposals; maybe overthrow the U.S? Never mind; it will soon expire on its current path. Ask the Irish. Enough for me. I bid you all a tepid adieu.


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David W. Parsley

Hi Brendan,


On its literary merits, I actually think the first three stanzas are compelling and even have enough strophe-type structure to qualify as verse. Something happens after that. Without some notion of a proposed solution (as Franklin says), and with the degeneration into broken prose, the poem can come across a little like a resentful freshman year rant. Agreed that it isn't enough for the good guys to come in every once in a while and bail everone else out, and do it closer to the right way (if there is one), more like WWI and WWII, like Bosnia, even the Gulf War (sorry, those were well orchestrated coalitions, not just the USA off on a bullying tear - watch your facts). They need to remember they are the good guys and abide by the rules that they themselves practiced and promulgated. It is kind of sad to go back and look at the things we (the USA, yes, my country) accused others of, dragging them up before the international tribunals. We actually executed Japanese officers for waterboarding people, back in the day, and now direct people (yes, the USA, my elected officials, whether I voted for them or not) to draw up legal interpretations to justify the practice for us. We should give ourselves a shake, remember what made us great at one time: a sense of decency, hope for a world working toward true civilization and peace. We should ask ourselves to go back and pick up where we left off, to be better than we now are. Perhaps that is what you meant to say?


- Dave

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Fair comments, on the whole. Bit of a rant, hence the title, a reaction to the elephant in your living room syndrome ....

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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To begin with, this is a bit of a rant (!), hence the title. It's been slammed as anti-American drivel, fair enough, which is what you can expect for being overly critical. Anyone stupid enough or so recklessly brave (same thing) as to question Israeli policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians can expect to be labelled "anti-Semitic". This one always makes me smile since the Arabs are also a Semitic people and the term refers to a language group and not a race of people. Anyway, with regard to the floating pronoun "we" ... not picked up on but a valid point nevertheless ... I think it was used unconsciously or subconsciously since as an Irish person I tend to identify to some extent with the United States because a) there is such a long connection between the two countries with so many of our people living there and totally integrated into American life, and b) the fact I lived there myself for seven years, including college, and never felt like a "furriner". There is no language barrier and no real cultural barrier (except for the green beer on Saint Paddy's day --- WTF is this??) and there are some parts of Philadelphia, New York and Boston (to take only three examples) where you have to pinch yourself not to believe you are actually back in Ireland! Having said that, once you come to start living outside the US again you cannot help but notice what an overwhelming effect US foreign policy has on the rest of the world, no matter where you happen to live. This is not always benign and is generally driven by US domestic politics and concerns and to hell with what the locals in other countries might think. America is a bit of a steamroller, or to mix metaphors, the elephant in your living room that you are not supposed to notice. America is rarely subtle in its military dispositions or economic prerogatives and any government or people that gets in the way can expect a great deal of pressure, descending into threats if the country in question is perceived as being hostile to American interests. Just to take a couple of random examples, can you imagine the American reaction if the Chinese Navy insisted on sending warships to the Caribbean or if the Iranians denounced US possession of nuclear weapons? How dare they! If Cuba and Venezuela want to go their own way they have to be ostracised and if possible have their governments overthrown. This already happened in Chile on another 9/11 (1973) when the democratically elected Allende government was thrown out in a US-backed military coup. Before that it was Guatemala. Then there was El Salvador and Nicaragua. Vietnam, of course. And what was the invasion of Iraq all about? Even friendly little Ireland came under colossal pressure to open Shannon Airport to Iraq-bound US military flights when "Coalition of the Willing" ally the UK was only a further 50 minutes or so further flying time. What's the reason for this? We did put our foot down in 2006 when the US wanted to use Shannon to send weapons to Israel during their abortive little war with Hezbollah. The flights were redirected to Scotland with predictable outrage from the Scots, adding fuel to their independence movement. The list goes on and on. America wants to be seen as a benevolent country upholding freedom and democracy around the world ... but that's the rhetoric, not the reality. When the Palestinians had an open and free election (according to international monitors) in 2008 they made the mistake of electing the wrong people and were abruptly denounced and had their funding cut off by the US. People do tend to notice these things, and draw conclusions, if not in the US itself where the public doesn't take all that much interest in happenings overseas, unless of course it leads to (another) war.


So much for background. You can't be an Empire overseas and a Republic at home, not at the same time. George Washington knew this. Thomas Jefferson knew this. Recent administrations are not so clear-eyed. The Romans destroyed their republic in favour of empire 2000 years ago and went on to eventual collapse. The British shed their empire in the post-WWII period in favour of their constitutional monarchy at home and in spite of many vicissitudes and occasional nostalgic reversions to the older model (the Falklands War, aiding the US in Iraq) have managed to re-invent themselves as a European nation and survive. What will America do? Well, apparently it will have another presidential election this year funded by corporations as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And the Occupy movement will grow in strength because it is no random occurrence: it's a reaction to a very real feeling of disenfranchisement and the spread of the idea that it is time to re-occupy the very idea of America, that "shining city upon the hill", that shining country, that erstwhile beacon to all mankind!


A long message, and I hope not too boring. This was the thinking behind the poem.


dedalus (Brendan)

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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I love the title of my reply: Replying to Anger. I'm one of the many Americans who says: Hell Yeah! to this kind of criticism (While doing nothing about it)

. As a poem it is probably not one of your works of pure genius- It doesn't have the revolutionary feel of Ginsberg etc.- In terms of content spot on! Loved it. Like the voice- If I have one criticism it didn't go far enough- No insult to my fellow Americans but it was probably too eurocentric- With enough RA in the AmeriCA it probably would have been considered perfect...



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