TALK TO THE DADDY

Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Black soldiers fought bravely, paid a heavy price

"In recent years writers such as Toni Morrison, Rita Dove and Philip Roth have all included African American World War I veterans in their work; even the 2005 remake of King Kong added in a black former Great War sergeant. The Great War experiences of African American soldiers in 1917 and 1918 did have a thorough and long-lasting effect on African American culture; they made it more alive to cosmopolitan exchanges, provided models of manhood for the next generation, and raised important questions about the relation of black Americans to national history and memorial. Du Bois’s soldiers of democracy’ may not have won the fight against racial injustice in the USA, but they left a powerful legacy to an African American culture which played such a crucial role in that fight in the years to come."
--Dr. Mark Whalin

Listen up. The daddy is still thinking about our soldiers fighting in Iraq, risking their lives in a country that doesn't even want them there. The daddy is thinking about the Tuskeege Airmen, African American soldiers who flew high and fought bravely on behalf of our country, for a people who thought of them as little more than cotton picking monkeys, a people belonging to an inferior race and a people of whom they didn't want to look in the eye. And the daddy is thinking of black soldiers in World War I and II who fought in segregated units, because their fellow white American soldiers didn't want blacks to fight alongside them.

In American Smooth, Rita Dove, Professor English at the University of Virginia, speaks of African Americans surviving, dancing around ballrooms and through minefields of racial bigotry with style and grace: The freedom and exhilaration one feels twirling around the dance floor; the stir a black woman causes when she enters a room (that grand entrance!); Hattie McDaniel's arrival at the Coconut Grove; the determined dignity of the Billie Holidays. But what her poems speak to with the greatest passion and clarity to is about those black soldiers who fought so bravely and endured so much in the section of the book titled “Not Welcome Here.”

These are poems about black soldiers from World War I and World War II and their treatment by an “impertinent nation” once they returned home. Dove lets the black soldier speak:

You didn't want us when we left
but we went.
You didn't want us coming back
but here we are.


In "Alfonzo Prepares To Go Over The Top," Dove puts us on the front lines, showing
us war in all of its horror ("moves ass and balls, over tearing twigs and crushed
faces") and a soldier's life ("hear the le
aves? I am already memory") as pawn
in
a bigger game and temporary at best:


Alfonzo Prepares To Go Over The Top

A soldier waits until he's called- then
moves ass and balls, over
tearing twigs and crushed faces,
swinging his bayonet like a pitchfork
and thinking anything's better
than a trench, ratshit
and the tender hairs of chickweed.
A soldier is smoke
waiting for wind: he's a long corridor
clanging to the back of a house
where a child sings
in its ruined nursery...
and beauty is the
gleam of my eye on this gunstock and my spit
drying on the blade of this knife
before it warms itself in the gut of a kraut.
Mother, forgive me. Hear the leaves? I am
already memory.
In Bill Moyer's The Language of Life, Dove said of poetry:

"By making us stop for a moment, poetry gives us the opportunity to think about ourselves
on this planet and what we mean to each other...Equally important is the connection poetry
emphasizes of human being to human being: What are we doing to make everyone's lives
better, and not materially, but spiritually as well? I think that why poetry has often been
considered dangerous."

Thanks, Rita Dove, for reminding me to "stop for a moment...and think about...what we
mean to each other, to think about all of our soldiers, and to say a special prayer for
those
who fought so bravely, who paid so big a price for us to be free.


Rita Dove, thanks for reminding us.

6 comments:

CurvyGurl ♥ said...

How true, MacDaddy. I'm extra sensitive to this because of my dad's pride in the Marine Corps...even though he experienced the harsh reality of fighting in a forgotten war (Korea). As many have said, we're not supporters of the reasons for going to war, but are grateful to the numerous men and women who selflessly give of themselves to protect us. Have a great day!

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Daddy, A friend of mine likes to tell the story of his father's war experience in WWII. He was a truck driver in Patton's Army. These guys drove back and forth between the front lines and the supply depots and were known as The Red Ball Express. They operated "the supply lines" and most of them were black. Patton said that those truck won the war. . . of course he also said his tanks won the war, LeMay said his B-17s won the war. . .
Another amazing story of WWII is the guys who built the Alaskan highway. . . .then there were the longshoremen who had the dangerous job of loading ammunitions on ships. . .

rainywalker said...

Black Americans have played a real part in all our wars going back to the revolution. They were not really considered equals by most until the Vietnam war. More and more American books on history are finally including Black sacrifices for our country and the world.

nicki nicki tembo said...

I always appreciate the issues that you take time to highlight.

Our past is illuminated by many a black warrior and the many causes that enobled them. But what of today's warriors?

MacDaddy said...

"But what of today's warriors?"

They fight in wars far from home with an "enemy" that is difficult to know. They are men, and they are women. As they fight, as they do multiple duties in Iraq and now Afghanistan, the strain of maintaining a good relationship with their partner or husband or wife back home becomes increasingly, stressful. The longer they stay abroad, the more the bills pile up, the longer the kid becomes accustomed to living without the father or mother they once knew, the longer it takes to recover a relationship that was very good but now seems a mere shadow of itself.

One good thing I've heard is that, next to taking of her children and family, First Lady Michelle Obama is going to make working with soldier's families her priority, highlighting their struggles and looking how to give them the support they need.

CurvyGurl: Your story is very similar to the fathers I know. We should be grateful to them.

Sagacious: Good stories.

Rainywalker: Like you, I'm so glad the contributions are finally coming out.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

My dad was in the AF during WWII. He was never called to action, but was friends with some of the Tuskegee Airmen who settled in DC. I didn't have a clue these guys were famous. The few I met several times were nice and really smart. Wish I could go back in time even ten years ago; I'd have video taped them in interviews.