Thinking of Sergeant Bergdahl and T.V. Commentators




Thinking of Sergeant Bergdahl and T.V. Commentators

I grew up in the sixties when
the phrase was born,
so I can tell you that
“my country right or wrong” was not
the song of the young, but a croaking ode, reconstituted
beneath flat garrison caps, over
flapped bellies,
while the young, the young–vibrating
like reeds that whistle high
and scrape by low, the young–
for whom life is, for a while,
a succession of first times–
voice varying measures–

So, why don’t you made-up faces on television
talk about the 50,000 U.S. soldiers who deserted
the European theater, World War II,
the 100,000 Brits?

Men, riddled
by bombardment (part of the war package),
who slipped, stunned,
from their own sides’ guns, tried to stowaway
in blanks,
to secrete their crazed selves
from crazy;

men, who wanted, with unforetold
desperation, to fold their arms
on a kitchen table nights,
the room lit yellow
as a lantern in July,
only curtains ruffling,
the animals outside
not human–

I’m not saying
they should be honored,
only that your sacred cows,
the shibboleths sprouting
from your lip-glossed mouths
are highly tippable, unlike
the real kind, those still, sound, beasts
who will stand through wind and storm, their bones
propping wayward tents in their hides,
their soft dumb eyes aware in every stare
of the world’s perverse

Something solid.
Which brings me back
to love of country,
love of
my countrymen,
right or wrong,
of thee I sing.



This is very much a draft poem, way too long, written for a “get listed” prompt by Fireblossom (Shay) on With Real Toads. I’ve edited it since posting as well.

I refer in the poem to a recent history by Charles Glass, The Deserters, A HIdden History of World War II, that reports 50,000 U.S. troops deserting from the front (a  fairly high number given that only 10% of U.S. troops involved in World War II were in combat.)   Those in combat were kept for terribly long and arduous tours, probably what caused the breakdowns  The larger number of deserting British soldiers–100,000–relates, it seems,  to the longer period of war for the British.  There were far fewer defections on the Pacific front, in part because the battles were on islands.  The desertions were very little spoken of during the war as discussion of this was thought to weaken morale and to give comfort to the other side.

According to Glass, there were a number of desertions where a man would wander off sometimes just for a few days, and then after some emotional repair, find his way back to his unit.  Apparently, front line soldiers rarely turned in the name of a deserter; if a deserter were reported it was by someone from the rear echelon.  A very interesting interview of Glass can be found here.

In terms of Bergdahl–I confess that I’ve only read aspects of the case. (I don’t have a TV, so my main knowledge is from written news sources.)  However, I am appalled at the rush to judgment.

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16 Comments on “Thinking of Sergeant Bergdahl and T.V. Commentators”

  1. R.W. Ridley Says:

    I’m actually a little frightened by the rush to judgment. It’s kind of like watching a crazed madness infect a mob one by one. Reason in this country seems to be rushing away at an ever increasing rate.

    Great post and poem!

  2. vandana Says:

    beautifully expressed

  3. brian miller Says:

    being trapped on the front line…far from home…at constant alertness knowing you could die at any time…it has to take its toll on you….nice play in there on my country tis of thee

  4. I am not familiar with the case that is at the heart of your poem, but i can appreciate the standpoint you have taken and your passion is strongly felt.

  5. hedgewitch Says:

    A very well-crafted ‘draft’ k, as usual.I love the flapping again, this time of full bellies. I too wonder what these bile-spewing, armchair soldiers(tv commentators, talking heads) most of whom know nothing whatsoever about war and have never served, would have done in the same situation. The character assassination is vile, and also the profound hypocrisy–if Bergdahl had died in captivity, they would be just as vitriolic and hateful about Obama’s failure to rescue him, and he’d be a hero, the question of his walking away never even raised. I have no words for my contempt for the entire right wing noise machine, and the people who allow it to do their thinking for them. No one knows the facts in the case, but the rush to judgment has nothing to do with fact, only with the usual political bloodsport of a country I find it increasingly hard to understand.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks–I call it a draft because written when tired and late, and honestly, not sure that it describes at all what I’d like to say, in part because of the list (though having a list helped too, in its way.) I agree with all you’ve said in your comment. Thank God, I don’t have a TV. k.

  6. It is easy to make judgments if you have never walked in his combat boots. This is a powerful piece that speaks of the flood of hypocrisy rampant in the right wings of thought!

  7. You give voice, resonant, compassionate and actually quite beautiful, to these young men -boys- who endured more than they could.

  8. A powerful write indeed…on a subject that brings up many different opinions…..well spoken Manic D…:-)

  9. I worked with many returnees from war with their life-shattering PTSD. Compassion is the only possible response once you hear their stories. What we subject these young people to and then blame them for their reactions is unconscionable. This poem is a gem.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thank you, Mary. That must have been very difficult, and yet satisfying too–when you could help people. K .

      On Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 12:56 PM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  10. i was surprised to see how he went from hero to zero in such a short time. Great poem. Full of nuances, like good poetry.

    Greetings from London.

  11. Jennifer G. Knoblock Says:

    Wow. So strong, I was pulled right through. I didn’t feel it was too long; the progression seems to fit the subject so well.

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