Saturday, July 4, 2015

CRAIG EDWARD KELSO, Independence Day

When my father returned from his voluntary enlistment in the United States Marine Corps around sometime in the late 1960s, my mother noticed an immediate change.

He was always considered aloof, prone to anger, macho as obvious overcompensation. But the happy, romantic young man she fell in love with was dead.

She explained to me his Vietnam experience was on order magnitudes movie-like. She had a picture album and clippings to prove it. My face set atop a taller man, slightly more wirey and gaunt, posed at times shirtless with cigarette dangling. Wry looks, knowing, certain were the ones I remember from my childhood, and their genesis lay in the former French colony a world away. 

Those looks were earned from watching friends and comrades die, from killing people he’d never known for reasons he, I can only assume, never grasped (a famous frame in his office was full of chevrons distinctly not American military; and, sure enough, they were plucked from Viet Cong officers’ rotting bodies as my father made his way throughout somebody else’s homeland).

He was handsome.

Universally handsome – in the manner all women would find him attractive. And they did. All my life. They’d reference him that way. Neighbors, after he’d make a visit, would ask who that good looking fellow was stopping by.

Swagger. Gum chewing swagger. That was my father. Any room he entered, most people noticed at some point. His presence was violence encapsulated.

When at various points in my development I’d ask about his time in Vietnam, he’d be slow with details. He never glamorized. He seldom spoke of the time at all. But when he did, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of regret or ultimate revelation about his place in the world nor his relationship with government.

At least, I don’t remember any such impression delivered my way.

Looking back, that’s rather shocking.

Government’s claim at a draft should be among the most offensive of its assertions. It’s fucking slavery. Conscription is the government attaching itself to a male’s life, pushing a young man hither and thither. Politicians mask martial slavery with phrasing such as ‘service to your country’ and other assorted bullshit. But it’s slavery. Maybe women reading don’t fully grasp the concept, but males in the United States continue to register with a selective service on their 18th birthdays. The draft is always lurking, and every once in a while, a politician will grumble about kids these days not understanding what it means to ‘serve your country.’ Slavery.

Government’s most repressive tool is the soldier. She isn’t there to protect freedom.  The soldier is a political piece of plastic, malleable to Kent State, Baltimore, Rimadi. And the American soldier, for now a voluntary, professional force, is among the greatest problem for the domestic population here at home. 

Journalists, such as Radly Balko, continue to examine the militarization of the US’s police force, as American foreign adventurism has created nearly two decades worth of combat-hardened veterans trained in wearing loads of catcher’s gear and adept at methods of street pacification. Chubby. Undereducated. Sports enthralled. Worked over by callous, life-taking video gaming and chugging death metal guitar riffs, the American soldier turned local police officer is a brain time bomb ready to blow, bursting that forced smile all over the avenue.

It’s more than obvious.  

My father, and millions of men like him, returned from war unquestioning. In fact, they returned strident, resolute.

All that death and sacrifice became something of a shield from both auto-confrontation and larger philosophical problems. Even the mere mention of anything approaching skepticism was immediately reproached in their own minds, extending to loud denouncing outwardly.

Every Fourth of July brings me to this meditation. I watch fireworks. I listen to our civic, secular religious hymns. I watch the parades.

The entire culture gives-in to the blob. Something called a country is to be handed our lives. Something called a country is to be pledged our allegiance. Grave superstition is to be showed dudes from way back, called my fathers, Founding Fathers, and a hallowed respect is to be lavished upon their signed parchments, their every scribble.

All this baffles me entirely. A giant blob of nearly 350 million people means nothing to me. The geographical accident of North American borders mean even less. Colors on a flag provoke nothing in me except mild revulsion at the thought of what they mean to those around me.

I barely know who my neighbors are, much less have any substantial affection and loyalty to folks in Florida or Iowa. And that their representatives and ‘mine’ can and do vote for mass action against still more blobs of folks … well, honestly, I am stymied at the point.

You’re all a great mystery to me.

About two decades after my father’s Vietnam War ‘service,’ I found his brains coagulated on a business hotel room’s floor. Truthfully, he’d died the moment his USMC uniform settled snug upon his frame and long before this scene, his suicide. He’d ceased to be independent. He’d joined the great blob, ready to use his one life to take another’s because a politician ordered.

The twenty years after, three marriages down, a kid, jobs, moves, loves, beers, steaks … were all the works of a zombie, dead man walking.

The word independence was foreign to my father in the ultimate sense, as it is today to the people who ascribe their independence, this most sacred of words, to their government. That flags, uniforms, collectivization is the very, completely whole opposite of independence continues to elude Americans.

Only an individual can be independent.

And I mean it. 
Craig Edward Kelso is the author of Anarcho-Capitalism (2014), a primer on the philosophy of peaceful, stateless cooperation. His curriculum vitae include a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a Post-Baccalaureate secondary education credential in both Social Science and English Language Arts. Kelso taught for nearly a decade in the American public school system, and was voted by colleagues Teacher of the Year, twice in his short tenure, earning numerous accolades from chambers of commerce, mayors, state assembly persons, governors, congresspersons, senators, and even Wal-Mart. Currently he struggles to earn an opportunity to be employed, working as a laborer, dishwasher. He is deliriously happily married to Myra Kelso, living in Southern California with their adorable children. 

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