Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Are you listening? (a poem for George W. Bush)

Will you ignore the will of the people?
Did you forget who it is that you serve?
Can't you hear the wails of the mothers
Who will soon sing a funeral dirge?

Did you think of the innocent children
your bombs indiscriminately kill?
What is our greatest danger,
Iraq or your own iron will?

©2003 Mark Winegar

First published in the Indie Journal

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's a sad world...

I read an odd message today
and I still don’t understand it.

“Its a sad world

when only peace
at the end of a gun.”

What do these words imply?

A desire to make war?
“Its a sad world
when only peace
at the end of a gun.”

What do you expect to come
from the end of a gun?
“Its a sad world
when only peace
at the end of a gun.”

Maybe the author is mistaken?
Perhaps his grammar is wrong?

“Its a sad world
when only peace
at the end of a gun.”

Maybe it was a lament
that should have read,
"Its a sad world
when guns come
to end the peace."

It might be a statement
on the condition of man,

"Its a sad world
when guns must come
to make the peace."

©2003 Mark Winegar

First published in the Indie Journal

Monday, September 12, 2005

"...I knew we were doing a good thing for the people of Iraq..."

This is a letter from a veteran of the Iraq war written to Michael Moore. Moore has been collecting letters like this for quite awhile now. They come from soldiers in Iraq, their families, soldiers at other stations, and from veterans. I thought it was about time Americans at large participated to. So, I am responding to this letter.

From: Stephan Ward
Date: Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Subject: From an Iraq War Vet


I am a veteran of the war in Iraq, and I wanted to write to thank you for making a film that I believe has opened many eyes in this country to things they were once blind to. When I was deployed to Iraq, I knew we were doing a good thing for the people of Iraq; tyranny and totalitarianism had to be wiped off the slate of progress in Iraq and we were the ones to do it. But after that proverbial eraser comprised of U.S. and coalition forces liberated Iraq, we wondered, "What next?" We also wondered, "Where are all the terrorists? The al Qaeda operatives? The Syrians?" We knew that despite our noble act of freeing the oppressed peoples of Iraq, so many false guises were still being put forth as to other reasons WHY we were there in the first place. Upon hearing of the fall of Saddam Hussein's statue while I was on patrol in southern Iraq, I couldn't help but think "What next? Where do we go from here?" The tyrant had been deposed, the people liberated, but did anyone RE ALLY have any clue as to the next step? Unfortunately for the troops like myself and my brothers-in-arms still serving over there, no one did.

It was as if it was a movie playing out with an open ending; would it be drama, action, or heartbreaking despair? Where was the crescendo, the climax, and most importantly, the stereotypical part in every movie where the loose ends are wrapped up and the story comes to a neat close? I was under the impression that the Bush administration seemed to have a great idea for every single step of the way during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but as to whether I actually believed that a war without a plan would work, no. No way in hell. And while I gained an incredible life experience out of it, I don't know how much I will have to show for it in ten years when it comes to W's "mission accomplished" claim. Will it be another Vietnam, perhaps? Somalia? I wonder whether it will be yet another neo-imperialist action that ends totally in tragedy. At the same time, I see that the aforementioned tragedy has no foreseeable end and is nothing but a long, continuing scene in the "reality T V war" that is being played out before our very eyes.

Sincerely and respectfully,

SPC Stephen Ward

My response

Dear Stephen,

You don't know me. I read your letter to Michael Moore and it touched me. That's why I'm writing this.

I think Moore's project of collecting these letters is great. We get to hear first-hand what our servicemen and their families have to say. We learn more from your letters than we do from the 7/24 cable news networks. But, I think you need to hear from the rest of the nation too because "we are all in this together".

First of all, we are very proud of you and your comrads in arms. You are willing to sacrifice everything in the defense of our country. It saddens my heart to know you're fighting for a government that does not support you adequately. That you fight under false pretenses. You deserve better. You ought to be paid a fair wage for your labor and receive a full benefit package as well. And, and you deserve a credible commander in chief.

I believe we all owe you an apology. We collectively elected a person who is unfit to serve as President of the United States. He has put you all in harms way to serve his own ends. Once again we find ourselves embroiled in an imperialsitic occupation of another country. Bush calls the continuing war an insurgency. I believe its a revolutionary war against an imperialstic invader and it will continue until we finally admit defeat. We will not be defeated because we are not strong but because we are wrong. That is not your fault. You are strong and honorable but your leadership is weak and dishonorable.

America can be great again but there is much to do. We must struggle against greed and corporate power. We must fight for the collective good of all. We must wage peace as agressively as we have waged war. And, we must punish those who betrayed you by sending you on this unholy crusade and set an example that will stand for centuries.

We worry about you and hope you are all home safe very soon. We keep you in our thoughts and prayers.

Mark Winegar

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Managing chat groups

Participating in a chat group can be a positive experience if you're willing to work at it. My group, the Acoustic Coffee House, is on the Care2 network. There are about 3,225 members and who knows how many stalkers. We talk about everything from folkmusic to politics. Sometimes things get out of hand but not often.

Most of the problems we experience are due to the frustration people feel with external events such as hurricane Katrina or the occupation of Iraq. These are difficult issues and people sometimes have problems expressing themselves. Kitty West, the folksinger, is a great role model in our group. She has a lot of patience and an uncanny way of working with people on a personal level to discover what they really want to say. Basically it's just plain old common sense, treat others like you'd like them to treat you.

Hey, isn't that the "golden rule?"

We occasionally run into what you might call a "trouble maker." These are people who join a group just to stir everyone up. This is where good hosting comes in and it takes awhile to get the hang of it. As a host, you need to peruse the message threads even though you may not be interested in each topic. We scan for abusive language and then remove the offending participant from the group. Blocking a member makes a clear message that the group will not tolerate abusive behavior. It also says the hosts care about the experience of all members. Its hard to do the first time but its the only way to create a "comfy" group.

In closing, I offer this caveat. Chat groups can be very compelling. You find that there are thousands of people who care about what you have to say. However, these virtual friends are no replacement for real relationships. So, enjoy your chat group but have a life too.

Spend some time interacting with your "real" friends and loved ones every day!