Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hear Our Prayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Gadfly is just about to head out and throw his lot in with his fellow citizens as they partake in the holiday weekend festivities -- The Gadfly's son is a musician and performing live on stage at his local, podunk county fair this afternoon -- so The Gadfly is going to go and offer some familial support, as well as scarf down a couple of corn dogs and quaff a few ice cold beers.

However, before The Gadfly departs, he would like to share something with you dear readers.  Now - a lot of folks, mostly on the right spectrum of our political discourse, ran lickety-split to their fainting couches this past week upon hearing the news that some of America's military veterans had unfortunately died while waiting for care at their local Veteran's Administration facilities.  These same people wasted no time in raising their outstretched arms toward the heavens to beseech their creator with their faux outrage, and amid the lamentations of "why lord, oh why?," they found cause to cast near unilateral blame on a single Army General and his Kenyan, usurper emperor in the White House.

Now - rational, fair minded, and informed people who know something about this issue, will tell you that the all too real problems with the quality and level of care being given to our military veterans, are indeed real and most certainly are not befitting a wealthy nation who fervently and incessantly enjoys patting it's self on the back by issuing lofty claims of having the utmost respect and love for their fighting warriors.  It is also no secret that this problem has existed for a very long time and across multiple presidential administrations of both political parties.

In the simplest of nutshells here is what is sticking in The Gadfly's craw -- the people rending their garments and gnashing their teeth and beseeching their deity with the most fervent of fervor, just so happen to be the same people who every time an opportunity arises in Congress to actually pass legislation to do something for these veterans and ease the burden of their medical conditions, conditions contracted in their voluntary role of defending this nation's freedom and democracy, are the same goddamn people who suddenly seem to notice that the national checking account is a bit overdrawn and that ◉︵◉ sadly, there just ain't enough coin in the red, white & blue piggy bank to help out the guys and gals in uniform.

Of course it goes without saying that these very same ad hoc bean counting phonies are also, unsurprisingly, the same ones who never miss a vote to slash the taxes of the oligarchs.  Never miss a vote to lavish more subsidies on the job off-shoring multinational corporations.  Never miss a vote to make it easier for the banks and the financial services industry to steal a few dollars more from the average working stiff, including veterans.  Never miss a vote to try and cut Social Security and Medicare and push to privatize it all by handing it over to the Wall Street tycoons.

And they most certainly never miss a vote to funnel more taxpayer money in to the military industrial complex, which quite frankly is the archetypal mother of all military veterans since it is their line of business that, not unlike an assembly line in a factory, is mass producing these damaged veterans with their promotion and support of wars of choice and profit.

The Gadfly acknowledges that there are Democratic politicians who can be lumped in with this same group, but the difference is that they aren't the ones publicly wailing and bemoaning the issue for hypocritical political gain.

So on that note -- let us this Memorial Day weekend, look to the great and iconic American literary figure Mark Twain to put this whole idea of honoring dead soldiers into a bit of a different, and hopefully reflective, perspective.

The Gadfly is going to post Mr. Twain's seminal piece on war and the glorifying of it in it's entirety:

The War Prayer

by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fulttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory with stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came — next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams — visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!

Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, 
Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory —

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord and God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside — which the startled minister did — and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne — bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import — that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of — except he pause and think. “God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, and the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this — keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon your neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain on your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse on some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard the words ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory — must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
“Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —
For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits.”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.


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