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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

L. E. J. covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for Consumer Affairs.com. He is a contributor to Gambit Weekly, New Orleans Magazine, SCAT, Baton Rouge Advocate, Advocate Magazine, The Times-Picayune, and Country Roads Magazine, and the books FRENCH QUARTER FICTION (Light of New Orleans Publishing), LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), LIFE IN THE WAKE (NOLAfuges.com), and more. Johnson is a former Merchant Seaman, and columnist at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans; and African-American Village. Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland. Winner of the Press Club of New Orleans Award for Excellence, 1991, and given the Key to The City and a Certificate of Appreciation from the New Orleans City Council for a Gambit Weekly story on murder in the French Quarter.

Monday, November 01, 2010

November 2010 / Where Have All The Flowers Gone

Yours Truly in a Swamp

by

Leonard Earl Johnson




Photo credit: Frank Parsley

Reprinted from Consumer Affairs.com


Where Have All the Flowers Gone

In a Breaux Bridge, Louisiana antique store we recently found a dime store memento from the days when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was America's young optimistic president.


It is a small glazed ceramic rocking chair that looked like it might have been half of a pair of salt-and-pepper shakers. But there were no holes in the top, and there was no mate. It is off-white with reddish brown highlights on the arms and rockers. On the bottom it reads: "c. ARROW 1962 NYC Made in Japan," in black letters. On the headrest are the initials, "J. F. K.," in gold.


We took it home and rinsed it off under the kitchen faucet. It now sits on the stainless steel splash board reminding us of that bright time turned very dark, in Dallas, just days before Thanksgiving forty-seven years ago this month.


* * *

Sun Tzu wrote in THE ART OF WAR, the oldest military treatise in the world: "IF THE CAMPAIGN IS PROTRACTED, THE RESOURCES OF THE STATE WILL NOT BE EQUAL TO THE STRAIN."


A small U. S. military excursion had been operating in Vietnam since the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. In the years since his assassination, Kennedy has often been quoted telling television newsman Walter Cronkite that Americans should not continue fighting the battles of Vietnamese. In the same interview he also said it would be wrong to abandon Vietnam. (Politicians!)


Robert S. McNamara was one of Kennedy's touted "best and brightest." He was Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and, after the murder, Lyndon Johnson.


McNamara was described as brilliant, cold and calculating. Critics at the time called Vietnam, "McNamara's War." He spent the last half of his life trying to shake that moniker.


Historians generally agree that Kennedy and his brother, Robert, who was Attorney General and consigliere (later, also assassinated), planned to tear up and cast to the winds the vast powers that had grown up after World War Two in America's secret police/intelligence/spy system. Chiefly the Central Intelligence Agency which had deceived Kennedy into the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.


Today we have six, or nine, or who-knows just how many, secret agencies working to maintain peace, freedom and prosperity. And with the addition of each new secret agency we have found less peace, freedom and prosperity. Ironic, isn't it?


Had J. F. K. lived perhaps we would not have had the soul numbing experience of Vietnam, nor the Fabled Sixties counter culture, nor the right wing's persistent drumbeat to save the nation from it with ever more police-force and warfare.


Before his death, McNamara broke silence on the matter (he said he had kept quiet out of respect for subsequent American leaders at war) and said he, too, thought Kennedy would have ended the war. Ironic, indeed, considering it was called McNamara's War.


But Kennedy did not live and we did fight, and fight, and fight. The right, whether Democrat or Republican, said if we lost this war in Vietnam we would lose something great and important. No one ever said what that great important thing was. Not then. Not since.


After more time than we gave to the Second World War we did lose, and by gum, we lost something very great and very important, peace. In a very real way, we have been at war since. Ever in pursuit of that great and important goal no one can name.


Sun Tzu: "THERE IS NO INSTANCE OF A COUNTRY HAVING BENEFITTED FROM PROLONGED WARFARE."


We just held an important off-year election while two of our massively expensive wars raged in Asia. The economy and deficit spending were the issues most talked about. (Issues are no longer actually "talked" about in American elections. They are, however, referred to with iconic symbol-ry.) Yet hardly a word (or iconic symbol) was spoken about the wars.


Many flocked to the polls voting to remove "the ins" from office. Pundits say because "the ins" were too slow removing problems caused by what? Our latest prolonged war? This one begun, of course, by George Bush, Dick Cheney, and their band of what? Warlords? All of whom, incidentally, evaded the Vietnam war and did not send their own children to our subsequent wars.

Demagoguery du Jour

Merely simple-minded demagogues or, as some say, the Bush Crime Family on a greed fueled heedless plunder -- what Texas oil men call cowboys.


They clearly left Washington wealthier. (Nothing new in that.) Not a one of them is living homeless or without health care, nor even a smidgen reduced in their share of this world's rewards.

The Big Mess

No one much noted it in the campaign, but the sordid Wall Street/Banker bailout the Cons hung around Obama's neck was a deal cobbled together by Bush's team. Politicians and press pundits said they should not talk about it because it happened two years ago. Why not? It happened. Legally, maybe. Maybe not. But it happened.


As one politician put it, the arsonists blamed the fire department for arriving too late.


The magic bullet that killed Kennedy, November 22, 1963, not only danced miraculously around the presidential limousine, it shot through the heart of America and it just keeps on going.


Sun Tzu: "CONTRIBUTING TO MAINTAIN AN ARMY AT A DISTANCE CAUSES THE PEOPLE TO BE IMPOVERISHED."


This Thanksgiving please pray for us all. Pray next year you can afford a turkey, and your elderly aunt is not living in a hospital-bed in your living room.

Copyright, 2010, Leonard Earl Johnson
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