My friend finds comfort in delusion,
for he believes in evolution.
He thinks our species can progress,
and chides me for my gloom, distress.
I point to human history,
its escalating savagery.
He claims that people can still learn,
but I am hard put to discern
some progress toward our ending war
or evil ingrained in our core.
This planet fostered a mistake
and some wise beings soon must take
grave action to redeem the place
and save it from our lethal race.
A book of Tom Greening’s serious and humorous poems, Words Against the Void, is available from Amazon.com
June 12th, 2011
There was a time, before Guernica,
when it was considered barbaric
to bomb civilians.
Then came Coventry, London, Hamburg, Dresden,
Hiroshima and the rest.
We’ve outgrown our squeamishness and,
as one door gunner put it,
“There was a My Lai every day.”
Thus do we evolve,
and out there in the universe
there are lots of targets
we can go gunning for.
If they are inhabited
by strange or familiar creatures
they’d better start preparing.
April 16th, 2011
Tom Greening finds poetry in positive psychology and its ties to the military’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness:
POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY ANTHEM
Thanks to Martin Seligman
we have got a noble plan.
Aided by psychology
we’ll fulfill our destiny.
Wimpy guys like you and me
will face stress resiliently.
He’ll convince us that we must
realize our cause is just,
and he’ll show us clearly why
for us to live bad guys must die.
We’ll decimate our enemies
and celebrate our victories.
With positive psychology
we’ll take our place in history.
(If there are some who disagree
we’ll ably treat their treachery.)
April 2nd, 2011
One of the joys of reading Scott Horton’s No Comment blog at Harpers is the exposure to pieces of great literature and wisdom that one might have missed. Today, among other gems, he Alexander Pope’s famous poem Know Then Thyself, the source of that famous phrase The proper study of mankind is Man. So, thanks to Scott, here it is:
Know then thyself
by Alexander Pope
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall:
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides;
Go measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old Time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule–
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!
Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal man unfold all Nature’s law,
Admired such wisdom in a earthly shape,
And show’d a NEWTON as we show an ape.
Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
Describe or fix one movement of his mind?
Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend,
Explain his own beginning or his end?
Alas! what wonder! Man’s superior part
Uncheck’d may rise, and climb from art to art;
But when his own great work is but begun,
What Reason weaves, by Passion is undone.
–Alexander Pope, Know Then Thyself from An Essay on Man: Epistle II (1711)
March 29th, 2008
Mélida Arredondo, who lost her stepson Marine Lcpl Alexander S. Arredondo on August 25, 2004, expresses the feelings of many of the 3,000 families today:
by Melida Arredondo
I can hear them.
The screams as she cries
What more can she do?
The pressure on her chest
Just won’t go away.
Today, ends the year
Her child’s death day.
The wife stands alone
Her kids at her side
Saying “Mom, what’s wrong?
Mr. is my Daddy alive?”
The men dressed all nice
One with a collar
Do not explain
all this death for a dollar
Or oil or greed.
They are not here to talk real
They bring only news
That cause the whole family to kneel.
The Father grabs one man
by his uniform in anger
The other hold his arms
To protect the GI from the stranger.
Yet, this Father to him
A stranger is not
The GI looks into his tears
and sees the eyes of his Pop.
The words are not friendly
Yet the pain fills all who love
And lose their own family
Due to bombs from above.
I hear the endless screams
They just won’t go away…
At least 3,000 are dead
And no cause to celebrate
On this last day of the year
I desire so much more
from my country and neighbors
to unite against senseless war.
Mélida Arredondo, www.peopleunited4peace.org
Remember Lcpl Alexander S. Arredondo, USMC, 08/05/1984 – 08/25/04
“To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men”
- Abe Lincoln
The Arredondos know this scream firsthand:
Carlos Arredondo of Roslindale, MA, learned that his son Lcpl. Alexander Arredondo, USMC was killed in action on August 25, 2004, his 44th birthday. When advised of his son’s death and due to anguish, grief and questionable protocol by the Casualty Assistance Team, he set fire to a US Marine van and himself in the process. These images were broadcast worldwide and resonated for many as the ultimate anguish of a father having lost his son in war. Carlos attended Alexander’s wake and funeral on a stretcher despite his injuries. With the help of his wife and family, he recuperated from burns on 26% of his body and engaged in active counseling to recuperate from PTSD. As a part of his treatment, he reaches out to other families who have lost their family members. He currently is focusing on public speaking and preparing a media campaign to inform particularly Spanish speaking parents of the unethical recruitment methods used to target troops who come from divorced and low income backgrounds.
Melida Arredondo of Roslindale, MA, drove home as quickly as she could when she found out that her stepson Alexander had been killed in action. When she turned onto her street, she witnessed a fire. She realized that there was something burning in front of her home. She saw Carlos writhing in pain as a US Marine sat on his back holding his arms. In the midst of the confusion, she remembers helicopters overhead, the sirens wailing, speaking to Brian (Alex’s younger brother) on a cell phone and witnessed a van on fire just a few feet away from her. Melida, a lifelong peace and justice activist, was active in protesting the Gulf War while George H. Bush’s was in office. Out of respect and love for her stepson, she told him that she was scared for him and did not believe in war. Yet, she told him she would not protest since she did not want him to believe she did not love and support him. Since Alex’ death, Melida has written opinion pieces about the war in local Boston papers, is aiding Carlos in writing about his experiences and works at a community health center in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
January 1st, 2007
When Evil-doing Comes Like Falling Rain
Like one who brings an important
letter to the counter after
office hours: the counter is already closed.
Like one who seeks to warn the
city of an impending flood,
but speaks another language. They do not understand him.
Like a beggar who knocks for the
fifth time at the door where he has four times been given
something: the fifth time he is hungry.
Like one whose blood flows from
a wound and who awaits
the doctor: his blood goes on flowing.
So do we come forward and report that evil has been done us.
The first time it was reported that our friends were being
butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred
were butched. But when a thousand were butchered
and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, no body calls out
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When
sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer
heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.
October 11th, 2006
From Greg Palast on the 50th anniversary of Howl:
News Flash from the Asylum
Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl“.
“I see the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.”
Just before his death, and into my third or fourth midlife crisis, I decided to become a writer. Couldn’t decide between poetry and investigative journalism. Ginsberg read my poetry. He suggested journalism. And then he said, “You know, Greg, I’m an investigative reporter, too.”
Yes, he was. In 1956, Ginsberg sat at a kitchen table in San Francisco and wrote that his friends were going crazy. They could still hear the voice of Joe McCarthy ranting and, out the window, count the Pentagon contractors polishing new war heads. In an America gone mad, insanity was the best defense.
“The soul,” he reported, “should never die ungodly in an armed madhouse.”
And that’s still the news.
Greg Palast talks journalism a la Ginsberg with Laura Flanders tonight at 9:45 EDT on Radio Nation — check your Air America and Community Station listings. Armed Madhouse dispatches form the Front Lines of the class war will be released this Tuesday, 6-6-06 – for more information see www.GregPalast.com.
June 3rd, 2006