rough notes

Posts Tagged ‘America

Reading oneself. Walt Whitman. Ginsberg. America.

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I’ve been reading old posts this past week, which is kind of embarrassing.  I try so hard to write with a dramatic flair but it always goes over like a lead balloon.  I know that each person is their own worst critic and that blog posts will *always* suffer from that little time invested in editing and revision, but it’s still hard on the system.

am i being too hard on myself?  definitely.  will i stop being hard on myself?  nope.

i leave you with a great poem:  Ginsberg’s A Supermarket in California.  I’ve cited it once or twice in the past, so you may have seen me post this clip before.  It came to mind yesterday after a great conversation I had with the new is the true about america.

Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher

What America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and

You got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?


Written by mitchellirons

September 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm

jeremy hinzman, returned

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So the CBC has reported that Jeremy Hinzman is headed back to the States; the website’s “comments” feature is awash with crazies on both sides arguing nonsense like “no nation wants a deserter” or that Canada was developed on the backs of refugees so he appeals should be granted immediately. Both have their merits, but neither really dig deep into the issue.

Don’t expect me to dig deep into the issue, either. I’m just a simple guy who once met Hinzman when he was boarding with some friends here in Halifax. Hinzman is a nice enough fellow. He’s got a peaceful look in his eye that declares “polite young gentleman” to you the moment you shakes hands with him.. He was, and is, smart, articulate, and courteous. I can recall looking at him and thinking that this guy could have tea with my grandmother in the afternoon, and then shoot down my neighbour at close or long range in the evening. I was impressed, and a little disconcerted all at once. Army-types do that to me.

Anyway, the thing with the Hinzman case that gets to me is the manner in which the media, and the public, refuse to deep into the details of his story. Of course this man volunteered for an all-volunteer army. He signed up, and he was ready to do the time. The plan was to go in, do his work, and then come out ready to get a college education payed for by his service with the Forces. And if I remember correctly, he already had completed one tour before having his change of heart and asking for non-combat status. Hinzman was, and i think still is prepared to do the time in the army, if only the army would have allowed him to enter into and stay in a non-combat position.

What gets me the most though is the concept of “Volunteer” in the US Forces. The media and the public, like I said, keep going on and on about the fact that he volunteered. I don’t know if I’d call the US Forces a volunteer service though. For too many people in the rank-and-file, signing up with the forces is not so much voluntary act as it is one based on coercion, or an act taken up due to misinformation. Hinzman signed up at 18. Eighteen-year olds might have the legal authority to sign themselves over to the Forces or to vote, but I highly doubt anyone would sign their house over to their kids at 18. 18-year-olds are still incredibly immature, under-developed, and as we know with the US Forces, are all-too-often easily duped into signing up for a term or two. Recruiters chase down potential privates and corporals in the schools and at the malls, and too often people sign up thinking it’s an easy-in, easy-out way to make some cash, either to help mom and dad, or to help themselves through college. It’s not until you get to boot camp or to the desert that you realize what it means to have the shit hit the fan. And I’m sure the recruiters don’t mention things like IEDs or Stop-Loss Programmes.

Hinzman volunteered for the Forces, and deserted. But before we once more make that claim that all volunteers have signed up knowing all the benefits and disadvantages of the service, let’s think about what it means to “volunteer” for something when economic circumstances make “Option A” the only option or what it means to sign on the dotted line when the fellows holding the paperwork haven’t given you the entire document to read first.

I don’t know if Hinzman was completely duped, but I think he was misled about what the Forces could offer him, and what the Forces expected back in return. The Army doesn’t play a fair game; he found that out only a little too late. Poor dude.

Written by mitchellirons

August 13, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Ansel Adams at Manzanar

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Internees at Manzanar War Relocation Center.  A. Adams, 1943

Internees at Manzanar War Relocation Center. A. Adams, 1943

Japanese Internees at Manzanar War Relocation Center,
Owens Valley, California, 1943.
Photograph by Ansel Adams
(Source: Ansel Adams Manzanar Collection, Library of Congress)

[wiki Ansel Adams] [wiki Manzanar WRC]

Written by mitchellirons

July 17, 2008 at 3:38 pm

22. Christopher Hitchens and Waterboarding

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You’ll probably see this link several times over the next couple days.  All the same, its kinda interesting to see what the Americans think is fair treatment:

(Original Clip on the Vanity Fair website at   Read the Article here at

Written by mitchellirons

July 3, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Sporting Men No. 6

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US Army Enlistment Poster, First World War

US Army Enlistment Poster, First World War

US Army Enlistment Poster, First World War (Click Image to Enlarge).

Text Reads:

WANTED: HUSKY YOUNG AMERICANS, college or university training desirable, though not essential, to tour to Berlin via France and No Man’s Land. A highly democratic organization in which every man begins at the bottom and works up — every opportunity for advancement. Considerable action anticipated en route; none but fighters needs apply. Apply at Room 516 Consumers Building.

It’s a Dare!

The bars are down. You can enlist in the Tank Corps now!

You who have been spoiling for a chance to mix in the big scrap — you who have dreamed of the day when you could go up, over and at’em, here’s the big opportunity.

There’s a lot of strapping nerve and sinew needed in this division right now.

We want men who have learned to use their heads — men who are used to being out in front.

It’s no job for a quitter; for when we’re riding over the trenches and through the wire, scattering the grey Hun line with machine gun bullets, it’s real American spunk we need.

Every man enlists in the U.S. Tank Corps as a private. All commissions are filled from the ranks, and there are more commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the Tank Corps in proportion to its personnel than in any other branch of the service.

Come along if you think you’ll do.

Tank Corps Recruiting Office
1890 E. Street. Washington, D.C.



Written by mitchellirons

June 25, 2008 at 9:32 pm

Imperialism No. 1

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street execution at the start of the Tet Offensive, photograph by Eddie Adams

street execution at the start of the Tet Offensive, photograph by Eddie Adams

Street execution of a Vietcong prisoner by Saigon Police Chief Nguy?n Ng?c Loan , 1 February 1968. Photograph by Eddie Adams (1933-2004).

(wiki Eddie Adams) (wiki Indochina Conflicts 1947-79) (wiki American Vietnam War) (wiki Tet Offensive)

(also see Shock and Awe)

Written by mitchellirons

June 8, 2008 at 10:09 am

baseball and the human condition

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I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to baseball. The local newspaper tells me that spring is in the air, spring training has begun, spring is in our step, and spring has sprung. All across that great nation which straddles our southern flank, sporting fans are spending their days engrossed in the magic and pathos that is the NCAA Final Four, but know full well that in merely one week’s time, their attentions will, nay must, divert to their National Pastime.

The newspapers (such a term is not soulless, as “the media” is) are reporting on the swings, the hits, the throws and the catches that are cutting through the air of Florida and Arizona with hardly a world devoted to the that post-human struggle: steroids and human growth hormone. We’ll keep those stories for the middle of the season, when the bland All*Star Game offers us a home-run derby to demonstrate the power in the pythons of our heroes. No, for now, we’ll take in baseball as it is every spring: a reconstitution of the human spirit and a recounting of everything that was right, and still is right in America. How nostalgic of us.

The Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, have a new stadium. The inaugural pitch in the park will be thrown by none other than current president George W. Bush. The Papers (I must reinforce their soul if their writers are determined to do the same with America) note that the capital’s former team, the Washington Senators – now the Texas Rangers – once had an inaugural pitch thrown in their own park by the late John F. Kennedy. I’ll leave the politics out of the politics for once, as the importance lies not in any similarity or difference between the two presidents, but in the fact that the newspapers feel obliged to use the president’s pitch as their own “pitch.” One way to reinforce the nostalgia of America’s pastime and of America’s heritage is to constantly reinforce America. Nostalgia’s power lies partly in its circularity.

Many people, or at least many men, own one baseball cap or another. I wear a New York Yankees ballcap from time to time; my friend Will once wore a ([Los Angeles{,}) California] Angels (of Anaheim) ballcap. I wear the Yankees’ cap merely because it looks nice on my head. Will wore the Angels cap, or at least professed to wear it, because the Angels were his team. I haven’t really ever understood the allegiance to teams, especially to teams outside of one’s region, but I haven’t ever questioned it, either. Regardless, The Angels were (or are) his team, but I take on a Yankees logo only for vanity. (I nearly made the switch to Boston, and often almost do, but I always fall back on Steinbrenner’s boys. Or at least Steinbrenner’s logo). I have an utmost respect for Will’s choice in teams without having any idea about his team in the first place. That respect lies in his choosing a team and nothing more. It sounds hollow, and in most ways it probably is, but I do appreciate that at some level he has bought in to this interesting social dynamic when I choose to sit on the sidelines.

That is not to say that I don’t take any interest in “The Game” at all. On the contrary, one of my favourite pastimes involves sitting down and listening to this Great American Game on the radio. There’s nothing like listening to the ballgame on an AM receiver in the late-afternoon sun. In fact, it can only get better with a beer in hand and the odd cicada or lawnmower making noise in the distance. This is a dream-state – the American Dream-state. After a long week of work, one can sit in his back yard and listen to the Great American Game as it is reported in the air from stadia many miles, if not many states away. It speaks of fulfillment and peace. There is nothing left to do in the day but to listen to the reportage of adults playing games. Being able to find peace in a moment such as that requires one to accept the premise that America and the West is not a land of empty promises, but a space to be filled with peace after prosperity, with repose and relaxation after one’s labours are through, and a reward of the simple life for one’s hard efforts.

In spite of my many, many criticisms of America and Late Capital, I still recognize that this premise of ‘peace for one’s hard efforts’, as encapsulated by the American Dream, is not too different from the desires and wishes of some of our earliest thinkers in the west. Lucretius, a Roman philosopher in the 1st century BC(E), wrote a beautiful poem about the natural sciences called de Rerum Natura, or “The Nature of Things” (a title many of you Suzuki fans will recognize). Lucretius’s text, which postulates on the nature of the known world, the universe, and of the atom, ends with the philosopher arguing that regardless of how correct he may be, all his speculations are worthless in the face of a dreamlife of being able to lean back and relax against the trunk of a tree at the end of the day, of having the chance to sit back in quiet, content contemplation after a day of work. What matters is your personal space, how you fill it, and how you will enjoy it.

Now, before you retort that ancient Rome laid the foundation of the western world, realize that (1) you are wrong – the ancient world “link” you are thinking of lies in Greek Philosophy and not in the Roman state, let alone in Roman philosophy (which is but a mere third-rate derivative of the Greeks), and (2), Lucretius wrote his work more than was 2000 years ago, and a lot of stuff has happened since then, especially in the past 150 years, even 30 or so years, to affect our sense of self and our sense of self-in-society. Lucretius was on to something, and whatever it is, the American dream looks for it, too. “Whatever it is” is likely closer to “the human condition” (whatever that is) than Christianity, Capitalism, or The Theatre will ever explain. So I’ll take my yankees cap, and my Olive Grove, thank you very much.

Batter up?

Written by mitchellirons

April 1, 2008 at 10:41 pm