Sunday, June 24, 2012

When Jaundice Comes Marching Home

When Jaundice comes marching home once more,
Guffaw! Guffaw!
We’ll know what its masters have in store,
Guffaw! Guffaw!
A shiver of terror to run up the spine,
At the thought of what’s next if we don’t fall in line
Oh they’d like us scared when
Jaundice comes marching home

When Jaundice comes snarling home this time
Guffaw! Guffaw!
We’ll spit in its face with a jeering rhyme
Guffaw! Guffaw!
Our leaders who screwed up and shot our wad
Will tell us they did it for country and GAWD
But we’ll know they lie when
Jaundice comes snarling home

When Jaundice comes limping home to hate
Guffaw! Guffaw!
The wars that it lost and the shit on its plate
Guffaw! Guffaw!
The ones who deployed it to bomb and kill
Now find that they’ve used up the easy thrill
So they’ll have to hide when
Jaundice comes limping home

When Jaundice has marched in its last parade
Guffaw! Guffaw!
And laid down to sleep in the endless shade
Guffaw! Guffaw!
We’ll have us a wake for the late deceased
From whose awful clutches we’re now released
How we’ll all breathe free when
Jaundice has marched its last

Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Boobies of Fernando Po


(The inaugural episode of Fernando Po, U.S.A., America’s post-literate retreat to Plato’s Cave)

The Island of Fernando Po
Once knew a fleeting fame
As home to aborigines
The Boobies were their name
Who -- legend has it -- only spoke
By light of fire's flame

Their basic primate language showed
That Boobies had devolved:
Whatever they had figured out
They also had unsolved,
Reverting to forgetfulness
And culture long dissolved

They had the means of making noise
As all rude peoples do
And yet just like the deaf and mute
They had to see words, too,
Or else they could not cogitate
Or any thoughts construe

The Boobies of Fernando Po
Could neither read nor write,
Instead, they “acted out” their speech,
“Performing” it despite
Unconsciousness of language arts
Of which they’d long lost sight

Their spoken tongue made little use
Of sentences and words,
Thus they communicated like
A flock of chirping birds
Or else like fatted cows content
To graze within their herds

Dependence on the visual
Constrained their use of sound
To something less than merely noise
Unorganized and bound
To grotesque facial grimaces
And gestures unprofound

They'd slap their foreheads; roll their eyes;
In slack-jawed pantomime
Of something they'd done yesterday
While only killing time
In mindless mimicry that had
No reason and no rhyme

"I'm all like going 'duh'," they'd say,
Which usage left aghast
Their teachers who had worked so hard
But realized at last
That Boobies couldn't separate
The present from the past

In cultures that have languages
Like Chinese, French, and Basque
Linguistic tools like verbs and nouns
Perform the needed task
Of formulating answers to
The questions Boobies ask

But Boobies need their hands and feet
To illustrate their themes
They “point” and “walk” and “pose” because
They've no semantic memes
To pass among themselves for use
As metaphoric schemes

They live imprisoned in the Now,
All Boobies preordained
To do the things their parents did,
Each generation chained
To labor on a treadmill
Giving up what they had gained

The rooster crowed; the sun came up
Which taught them quite a lot
The cows came home; the sun went down
Which didn't teach them squat
At sunrise they began to learn
At sundown they forgot

They could not tell this day from that
They had no memory
Each moment died at birth and left
No known posterity
The Boobies had no ancestors,
No living history

They could not tell where they had been
They knew not where they went
As far as they could figure out
Each thought came to them sent
Prefabricated "up above"
From "Heaven's" firmament

This made them existentialists
A philosophic breed
Who dealt in isolated facts
And never saw the need
To add their observations up
Into a larger creed

Yet starting at the other end
As Plato chose to do
With abstract "essences" and spooks
And "gods" not real or few
Would only have made matters worse
By proving falsehood true

The Boobies just threw up their hands
And thought whichever way
Which made it easy for the priest
To hold them in his sway
Performing magic rites that made
The sun come up each day

The Boobies let their children grow
As they themselves had done
By joining dots with crayon lines
And having lots of fun
While limiting arithmetic
To just the number one

"It's all the same!" the Boobies cried;
And they believed it, too;
Which made their basic monism
So easy to imbue.
"If everything is One," they said
"Who needs the number `two'?"

And so the Boobies on this isle
Endured the Dumb disease:
A simple, savage livelihood
That mainly served to please
The tribal chief and witch doctor
In their concerted ease

Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006, 2009

Introduction to "Fernando Po, U.S.A., America's post-literate retreat to Plato's Cave"


The word "Boobie," as used in the ever-unfolding verse essay, Fernando Po., U.S..A., refers to an epigram to Chapter One of The Meaning of Meaning (1925), by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, two pioneering British scholars in the field Semiotics, namely:

"Let us get nearer to the fire, so that we may see what we are saying" -- the Bubis of Fernando Po.

As a bit of history, it seems that ethnographers of the late nineteenth century had come across a small group of aborigines on an island off the coast of Africa called Fernando Po: a people so culturally devolved that they could no longer communicate with each other unless they could also see one another physically gesturing or striking poses. Joseph Campbell picked up on this history when he mentioned "The Boobies" in his book The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology (1959).

I began composing Fernando Po, U.S.A. after reading Ron Suskind's now-canonical article, "Without a Doubt," in the New York Times Magazine (October 17, 2004). Practically the entire world now knows of  the Bush administration official who boasted: 
"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
But for me the money quote came from Mark McKinnon, the Bush media guru whom Suskind quotes saying of Bush loyalists:
And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!" In this instance, the final "you," of course, meant the entire reality-based community.
I tried to visualize the stumbling and bumbling AWOL Texas Air National Guardsman "walking" and "pointing" and "exuding" but I had no luck at it. But something else did occur to me. Something about Boobies. Something about Lewis Carroll's "the Walrus and the Carpenter". And so this happened: 
They like the way he "points," they say
They like the way he "walks,"
Despite the fact that no one can
Decipher how he talks.
Yet when he mimics "standing tall,"
The stupid Boobie gawks.
Everything just followed and flowed from there -- for years. I couldn't stop interpreting everything I saw and heard from America's corporate media as little more than flickering shadows on a cave wall aimed straight at a tribe of illiterate Boobie aborigines camped around their television fires striking poses, pulling grotesque faces, and uttering inchoate noises at each other -- the perfect paradigm explaining and exemplifying Fernando Po, U.S.A., America's post-literate retreat to Plato's cave.

Like many anti-war Vietnam Veterans, I recoiled immediately at the prospect of former President George "Deputy Dubya" Bush launching his stud-hamster vendetta against Saddam Hussein's Iraq (with Afghanistan as a mere warm-up) in an effort to expunge a deep-seated filial antagonism towards his father's more reasonable legacy. And as the predictable tragedy unfolded, I only grew more agitated at my helplessness. I couldn't stop any of it. The disaster would simply have to run its tortured course until sheer exhaustion and/or national bankruptcy brought it to a reluctant close. So to get through the impotent interim, I turned inward to creative therapy, as I had read of other Vietnam Veterans doing. I found that in composing verse, I could at least do something to dissipate the anger. I have since branched out into  many other verse formats, but Fernando Po, U.S.A. pretty much started it all off for me. And I can see no end to it ...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Felonious Military Age Muslims

In America, the "military age" extends from 18 to 62 years of age.

In Muslim countries occupied and/or bombed by the U.S. Military, the "military age" extends from 16 to 35 years of age.

In America, "military age" males can own a gun and not serve in the military and yet not find themselves indefinitely imprisoned without charge or trial or summarily murdered by the President of the United States acting arbitrarily and in secret. 

In Muslim countries occupied and/or bombed by the U.S. Military, simply "being" of "military age" constitutes a crime against the United States of America, which "crime of being" then forces the President of the United States, despite his "deep moral reserve" and frequent contemplation of Thomas Acquinas, to summarily murder or indefinitely incarcerate without charge or trial any such male of any such age -- even American citizens -- or anyone else within a blast radius of them on the grounds that they might someday harbor unkind thoughts about the United States and how it behaves towards Muslim countries.

Which leads to thoughts in verse concerning:

“Felonious Military Age Muslims”

You’ve reached the age of sixteen years
Or maybe thirty-five
This makes of you a “militant”
So why are you alive?

Our president can kill you now
His list contains your name.
Intended, or if by mistake,
He’ll kill you just the same

The bomb will kill the one it hits,
As well as those nearby
Who had no business being born
Unless it was to die.

A free-fire-zone we called this dodge,
All over Vietnam,
Which meant to shoot just anywhere.
Who gives a bloody damn?

Obama’s body counts reveal
Upon his magic map
Some “progress” after decades spent
Repeating this same crap.

But Democrats now think him “tough”
And cheer at each new kill.
Republicans, of course, do not,
And never ever will.

And so the country lurches right
As scapegoat Muslims fall,
And fascist brownshirts thrill to see
Obama “standing tall.”

Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Inflated Style as Euphemism

“I think no commander ever is going to come out and say ‘I’m confidant that we can do this.’ I think we say you assess, we believe this is, you know, a reasonable prospect.” — General David Petraeus, Commander of the International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan (since promoted to head of the CIA), regarding his mission objectives and his prospects for achieving them.

“The inflated style is itself a kind of euphemism.” George Orwell, Politics and the English Language.

Which leads to thoughts in verse regarding:

“The Inflated Style as Euphemism”

The general has started talking funny
Like, never stating what we can achieve.
Instead, he babbles jargon for the money
Which means he never plans for us to leave.

We’ve been there now so long that few remember
How many times we’ve heard the same old song.
Our plans, those scruffy foreigners dismember
While we proclaim that we’ve done nothing wrong.

The president has donned his bomber jacket
To have his picture taken with the troops:
For conquerors, cheap tools that serve the racket;
For statesmen, simple patriotic dupes.

Our presidents and generals have blundered
And now can only stall for yet more time
While citizens back home whom they have plundered
Refuse to see the nature of the crime.

We went to “war” with tax cuts for the wealthy
And exhortations to consume and spend.
Now broke and begging from the thieving stealthy,
Our leaders promise this will never end.

Our presidents and generals stage dramas
And wave the bloody shirt while spouting gas
To keep us safe from peasants in pajamas
And poppy farmers smoking hash and grass.

We did this once before in Southeast Asia
As names upon a granite wall attest.
The country, though, prefers its euthanasia:
The laying of all memory to rest.

So let us listen raptly to the latest
Inflated euphemism coined to quell
The slightest thought that we might be the greatest
Bullshitters of whom history can tell.

Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2010

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hanoi Haiku

Written on the occasion of President George W. Bush finally making the trip to Vietnam on November 17, 2006, decades after better American men -- and a better American woman, Jane Fonda -- made the trip in his place. Three and half years into his own Vietnam-style debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, disasters that he would bequeath to his successor two years later, Dubya the Dimwit proved to the world that what he didn't learn from Vietnam he wouldn't learn about the Middle East, either. Hence:

Hanoi Haiku

In Hanoi at last
Red-carpet in return for
Our carpet-bombing

The words no one heard,
Due so many years after:
"We apologize"

Deputy Dubya
Sheriff Cheney's Barney Fife
Lost in Mayberry

Gullible Goofy
The boy who cried Wolfowitz
Far too many times

Emerald City
Naked ruler's brand new clothes
Viewed through glasses green

Mission Accomplished!
A cakewalk in its last throes
Now a glacier race

Four Years an "instant"
Nothing happens right away
What did you expect?

Broken-egg omelets
George Orwell's Catastrophic
Gradualism

Shop till the troops drop
Buy a plane ticket or two
Your part in the "war"

Rob the future now
They will never break our will
Those grandkids of ours

Lecture the victors
About their First and Second
Indochina Wars

Where did we get him?
How come we can't do better?
We look so stupid

Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright 2006

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Boobie Top-Down Class Warfare

Written six years ago but just as relevant today: the unfolding saga of America reducing itself to passive intellectual incarceration, mesmerized by the moving colored images emanating from a glowing television screen; like the island aborigine Boobies cut off from the world's cultural mainland; like prisoners kept underground who can only see shadows dancing on the walls of their cave and not the marionettes and puppeteers on the elevated stage behind them who produce and cast the shadows that they mistake for reality. In the accelerating economic insecurity enveloping so many Americans today, we can see the usual and historic:

Boobie Top-Down Class Warfare

(an episode of Fernando Po, U.S.A., America's post-literate retreat to Plato's Cave)

It happened back in Vietnam
Some two score years ago
When those within the upper class
Declined to serve, and so
They coined Selective Service to
Select who wouldn't go

They called themselves the brightest and
They called themselves the best
And then they sent their countrymen
Into a hornet’s nest
But not themselves, of course, because
They’d passed the privilege test

These parents of a George and Dick
Thought communism bad
But worried that some other lands
Would find it not as sad
As slaving for the rich ones whose
Rank greed had made them mad

So sympathizing with the rich
No matter what they did
The parents of a George and Dick
Sent someone else's kid
To fight the dreaded communists
No matter where they hid

But not their George and Dick, of course,
They couldn't spare the time
And Vietnam seemed far away
Immersed in war and grime
An atmosphere too turbulent
For orchids in their prime

These studly hot-house orchid types
Worked hard to dodge the light
Their parents helped them jump the line
To keep them out of sight
Arranging for deferments that
Would keep them from the fight

And so the years of war went by
And communism won
Which had exactly no effect
On those who had the fun
Of skipping out and turning tail
To take off on the run

Soon Vietnam recovered from
The blasting it had got
And communists turned businessmen
To hatch a common plot
With those who liked cheap labor
And cared less why some had fought

Still some remained embittered by
The waste made of their lives
And swore they'd never live again
Like worker bees in hives
Content to feed the rich who dined
With sharpened forks and knives

But Boobie schools taught only fraud
And fiction to the young
With fantasy and fables coined
To see the truth unstrung
Till history became a fog
That never bit or stung

On schedule, Boobie Dick and George
Found Politician Town
And learned that pandering for votes
Could win some safe renown
Affirmatively actioned up
They never could fall down

The millions seemed to flow their way
And stuck to them like paste
They spent what others raised for them
With no thought for the waste
Since someone else's money had
The sweetest sort of taste

They made a deal between themselves
To do a pantomime
With Dick to do the thinking while
George mouthed a lisping rhyme
And so with the Supine Court's help
They grabbed for our last dime

The Boobie George then tripped and crashed
Into this truth sublime:
That Boobies hated freedom and
Considered it a crime
Dick told him then what he should do:
Just work them overtime!

With not a moment left to think
The Boobies wouldn’t know
Where all their beads and shells had gone
Or why they couldn’t show
A single thing as evidence
That they had labored so

Once George and Dick gained access to
The treasury’s largesse
It hardly seems surprising that
It soon contained much less
A fact which few observers seemed
To think of with distress

But "stupid is as stupid does,"
The stupid do and say
Confronted by a wealthy thief
They genuflect, then pay;
With eyes and minds shut fast like that
They make such tempting prey

Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright 2006

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Toxic Imperial Mushroom Blowback

Professor Johnathan Turley has a column at his blog (4/11/2012) about Police Pepper Spraying Junior High School Students for not moving along to class fast enough to suit them.

This increasingly oppressive behavior by "authority" at all levels of American society has an immediate cause and a sordid history. The late Chalmers Johnson wrote about both of these, extensively, in his Blowback Trilogy: namely, Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis. More recently, Professor David Bromwich has contributed a similar analysis in a posted Internet article entitled, "Strip Search Nation":

"[The Florence v. County of Burlington] decision makes a large example, and the most significant thus far, of the way an expansionist foreign policy based on coercion and violence has come back home to haunt Americans. We have a right-wing practice of foreign policy that is reliably backed by the party of wars and prisons, and a left-wing theory of universal treatment that is backed by the party of speech codes and cultural sensitivity. Conquer them in order to improve them, says the first party. Be sure to treat everyone the same, replies the second -- for surely we are no better than the countries we occupy. The safety we assure abroad by arms we must likewise enforce on ourselves at home."

In my own youth, America's War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) blew back upon America with a vengeance, alienating the people from their government and leading government at all levels to respond with a petty and vindictive viciousness that bordered on barbarity. We certainly see ominous signs of that blowback from illicit and botched imperialism occurring again, at all levels of bureaucratic officialdom. How we have treated others abroad now sets the low-bar standard for how our own government treats us at home. As I put it several years ago in the concluding stanza of "Boobie Counter Insurgency," an episode of Fernando Po, U.S.A., America's post-literate retreat to Plato's Cave:

The blowback, though, comes round in time;
No one has yet escaped.
Vietnamized; Iraqified;
Corrupted by the raped,
The “victors” thus are vanquished by
The monkeys that they aped.


America's illicit and aggressive "wars" (on Whatever or Whomever) have to end. The bloated, ruinously expensive, and self-defeating Standing Military needs a radical demobilization. We must abolish Government secrecy, because it only facilitates crime and corruption that thrive, like toxic mushrooms, under the cover of darkness. After all, if our government has done nothing wrong, it need not fear us knowing all about its activities. And if it has done something wrong, then we need to know all about it so that we can summarily dismiss from office those responsible for the malfeasance.

Way past time to make Peace and Transparency the lynchpins of policy.