". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, May 27, 2013

I Did See Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie and Much Else This Day of Memory

It being Memorial Day, with the numberless U.S. flags all around us here in militarylandia at half mast and the humans heading to the many beaches all around us here, enjoying their water craft all around us here, reunionizing and touristing too, black soldiers were much in the forefront of my mind this long weekend.

There are many black soldiers all around us here, doing everything everybody else was doing doing, like all the other military personnel all around us here, and like everybody else these soldiers were in civies this weekend, because they had leave of one kind or another.  That they are in the military though, shows through -- young, fit, upright, meeting and greeting each other in the streets, whether in groups (all of those groups were mixed) or with their families (a lot of these families are mixed race) or solitary.  But whenever any military fellow (and I did not see a single obviously military woman this whole time) met up with another fellow military, they seemed to know each other, pummeled and high fived and otherwise indicated solidarity and confrere status.

So military.  Members of the military are trained to use all kinds of weapons from those they fly in the air to those they carry at their sides or on their shoulders or over their backs.  They weren't wearing any today as far as could be told -- as their clothing was generally light it would have been hard to conceal concealed carry.  There certainly was no open carry anywhere around us ....

I could not help think about the days of the Civil War, with the CSA getting whupped, running out of weapons and ammo and manpower both.  Once again it was brought up in the CSA house and senate: What about we draft Our Negroes and give them guns and have them kill Yankees?  That got shot down by the same power elite that moved and shook the slave holding south into seceding and fighting a war on their behalf.  You CANNOT arm a nigrah.  You CANNOT. Shades of San Domingue and Nat Turner, YOU CANNOT.

So, there was a terrific irony there are African American men now, roaming freely the city of Charleston, in the very beating heart of the slave holding aristocratic CSA, all highly qualified in handling all kinds of deadly weapons, and today, they were being honored.  In Charleston.

It was a long, long, long time coming.

This all came to mind along with that episode from the soap opera series, Army Wives, set on an imaginary army base outside Charleston (there is no army base here, but a naval one, and that's located on a former air force base; location shots are on the naval base, formerly an air force base which quite tickles me as to the rivalry of the military service branches ....).  It is a time travel episode, which examines what our protagonists would be like on the same base during WWII instead of now.  Class and sexual conflicts are the same. The present-day general and his wife, generationally army are at the top of the heap in WWII too. The poor white trash couple are finding the army life to be a good career move into upward mobility and opportunity for their kids just as they do in the present. The couple who has trouble with gender roles -- still in that condition but in a very different way as the Colonel has been badly wounded and is no longer in the military but runs a bar-restaurant, and his wife is deeply dissatisfied -- in present day she's a physician and her husband hated her practicing.  She was to stay home and take care of him and domestic things.  Then there is the black couple.  In present day Joan is a commanding officer of a combat platoon.  Her husband is a psychologist who is also the house husband and does much of the care of their child.  But back in WWII he was a draftee and Joan?  She was a cleaner in Frank's restaurant-bar.  He gets jumped by a bunch of racist yahoos who don't think he should be in Frank's restaurant.  All our regular characters gather around to beat the yahoos off.  Because this is a soap opera and all must feel good by the end. But still.  This was a fascinating episode that tried very hard to show how much the army's changed since WWII.

But now it's facing a hurdle even higher than that of racism: the millennia ingrained  conviction that the right of military man is to rape women.  Even women who are their sisters in combat.  It breaks the heart.

One victim of long-time, repeated assault by her commanding officer testified in tears a couple of weeks ago that she now believes the only reason the military began accepting women as regular soldiers is to be 'comfort women,' as the Japanese did to the Korean women in WWII.  When our military got stationed in locations where women were off-limits due to the culture, and even prostitution, unlike Vietnam, is nearly impossible among the locals, women were allowed in.  And that's their real function -- to be sexual outlets for Our Boys Who Are Entitled to Sexual Satisfaction Whenever With Whoever.  Her heart was broken, and so much else.

So steps ahead -- black men who know weapons can roam at will in Charleston.  Women, well, maybe not so much.

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