7th entry to the Colonel`s Scrapbook,July 1st.
These wonderful ladies were born on a day like today:
1804 George Sand France, novelist (Valentine, Le Figaro)The feminist who wore pants when jeans weren`t even created yet by Levì Strauss, smoked cigars like my Daddy did, and didn`t let weak and oversugary Chopin cough out his lungs on top of her. For the sake of Looooove. Hail, Madame!
1908 Estee Lauder CEO (Estee Lauder's cosmetics),thanks for your Aliage, which I wore as an adolescent although my mom used to sayis was as strong as insecticide
And in events we have that
1535 Sir Thomas More went on trial in England charged with treason.How could a guy as wise enough to write Utopia ever get enmeshed in a marital fight and lose his head over Henry VIII`s amorous quirks?
1690 Army of England's Protestant King William III defeats Roman Catholic King James II in Battle of the Boyne in Ireland (Now celebrated on July 12 as "The Battle of the Orange" )Boing boing went James when he found out the only thing he had to do was go to France as an exile to live under King Louis XIVth`s mercy.
1823 United Provinces of Central America gain independence from Mexico, something we were dumb enough to do just after having our Declaration of Independence signed on September 15th 1821.
1863 Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Lee's northward advance is finally halted, This was happening during the only war the Americans have had to deal with on their own territory. Now they export wars, computers, cars, and nasty candy with aspartame.
As I unwrap my long silk scarf from around my neck, something I wear even with military uniform,remembering that Isadora Duncan, the mother of contemporary dance, was strangled when her own scarf got caught in the wheels of the car she was riding, I wonder why humans have lived at war for such a long time. It may seem funny that a military asks this question, because it may be like an oxymoron to call someone a pacifist colonel. Am I strangling myself with the term? My war experiences match with the lyrics that Boy George and his Culture club sang in the 80s about war being stupid. My dad was a veteran of World War II. He still had his tattoo from Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was taken after he got captured on June 9th in his native Normandie, while he was doing what kings do when they are alone. He had been on D Day at age 24,taken along by General Eisenhower during Operation Overlord, along with many others who joined the Free French Forces under General Charles De Gaulle. Somehow he survived almost one year in Auschwitz, first being sodomized by a sadistic gay nazi officer who found his weightlifting champion`s body so tempting, then surviving in the kitche when he was befriended by a young German officer, Hans Dietrich(no relation to the irresistible Blue Angel Marlene Dietrich.) After his experience and that of my uncles and aunts who participated as soldiers, war correspondents or nurses in WWII, I should have known better, right? Wrong. My own father was the one to blame, and I don`t say this as a recrimination. As soon as a new war flick was announced on the pages of any newspaper, my dad was ready to take me to see it. I grew up watching war films from the moment I could walk, being a strangely silent toddler who could read and write from age three, like our own bard Rubèn Darìo.
I learned to whistle with the tune from Bridge Over River Kwai, cried when I saw a documentary about the death of admiral Isoroku Yamamoto(the guy who attacked Pearl Harbor although at the beginning of the mission he was still reluctant to do it),laughed until my stomach hurt with The Dirty Dozen, jumped like a monkey with The Iron Cross(never forgot how handsome James Coburn looked there), shook with excitement with Oliver Stone`s Platoon, found John Wayne miscast in El Alamo although rather liked his performance in the Sands of Iwo Jima. I applauded Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now although I could never believe that the smell of napalm was the smell of victory, come on you guys, how many monkeys and squirrels and pigeons did that damned thing kill when Vietnam`s forests were destroyed…They were not to blame for the utter stupidity and criminal instincts of man.
Am I to blame that when I was half crippled in 2003,wracked with my neuropathies from diabetes as a bonus, and being called “a morsel of beautiful but useless meat”, I would take a broomstick without the bushy sweeping part, pile up all my pillows in bed and fuse them into a barricade, and watch the flicks on cable TV while I shot with the broomstick? My husband never saw that, he was teaching Spanish n to a nice Korean kid, and I was alone-not quite alone but with all my cats-in bed, firing at all my frustrations and pains. That was part of my rehabilitation process. If I could crawl and kill those Nazis in the movies I saw, I would walk again against all predictions any doctor in chicanery could emit about my possibilities to get back on my feet. War flicks definitely do help, ladies and gentlemen. Take my word for it. If there were a territorial war over my adored San Juan River because the Costa Ricans want to gobble it up, I would be the first to go and start the shooting. I would die, or kill, for the sovereignty of my homeland.
Once I told a guy who interviewed me about the award given to my short story M.I.A.(Missing in Action) that I believed in what Ho Chi Mihn said that we have the right to live in peace although it may need that we go to war to get it. Look at so many wars over territories. Independence wars. I remember that George Sand, the feminist writer that had on her birth certificate the name Aurore instead of her famous pen name, that a soldier never comes back with his heart intact because he left tears in the battlefield. She was wise enough to never let her lover, the composer Frederic Chopin, strangle her inspiration, and she was a bit ashamed of his cowardice because his way of being patriotic about his native Poland was by staying away from his country and running away from anything having to do with the military. Cheap way of being a patriot, rather sentimental, but too easy. There were even women soldiers during the American Civil War, by the way the only one that the Americans have had to fight in their own territory(and believe me they are still traumatized by its ghastly memory). Robert E. Lee, considered by many one of the greatest generals in history(although he fought on the wrong side) would have never let a woman shed her petticoats in order to fight. My grandmother would have agreed with General Lee, for she refused to talk to me when I wore my military uniform. Ladies didn`t go to war.
One curious thing happened to me, and the journalist who had an interview with me over the award for my story was shocked when I said it. I felt such compassion for all the poor creatures, horses, dogs, whatever, who died as a consequence of the bloody conflict that we lived in Nicaragua during the eighties. Seeing a dead sloth in Jalapa set me crying all the way back on the helicopter ride to Managua. We were carrying two dead soldiers, one had stepped on a booby trap and there were several parts of his body missing. I felt sorry for his parents, his family, all the people who loved him. They would have to survive this awful experience of losing a loved one.
he had been only 2 weeks away from being discharged from his military service
which would ordinarily last 2 years. I cried all the way back to Managua. I couldn`t get the sight of the dead sloth and her baby sloth too, lying beneath a tree. Animals don`t have to pay for our stupidity as humanunkind. Nevertheless, since the dawn of history ,we have been mean and ruthless enough to include them in our war agendas. Horses, oxes, donkeys ,camels, elephants, war dogs(only to be killed or left behind when the conflict was over), even cats like Simon of the Amethyst who kept the warboat free of mice while his officers tried to get out of reach from Mao, the heroic messenger pigeons that were used when Napoleon III(who was a stupid nephew of the Petit Gèneral and lacked his drive, charm or war genius)lost his throne leaving the sieged Paris during the Franco-Prusssian War in 1871. Messenger pigeons were to fly during World War I and World War II, many times dying while in service. The animals have never asked to be part of the carnage of war. They aren`t as stupid as we are.
Men go to war because their ambitions and thirst-lust –for power drives them nuts. Maybe that is why all those unknown soldiers failed to elicit anything more than fleeting compassion from me. Of course,there were some exceptions.
The name of Rubendarìo Ramirez comes instantly to my mind and a quiver of scorpion`s poison invades the heart I will never confess to having. He was green eyed, and so young, and I was on mission in La Penca,southern part of Nicaragua,an enormous tropical jungle. We were back in the small town of San Carlos, and we had to stay there overnight so the following morning the chopper would take us back to Managua. Rubendarìo was lying against some boulders and sandbags. He had an internal hemorrhage and I suspect one of his lungs was already useless. I was unable to sleep in the barracks, it was sweltering hot and the moon was like the big round wheel of cheese my white mice used to dream about in their pink cage. We started chatting. He asked me to never stop speaking to him or he would die. We continued yarning until everyone was asleep. I had never met anyone like him. He told me that kismet had destined him to be something important for me. But between 4 and 5 am, I was so weary I dozed off.
That did the trick.When the helicopter came, he didn’t get in on his own.He was unceremoniously put in a plastic bag and thrown inside. I felt guilty.I had fallen asleep. I didn`t cry this time like when I saw mother and baby sloth dead. I just got off the helicopter upon arriving in Managua and insisted that I take his body to the morgue,and then call his mother. It wasn`t until I saw him lying on the slab,naked, that I could see his wounds. But the forensic doctor said he had been dead since 8 o `clock due to the lividity. Lividity is the stagnant blood that accumulates in some part of the corpse once the blood has stopped being pumped. I told the doctor that was not possible because I had been chatting with him all night. I refused to cry. When I went to his home, at the address he had given me, I told his mother all about it. It was then that I started crying. I asked to see the two cats he had, and couldn`t stop crying.
I had been yarning with a dead man. Ever since I have asked myself how much do medical doctors know about life or death or both.
My war experiences left a permanent footprint on the map of my psyche. Every night I have a double séance of nightmares, no matter if I eat a lot for dinner or not. Many of my nightmares have become successful short tales. They have brought extra dollars for the writer I am now. I will continue having nightmares as long as I live. And if there is life after death, which I doubt, I might be having nightmares when my heart is finally being extricated from my chest to be thrown into the San Juan River.
Yes, folks war Is stupid and ruthless. When asked if I would take any part of my life history and cut it from my own biography, I wouldn`t change anything. Having survived war, I know how dear my own inner peace and my life as a war veteran is at least to me. I would say to my beloved Uncle Ho of Vietnam, yes Unk, I have gained my right to live in peace under this sun, even if I had to go to war and get shot, shrapnelled, broken, bled and having seen the mysterious,iridescent profile of death dancing upon my horizon.