What is a Poem

February 9, 2011

I get a literary quote posted to my home internet page each day.  Sometimes they’re thought provoking, sometimes confusing and occasionally incomprehensible.  Yesterday’s quote was from W.H. Auden and it said, “A poet can write about a man slaying a dragon but not about a man pushing a button that releases a bomb.”

The picture of the mythic hero standing with his sword while a fire breathing dragon looms over him is certainly the thing of poems and fairy tales.  But what came to my mind was the image of a U.S. Air Force officer kissing his family good-by and driving to his office where he sits in front of a computer monitor and directs a drone some 7,000 miles away toward a bombing target where people will be killed and then getting back in his car and driving home for some dinner and family time.  I have very little quarrel with this “pilot” but I am deeply troubled by the concept.  He and we are so far removed from the destruction we cause that it somehow doesn’t feel like murder but it is and it is premeditated.

What goes on in the minds of these “pilots”?  How can they do this?  Are they in some form of deep denial or are their brains washed by the esprit de corps preached to them constantly?  Do they ever, while hugging their children, think of the parents and children they might have killed that day?  Do they ever ask why are we doing this?  I’m no poet but I’d like to hear someone write one about the mind of the drone driving bomb deliverer.

I got a call from the Democratic National Committee last evening asking me if I was disappointed in President Obama.  I told them that I was and that my primary disappointment was that we were still fighting and occupying Afghanistan and that I’d never heard a good reason for it.  My comment was ignored and answered with the question “didn’t I like the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell?  I didn’t know what to say so I simply told him that I would not be donating any money to the DNC. 

Posted February 9, 2011


Hi Phil,
I looked up on the internet how many years in the past 100 the USA has been engaged in war. It came to 51 out of 100, and 34 out of the last 50. No matter what we want to say about our nation we cannot deny the reality of our violent culture. History is unlikely to judge our society as peace loving. I don’t see how it possibly could.
I remember studying about the 100 years war and thinking how crazy that must have been. And yet here we are forever engaged in war. So sad to say but ours is a warmonger nation.

Thanks Bill. I love this country in so many ways but I’m constantly disappointed by our disregard for the rights of other nations and the poor in our own.

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