All It Takes is One “Sting like a Bee” Ali a Generation to Conquer “Floating Like a Butterfly” the Greatest Enemy of the Earth

Warlords, military industrialists, neoliberals, neocons, political killers beware

They are young, high school, seniors, boys and girls, running hard, 8 am, along Salmon Creek, a place where I burn the body in a course of hard bicycling waiting for a bald eagle to baptize my day. Great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, egrets, meadowlarks, red winged black birds, and dozens of other species capturing the soul before facing off the empire.

Oh, maybe 50, hot and pink faced, running toward the big park and the pond. Running into hell, into the cornering that the empire paints into almost everyone’s life. What in hell is the US Marines offering these middle class kids? The big tent with logo and stoking barbecue and little kids lawn games?

Normalizing this bullshit wannabe drone-Stryker-joy stick-robo-soldier wet dream. We have given them choices, in this tantalizing, make believe, TV-Movie-Digital Screen drenched world: They want a career? They want adventure? They want security? They want to scrub a thinking and social services world for high caliber air support missile launched world?

Half-time show flyover. That big gaping wound that is US Empire, a global economic assault on all lands and kingdoms by grunts and leathernecks and jar heads which are these new generation killers.

I couldn’t help but notice something hard and vulnerable in their eyes. Something chilling and shut off. Something ready to engage vis-a-vis hard-assed Gunny Sarge and mean-assed culture of believing in the event horizon of this empire’s dirty, ragged, atomic-tipped global blade slashing at people the Prez and the Prostitutes in both Houses deem criminals in their war on terror.

I don’t interrupt my cardio workout, to stop and talk (but I have done that to recruiters, others in uniform, young and old), but I shake my head and give them a thumbs down. They turn and some trip, wondering why an old asshole like myself would give them the heave-ho intellectually as well as conceptually.

Somehow, these kids’ parents are believers in that discipline, that invasion fever of a land making billions on the diodes, capacitors, chips, shrouding, marketing, engines, explosives of a world dominated by projectiles hurled from mountains, 20 leagues under the sea, inside caves, in hovercraft, on battleships, on the undersides of drones, and at the edge of satellites.

It’s a growing profession, this policeman of the world gig with those attendant offshoot professions, in the hundreds, each category of empire-supporting job title with millions in league with the devil – with more than 1,200 US military bases cached with guns, computers, drones, supersonic weapons, bombs, the very glue that keeps this country closely defined as the world’s chief terrorist, scattered around the world. Medicine, for the 10,000 of us Baby-boomers hitting 65 a day, that’s another number one profession to embark upon if the reader is in junior high or done with high school. But better yet, why not this highly integrated military force, the very essence of those 51 cents of every taxpayer-raked dollar going to the little man-woman syndrome gifts to War Lords and Nations on High Alert.

I’ve been speaking with and mentoring youth since 1980, first in a juvenile detention program, outward bound sort of thing in Arizona, and then starting in 1983 along the border, Texas, El Paso, Juarez, working the magic of a radical anti-authoritarian teacher. Community colleges, state universities, gang prevention programs, high school gifted and talented programs, in refugee centers, prison, programs for the life-long learner (i.e the aged). I’ve done gigs in the forest as Mister Outdoors instructor for poor LGBTQI youth. I’ve worked in programs servicing children of migrant farm workers. I’ve taught on a reservation program, and I have taught college literature, drama and composition for military, both rank and file and others at the Sergeant’s Major Academy.

Hands down, after all those years, I have seen the evolution and devolution of thinking, values, cognition levels, capacities, passions, interests, disinterest in anything separate from money making. Sacred cow the US Military Terror Machine is, but I also have friends and former students who are burned out men at 28, vets of foreign wars (hands down all of them throw that moniker to the sewer) forced to shoot men with hands up in the Battle of Falujah and other places, forced to get amped up on steroids and speed and other drugs. US Marines, and the war in those countries – this ugly USA pathogen of one war, one enemy – has sapped any forward thinking of my friends who are self-medicating, fighting PTSD, living with triggers and finding themselves trapped in the criminal injustice system. If only the recruiters asked them along for those propaganda barbecues . . . .

Those young faces and medium build bodies, eating burgers and tossing bean bags on the lawn by the pond where people from Latin and African and East European countries chuck bobbers and hooks into the water while their kids play in the sand and the heat wave uncommon this time of year for Vancouver. They are there, all labeled up with matching US Marines t-shirts, in the middle of the park, advertising their Junior Marine ROTC program, bubbling with joy the run ended and the eating of Monsanto Cured Burgers and drinking of All Great Wars Go Better with Coca Cola has commenced.

Douglas firs and huge cottonwoods, and osprey and kestrels and amazing turtles and beavers all around, as the America that is the War Lord plays with Doritos bags and plastic spaghetti floaties. Everyone in the world is awake, waiting for the drone of America to enter the night, the vast clouds of smoke and burning stench delivered in the bellies of industries forced onto people who woke up one day and found the War Lords all fat and happy, infants and probably not so high on the IQ list, but, man, all sharp looking with joysticks and Hollywood backing.

The world’s cops, one child recruit at a time. Little US Marine wannabe, future aspirant Colonel, the Heart of Darkness no longer the horror but the glory of a generation that believes hubris and marketing. All history books closed, all myths elevated, all wars the greatness of the US of A.

I try and remember where the homeless camp is out here in this greenway, and I glimpse a tent, as the youthful marines start their volleyball and spread mayo on their burgers. Five guys and two gals. Matted hair, dirty, skin like black plague make up artist Academy award, but the result of meth and speed and cheap booze, on the edge of the night, that place which for me is a daily wonderful isolation zone from the hard-paced life in Vancouver-Portland where I work and live.

Bats at night. Coyotes and raccoons, and muskrats and great horned owls. Amazing, the night spectacle. And, then the Clark County Sheriff deputies lights. Burly men and women wading into the muck, blue sanitation gloves on, bags as big as queen sized beds, and headlamps and flashlights.

The two guys I spoke with in that camp, well, let’s just say they once both were prime recruitment poster dudes, one in the Army, the other Marines. Teeth black, skin of the cancerous 70 year old, yet these guys are hitting 28 years.

Those marine wannabes are searching the heavens for their god of war, searching their inner selves to believe patriotism, believe the lies of empire and media, that only the weak and unworthy end up on the road, in the belly of the beasts – mental illness, drug addiction, mental discombobulation.

I try and remember that eagle as I head up the hill to my house. I try to imagine that world down in that beautiful little watershed real, full of givers, people not wanting a thing to do with the gods of war, banishing the lords of guns and missiles, and a world of continual helping, assistance, as many safety nets are endlessly woven to bring life back to our brothers and sisters kicked to the side of the road, incarcerated, and living in tents after dumpster diving for scraps of food and drugs and anything to bring them some small mental salvation before the sun sets and the animals take over.

It’s no lie, Ali floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee and was the only hero in the lineup for Vietnam. RIP Muhammad, and one day, these children of the homeless will see you in someone’s book as the only one to resist and still become the king of the world, more famous than Jesus Christ and the moppy haired ones from Liverpool.

One day, I will make the peace poster, and wear it on my body, t-shirt, once a week, for a year:

Ali –
Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.