A great-great-uncle of my dad’s,
was the first to come over.
August Porczeng,
late of the Baltic.
It was 1892,
Prussia had taken Gdansk a century earlier
and the Bismarck years had been unkind
to Poles and Catholics,
so my uncle immigrated.
They taught us this as kids.

August immigrated,
and having no money, he,
like many immigrants before
and since,
signed on with the US Army.
Quickly deployed,
August fought
his way through Cuba
and China before he
ended up in the Philippines
pulling garrison duty
in a calm, colonized, Catholic town
that may have even seemed familiar to him,

Things were calm for a while,
more baseball games than firefights,
until one day the citizens of the town
rose up
and caught August’s company off-guard,
cut them,
hacked them,
killed about half of them,
including my uncle.
They never found his body,
presumed burned.

They taught us this as kids,
and it all seemed so wrong,
so unfair,
so much so that when a monument was erected
in Balangiga to celebrate the slaughter
Junior High I
hopped on a message board
to cry foul,
confident in that schoolboy way
of my own righteousness
and my nation’s.

I missed the mark
and most of the story.

36 Americans died that day in 1901,
36 occupying soldiers.
In response,
Major Waller’s US Marines
exterminated up to
50,000 Filipinos,
50,000 civilians.

Put to ratio,
that’s 1,389 executed
for the alleged sake of my uncle alone.

What’s more,
they burnt Balangiga,
robbed the bells from its church,
and still they cried injustice
and I, a century later.

I missed the mark
and most of the story.

I was right to be pissed,
off in my reasons.
Balangiga was wrong,
though in the Little Bighorn kind of way,
that and so many others,
wrong we there in the first place,
wrong how we carried on,
wronger still
that we never seem to learn.

Nathan Porceng is a Washington based poet, songwriter, and submariner. He has been published by Headline and Entropy. Nathan enjoys the works of The Clash and Adrienne Rich. His opinions are his own. Read other articles by Nathan.