9/11 or The Kiss

thekiss

b. traven

I remember that day in August 1945.  The war was over.  We were all in “for the duration.” It was not a ‘perpetual war.’ With the war over, so was our commitment to war.

It started as just another day at the bomber base I was attached to.  No sailors around. They were always a strange bunch to those of us in the army.  They dressed ‘funny.’  I had just passed my 21st birthday on the second of August. We would be free at last, free from the armed services, that is.

That was the same day that Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped his famous picture of “the kiss.” The woman in that picture, a nurse exactly my age, just died.  The Yahoo News story about her brought tears to my eyes, not just the picture itself, but in reading the comments.

I was touched by the fact that virtually all of the comments to that article were by people who were too young to be in that war. Yet they showed cognizance of how that time heralded in an era of decency in this country that does not exist today. How we have thrown away the simplicity and care of FDR’s post-war America and replaced it with greed and hatred of others.

We are now in a war with no end, and leaders with no sense of seeking peace, only more war. Back in 1945, we did not think we were “exceptional.” We were just happy for peace!

To me and the 700,000 WWII vets still alive, that day is a still special day.  9/11, however, is not.  It does not mark a day of success or even a day of peace.  To me, it is a day of infamy by the Saudis and our leaders who blithely support them.

Read the comments and tell us how YOU feel.

12 thoughts on “9/11 or The Kiss

  1. Excellent point, traven. Nowadays, there’s no talk of peace. Only of more and more war.

    In the presence of perpetual conflict, people have forgotten what peace looks like. Meanwhile, constant preparations for war, combined with militarism and violence, continue to imperil what is left of our democracy.

    What a sad legacy to all those of the WW II era who sacrificed to preserve our democratic way of life.

  2. “traven”–I don’t mean to nitpick, but multiple people over the decades have claimed to be the sailor and the nurse in this iconic photo. So I’m not sure the person just deceased is the real McCoy. (And if you read the body language, this guy is gripping her hard, and she is less than a 100% voluntary participant!) That said, the symbolism remains valid. Imperial Japan had just officially surrendered to the Allies, and people actually believed peace on Earth had arrived. But as we know all too well, in no time our magician-politicians had conjured up “The Red Menace” and schoolchildren like myself were being taught to “duck and cover” when we see the brilliant flash of a Russkie (no doubt!) atomic bomb detonating nearby. I will say, though, that there was still far more of a “peace dividend” trickling down to the masses than in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Bloc around 1990. Indeed, on a personal note, this enabled my own father to move us from the city to the newly-rising Long Island suburbs in the early 1950s. I should also note that on the purely domestic side of things, the end of WW II didn’t exactly usher in a paradise of racial and religious tolerance. And man, do we still have a long way to go!

    As for the current Date of Infamy, 9/11, I must hold my nose until the weekend of “patriotic” bullshit is over with. And I shall relentlessly persist in my opposition to the Perpetual War launched in the wake of those terrible events. But, you know, I’m just weird.

  3. Greg.. You are “nitpicking”so diligently that you missed the point I was making. The euphoria of PEACE after the horror of half a million of our young men killed and the uncertainty of .the continuation of the war on our young lives and of the civilian population who were losing their children, their brothers, their husbands and their loves in a nation totally involved in war was universal. Americans who were not there do not understand that universal sigh of relief. What in hell difference did it make who the people in the picture were? The picture is iconic because it expresses that total human euphoria of PEACE at last.
    I ran this story to bring into sharp contrast the happiness that PEACE brings with the hypocrisy of of using the events of 9/11 to reaffirm and reinforce fear in order to prolong our perpetual wars.

    • traven.

      Beware the Ubermensch! Every age and culture sprouts them.

      Thanks for the article. I was 13-month old when that photo was taken.

      • Walter.. So you are pushing 70 if you were just 1 year old in 1945.. You still have many good years ahead. Stay active and worry a lot. Stress can keep you mentally alert. I have found.
        You were too young to fully appreciate the golden years of peace in this country immediately following WWII. Your youth and adulthood has only seen endless wars for no real excuse and the recent destruction of not only our economy but the very moral foundation in law of our society. You will live the next few years with our ruler being either a narcissistic sociopath or an overly ambitious war hawk. No change in sight by either one.

  4. …indeed, many of us were conceived during that euphoria of PEACE…and we grew up to protest war and to beg our leaders to give peace a chance…

  5. “… free at last, free from the armed services, that is.”

    Precisely the way I felt when I came home from Vietnam at the end of January, 1972. The “war” itself hadn’t ended, but my war, the war as it concerned me personally, most definitely had — at least so I thought for the next three decades. After five-and-a-half dreary wasted years in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club, a.k.a., the United States Navy, I could breathe free air again. I felt like a man newly released from prison after serving a sentence for a crime he did not commit. When I took off that dress-blue monkey-suit uniform for the last time a few days later, I couldn’t wait to get on with the rest of my life. With my Honorable Discharge and Form DD-214 in hand, I left the Long Beach Naval Station and made straight for my mom’s house in nearby Orange County. There, I put my documents away, changed into civilian clothes, and headed straight for California State University, Long Beach to enroll in college for the spring semester. I had plans.

    The clerk in the Registrar’s Office didn’t want to admit me. She refused to believe that I had attended CSULB back in 1965-66 prior to joining the Navy . “We have no record of your ever attending this school,” she smugly told me. I replied (with as much self control as I could muster): “Look in your records under “M-u-r-r-A-y”. You’ll probably find my records mistakenly filed there. People always try to put an “A” in my last name where it doesn’t belong.” So, the lady clerk looked where my records shouldn’t have been but were; found them; and then got really pissed at me because I had just demonstrated her own incompetence at filing student records. She started nit-picking every little detail in my application that she could find. I started raising my voice, She started raising her voice. Hearing the ruckus, the Director of Admissions came out of his office to investigate. When the clerk started trying to bad-mouth me for one thing or another and “causing trouble,” he cut her short and invited me into his office. “What seems to be the problem?” he asked me. “I just came back from Vietnam and I want to return to school,” I answered. Then, he asked me: “What’s really going on over there?” I told him: “One of the world’s greatest unnecessary disasters” (or a profane string of unprintable words to that effect). “I’m just glad I managed to get my young ass out of there alive.” He told me to follow him. He took me over to the clerk and told her simply: “Admit him.”

    So my first day of freedom from long years of penurious indentured servitude had ended with a victory of sorts, and one achieved over the forces of ineptitude and petty bureaucratic tyranny that I had grown so much to hate in the U.S. military. “Chickenshit,” we used to call it. I had triumphed over chickenshit. Not a great victory as such things go, but a good start on a new life for myself, nonetheless. A memorable day, indeed. Far more important to me than 9/11/2001 and the cynical use of that day to “privatize” (i.e., loot) government at home and abroad in the interests of a tiny class of ticket-punching generals and plundering plutocrats, many of them not even Americans. Here in the autumn years of my little life, I have to admit that vast governmental ineptitude and petty bureaucratic tyranny, civilian and military, have won the day in America. Perhaps they always have. Perhaps they always will. But for one day in early 1972, I knew the thrill of freedom regained. I had “won” my war and had begun to win my peace. What my fellow citizens will ever know of true freedom and peace, I cannot say. Things do not look promising as long as the “war” (or, AUMF) continues, but who knows?

    • I guess that first day out of The Servitude in 1972 stands out in my memory because of another incident I experienced in another university registrar’s office many years later, in early 2002. I had read somewhere that California needed school teachers and particularly wanted older citizens who had more life experience than what secondary schools normally get in younger college graduates who have only attended classes in their short lives. So I decided to follow up on this information and went over to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (a pretty good engineering school), to apply for the Teacher Education and Credentialing Program. When I approached the administration building looking for the Registrar’s Office, I saw a sign on the glass door saying: “Out of order. Use door around the other side of the building.” So I went around to the other side of the building and entered the Registrar’s Office through the indicated door. As I approached the clerk’s desk to register, a young lady administrator said to me: “You must be here for the Teacher Education Program.” Surprised, I said, “Yes. But how did you know that?” She pointed to the door through which I had just entered and said: “Because you came in through that door over there.” I replied, “Sure, but that’s because the sign on the other door said to come in through this side of the building.” She just smiled sweetly and pointed to the defective door with the sign on it as engineering student after engineering student approached, tried to open the door, failed, turned, and just walked away without registering for classes. “Yes,” the lady clerk said to me, “but you could read the sign and follow instructions. That’s how I knew that you wanted to become a teacher.”

      Looking back through my Navy Service Records, I see that I usually scored above average marks in both spoken and written English. Not that Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club had much use for a moderately educated enlisted electrician, but the basically high-school level knowledge did pay off decades later when it came in handy registering for classes at California State University, Pomona, otherwise a pretty good engineering school from everything I’ve heard.

      Ah, the things one can do with one’s freedom.

    • Mike Murry–I never knew what “chickenshit” or, as we often said in the Army, “M-i-c…k-e-y, M-o-u-s-e” was until my first deployment on “police call.” For the benefit of you always-civilian types out there, this consists of patrolling a given area on foot and picking up any scrap of trash (a.k.a. “unauthorized material”) large enough to be visible to the naked eye. Most of this material consisted of discarded cigarette butts. How charming. Yes indeed, citizens, don’t you see how that critically important skill translated into…um, victory (?) in Southeast Asia? The objective, of course, was to get greenhorn troops accustomed to obeying orders, no matter how distasteful or absurd. Because, of course, refusing to do so led to consequences. Though I policed up innumerable cigarette butts, I didn’t get the message. I drew a line in the sand as to what orders I would decidedly NOT obey. And that most assuredly brought consequences. But I survived and I continue to oppose this nation’s unjust, unjustified wars of choice.

      • Ah, yes, “policing” the area. I had my own experience with that. As an officer cadet, I received too many demerits, mainly because I parked my car in the wrong place. My punishment was to police the area on a Saturday morning; I recall edging people’s lawns with a shovel. Such good times.

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