We joined because price was dearer
had we not, woe of World War Three,
boys dreamt of glory of M.P.s,
drank Agents by day—-some nights beer—-
babes prepared for wanton slaughter;
for next war would be war that
showered all with nuclear bath,
as we bathed in doomsday water.
Deaf leaders have forgotten how
we stopped Big Brother in his tracks
without a single rifle crack
(not officially up to now)
as hundreds of our best brethren
succumb to poison’s friendly fire
that lights nights in funeral pyre,
grave for lost of Fort McClellan.
from “A Soldier’s Song”
PATHS AND POOLS TO PONDER
We were in a war not a war
In an age at end of ages,
Somehow lost in all the pages
Of the higher books of lore.
Midnight and M.A.D.ness,
Goodness and badness,
Ground zero at atom’s core…
Youth lost and sadness
And a cold that lingers more,
Of East versus West,
Let go, yet still wrest
With, the losses we endure.
We were in a war not a war,
From youth instilled deep and pure
With disdain for futures we were
Taught to forget to finest pore.
Weather wilts us; royalty rains
And Thatcher’s silos gleam with grey.
We children play at World War Three,
In glee prepare for Judgment Day.
We wait for end of world gone M.A.D.
And stand the maddest of them all.
The chill of constant, pouring rain
Shades us as dead cast in pale pall,
We programmed youth, our show of proof
A thunderstorm, Armageddon
Pressed in us in languished lust,
Tooled with painful preparation.
We guard all secrets close to us,
No one to trust, for even friends
Could be foes in flash of moment;
Four minutes till Midnight, the End.
We serve the furrows of fathers
Parading through false memories,
Uniformed duties, knocking knees,
Nazis, Russians, Eternities,
Our fathers’ lusts for Huns and whores
We pour in glowing glass of gin,
Atomic memories, school drills
Done so as last child we would win.
We’ve been drilled well and live vain lives
Controlled by pleasures of the day
Soon to pass away, morals gone;
Such are the wages we must pay.
Waves of passion, deep depression,
Evil Empires, Ayatollahs,
Hezbollahs and reveille,
Eichmanns tried in absentia,
Such is the warm world we live in,
Impressed well in us with each day,
Destined to squeeze us more in graves
Bland as Beirut, all passions paid
For sins of fathers, their fathers
Too, or Three, or Four, succession
Of wars and dormant memories
Untended, as medals unpinned.
Eric M. Vogt
from “The Coldest War”
NORTH COUNTRY CALLS
It amazes me how humans can forget traumatic times as if they never happened, a selective amnesia used as a coping mechanism. But in a collective sense, I think that nations do the same thing. Traumatic events—-the American Civil War, the Spanish influenza epidemic and 9/11 come to mind in our own country—-are pushed to the back of our collective conscience in an effort to go forward.
A bad consequence of this is that we collectively erase our history, and at the same time any hope for avoiding it in future generations. But the Cold War, unlike these other events, was a piece of history totally lost to the history books. Coupled with an age where history is just not taught in schools leaves a recipe for disaster.
So here we sit as a nation, forgetting totally that the Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics and its allies were collectively the most genocidal totalitarian regimes in the world’s history. Their downfall was caused by almost five decades of a conflict known as the Cold War. The present youthful generation did not live through the Russian-Chinese-Warsaw Pact-North Korean-North Vietnamese-Cambodian-Cuban experiment.
Today there are remnants only of that failed system. Yet more people were systematically butchered by it than by the Nazi regime. Today socialism has become an accepted phrase. How many people died in the gulags? How many in Khmer Rouge re-education camps? How many in Mao’s purges? How many in North Korean camps? The world will never know.
For those of us who lived through it, who took a stand against totalitarianism, we each hold it in our hearts in different ways. As children our schools conducted nuclear war drills where we were told to shelter under our desks. In the military we had a doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (M.A.D.), where both sides maintained a constant war footing with nuclear weapons that had the potential of destroying the world several times over. Our instructors drilled into us the sober fact that in World War III, none of us would survive.
Yet we served as a deterrent to totalitarianism. We were the readers of Orwell’s 1984 and ANIMAL FARM, written by an old socialist who had seen the dreams of his generation swallowed up by a totalitarian nightmare in the East, the Reality of Socialism, that in order to attain it one must be prepared to accept a central government with Total Power, the ultimate expression of “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Today the youth have been taught to tests entirely devoid of history and the humanities. Their parents did not teach them, perhaps because we wanted to forget the nightmare. These poems and others I’ve written of the Cold War and the generation who served in it are my feeble attempts to educate those not familiar with this era, and to remember the generation I served with, who were as brave and noble as those who served at Lexington and Bunker Hill and Gettysburg and Normandy and beyond. We were exposed to toxins and radiation from weapons of war that have remained secret to this day, the refuse of a World War III never fought. My generation has been “kissed by cancers” in our beds. Many friends have died or are languishing with early diseases that likely would not have visited them if they had not served.
These are the unknown casualties of the Cold War. And this is my memorial to them.