Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review of Kevin Powers' Yellow Birds
     Since September 11, 2001 as a nation, America has developed the mentality of romanticizing the military soldier and protecting our citizens from the ugly realities of war.  Our media rarely shows the photos or footage of the dead bodies in bombed cities, the innocent victims like the women, children, elderly and instead seems to focus more on the heroic acts of squad leaders protecting their men or the heartwarming welcome home videos of dads surprising their children in schools or the tear stained face of a young wife as her husband gets on a bus to leave for parts unknown.  When atrocities do come to light such as waterboarding or mass photos of US soldiers urinating on POW’s, instead of outrage at the inhumanity of the actions, our society now responds with “but they took down or towers” and even go so far as to use the events of September 11, 2001 as a reason to hate an entire group of people based solely on their looks or religious practices and it is accepted without argument most times.  While we seem to have learned our lessons from Vietnam and how not to treat our returning military, it feels as if we’ve gone overboard in refusing to acknowledge war is ugly, it leaves behind a trail of blood, and it changes a man sometimes not for the better.  Powers uses his experiences as a backdrop for fictionalizing Yellow Birds and in doing so shows the readers the reality and the ugliness of war that we seem so eager to avoid.

            Powers uses narrative prose that is almost poetic at times to describe the events taking place in Al Tafar between US military and Iraq.  He introduces us to characters who are battle weary, who have grown unaffected by the death that surrounds them, and who are broken.  Although we see these characters and their flaws from the very beginning, Powers skillfully takes us back in time when these men weren’t so emotionless. Murph, Bartle, and Sterling they all change as a result of the war and none of them for the better.  While it takes Powers a bit before flashing back to the first time Murph and Bartle meet and become comrades, it is in those instances we see the men they used to be, before they were men.  They still carried their youth on their faces and their naivety in their words.  They had yet to meet death head on and still viewed it as something that was not part of their future, not something they would experience.  Sterling on the other hand, he has seen the brutality, smelled the death, had the blood on his hands and he knew what was going on.  It is in Sterling we see what will soon become of Murph and Bartle, the coldness and the almost cruelty that has overtaken him will also soon overtake the young soldiers preparing for the battle, literally of their lives. 

            It is because of the cluelessness, for lack of a better word, of the young Murph and Bartle that Bartle makes the promise to Murph’s mother to take care of her son and keep him safe during their deployment.  It is a promise you don’t make to the mother of a solider because it is not a promise that can be kept.  Only someone who has never been in war would believe you can keep someone safe in a battle zone.  These are still teenagers, 19 years old, and young adults in their very early twenties whose closest experience with a bombing is in maneuvers during training where precautions are in place and the explosions are expected. 

            Although we, as readers, have been given glimpses of who they were before war later in the novel, Powers strongly delivers early on just what has become of these soldiers.  The complete lack of feeling at the death of their guide Malik, the fact that they only view death as a thing that happens rather than a loss of human life shows just how far they have gone from the back roads of rural Virginia in just a matter of months.  But, Powers saves the best (or worst) for last when rather than allow Murph to be buried with some dignity having been a sacrifice for his country, they choose instead to dump his body in a river and just walk away.  That is the reality of what war has done to these men.  It has desensitized them and in a sense taken their souls.  That is the ugly reality of war, the reality that the American society doesn’t want to acknowledge because to acknowledge it would mean we have to do something about it. War isn’t humane.  It is cruel, it is ugly, it is nasty and that is what Murph’s death represents.  It doesn’t matter at whose hands his death occurred, the fact that his disposal was done by the hands he trusted is the cruelest thing of all. 

            If we want to look deeper at what Powers has done with this novel, it could be said it is an attempt to get the public to realize just what war does to the mental health of those who go into battle and when they come home they are denied proper mental health care.  Powers show readers exactly what is laying on the battlefields—the bodies, the burned flesh, the gouged eyeballs, the wounded children dragging dead grandparents from bullet ridden vehicles. It isn’t huge welcome home parades full of waving flags, lemonade, and apple pie.  It isn’t the dad surprising his daughter at an assembly.  This is the reality and we have to make sure these men and women are taken care of when they come home for the horrors they see, the horrors they experience, and the loss of themselves because they leave who they were on the fields of enemy territory with every bullet fired, with ever grenade launched, and ever building burned.  The souls of American soldiers are left on the fields in some foreign land even through their bodies step off planes to patriotic playing bands.



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Believe

With the holiday season upon us I want to express something. I choose to put this in a note rather than a status because it is a little lengthy. I often times have people say things about my beliefs and have even been told "if you believe that's okay you can't be a Christian". Well let me say this. There is a difference between being a spiritual person and a religious person. Just because I am not in a church every time the doors are open doesn't mean I don't have strong spiritual beliefs. It just means I don't care for organized religion. I don't go to church simply to count heads, see who is wearing what, who puts what in a collection plate, who knows what, etc. I make the world my church. I communicate with my Higher Power anytime and anywhere, whether there is a roof over my head, a steeple on the building, or whether it is in the middle of a beautiful field surrounded by glorious hues of orange, yellow, green, and red. These are things I BELIEVE:

I believe there is a Higher Power that we all will answer to at the end of our time on this material earth. That Higher Power may go by different names to different people but it is there. It knows no gender, no color or nationality.

I believe when our loved ones cross the veil of the world of the living and the eternal living, they still remain with us as long as we have love in our hearts for them. They communicate with us through dreams and simple ways like a breeze at just the right moment, a drop of rain on a chokingly dry day, a dragonfly on the shoulder. They are with us.

I believe in angels who walk beside us unseen every step of every day.

I believe that despite the atrocities of this world there is STILL goodness in mankind regardless of who they pray to whether it be God, Allah, Jehovah, the Virgin Mary, or other gods and goddesses.

I believe a word of kindness and a simple smile can save a life.

I believe we all deserve love and understanding regardless of socio-economic status, race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or nationality.

I believe it is not my place to judge or wish harm on anyone else because I believe that what we send out in the world comes back on us times three, and it is not my place to pass judgement because I don't know that person's circumstances and I am not perfect so how can I be in a position to judge someone else?

I believe that to harbor hate against anyone will only destroy my own soul and well-being so I move forward leaving the negativity behind.

I say "Merry Christmas" to those who say it to me, and to others I say "Happy Holidays". After all this is the holiday season so I wish for joy for them all not just one day. When I say "I will keep you in my thoughts" rather than "I'll pray for you", that is what I mean--you remain in my thoughts throughout the day and night and I hope for positive things for you.

If my being a good person who would give the shirt off my back, the last penny I had, open my home up to the homeless and fight for the rights of ALL not a few isn't enough for someone simply because I don't profess to be a specific denomination then am I really the one with the problem?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Excerpt from Rag Doll: Delilah's Story

Delilah lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling with Annie in her arms. “It’s just us Annie, just like always.”  She closed her eyes and dozed off without realizing it.

            “Daddy’s home!”  Daddy’s booming voice bounced off the walls of their home as he came through the door.  Delilah, having learned to walk only a month earlier ran awkwardly into his outstretched arms.  “Dadda”.  Daddy twirled his little girl around and laughed.  “Daddy has something for his angel.”  He reached just outside the door and brought a bag in.  He pulled a rag doll with red hair and blue and white dress out of the bag.  “Here is my angel her very own Raggedy Ann doll”.  Delilah’s chubby baby hands reached for the pretty doll and hugged her tight.  “Baby, baby” she sang.          Quickly the time changes and Delilah, now four years old is sitting in the floor of her room holding her Annie tight trying to shut out the sounds of her parents screaming.  “It’s okay Annie, Daddy will take care of us.”

            “GET OUT!  Just get the hell out” her mother screamed.  “I don’t need you any way.”

            “Look, you need some help.  That’s all I’m saying.  You’re a drunk and god only knows what else you do when I’m gone.  And don’t you think I’ve seen the bruises on Delilah.”

            “Delilah!  that’s all you worry about is that stupid baby.  Well, I’m the one here with her whiny ass all the time.  Why do you think I drink?  You said you’d get us away from this hell hole but you didn’t!”  The sound of glass shattering only caused Delilah to hold tighter to her Annie.  “That’s right, walk out.  That’s all a man is good for any way.”

            Daddy came into Delilah’s room and held her close.  “Daddy has to go on a trip now angel girl but I’ll be back soon to get you okay.  I love you so much.”

            Delilah watched through the grease smeared window of the kitchen as her Daddy got in his car.  Tears ran down her chubby cheeks.  She looked at her mother who was opening another bottle of stinky drink.  “Daddy?” 

            “Shut the hell up.  Your precious daddy is gone and I hope he never comes back.  Shut up that sniveling.  I could have been gone long before now if it hadn’t been for you.  I said shut up!”  Delilah reeled backwards from the backhand her mother delivered across her little face.  Quickly she got up, grabbed Annie and ran to her room.  Her mother didn’t usually stop with just one mean hand.  She got as close to the wall as she could and held on to Annie when she saw her mother in the doorway.  She had the stinky drink in one hand and the stinky smokey stick in the other.  “You know what happens to little girls who don’t shut up like they are supposed to don’t you?  They get punished.  You didn’t shut up so now you have to be punished.”  She walked slowly to Delilah and held the stinky stick out.  Delilah buried her head on top of Annie’s stuffed head.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Little Corner

I crawl up in the corner where it is dark.  Pull my knees up and put my head down.  Can you see me?  I don’t want you to.  I want to hide from the world.  In my little corner no one talks to me, no one wants anything from me.  It is just me and the darkness.  Solitude.  I close my eyes and it is just me in my little piece of the world.  All me. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Banning and My Thoughts on the Subject.

Below are some books that have been banned in various locations.  The descriptions and comments come from an article that ran in the Huffington Post.  I am following these with my own comments and thoughts in parenthesis.  Here we go!
1. THE DICTIONARY: Both the Merriam Webster and the American Heritage Dictionaries have been banned in various schools. The Merriam Webster was banned in a California elementary school in January 2010 for its definition of oral sex. "It's just not age appropriate," a district representative said.
 (Yes people the dictionary.  I mean really now?  The fact that an educator would follow through with the banning of the dictionary is just in and of itself absolutely moronic.  There are a lot of words in the dictionary that aren't age appropriate for various ages but do they realize that by banning a DICTIONARY, they are banning knowledge?  Do they not think in this day and time a kid can't google the words "oral sex" and get a heck of a lot more than a definition as a result?).
2.John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath: An immediate and huge bestseller, the classic depicting poverty and the struggles of migrant workers was and often still is banned for obscenity and for the negative light in which the country was painted.
 (I am pretty sure we know why they don't want this read.  The same things are still taking place today--poverty and struggles of both migrant workers and natural born citizens, obscenity??  Give me a break--put your television on even basic channels like NBC, CBS, and ABC these days and hear all kinds of words but Heaven forbid you read one in a book!  The negative light in which a country is painted?  Good grief look at our government and country today!  We are on our way to hell in a handbasket, banning a book that speaks on such subject matter isn't going to speed up the process for crying out loud!)
3. William Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble: The Illinois Police Association, along with 11 other states, tried to get libraries to remove this book in 1977 because it portrays policemen as pigs.
(It is a children's story and children respond to character's that are animals.  Richard Scarry also portrayed different professions using animals as well.  SO WHAT???  I mean do we really think a chicken walked around screaming the sky is falling?  Of course not so are children really going to think of police as pigs?  A book isn't the only place they will hear that reference.  If their parents are educating them about history and various counter culture movements they'll see it there as well.  What are we going to do ban any reference to the Hippie movement, civil rights movement, and protests? Heck I probably just gave some idiot an idea!)
4/5. Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye AND Beloved: The winner of the Nobel Prize in literature has had her books banned for obscene language and gratuitous violence in many parts of the country. The battle isn't over.
(Okay I happen to absolutely love both of these books and many others by Toni Morrison.  She is a literary genius.  She writes from the perspective often times of an African-American woman in the south, in poverty, in REALITY.  She uses language that is said--not sugarcoated.  Again, put a television on any channel, watch a video game, you will see and hear the same things.  What do you want the world in a bubble?  She has won the Nobel Prize in Literature for crying out loud and they are going to ban her writing?  Keep on fighting Toni!)
6. Bill Martin, Jr's Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See? :This beloved children's book was banned in January 2010 by the Texas Board of Education because the author has the same name as an obscure Marxist theorist, and no one bothered to check if they were actually the same person.
(Okay if the explanation itself is not enough to show the pure ignorance that comes with book banning I don't know what does!  Just because of the author's name??? And what is Marxist theory that which shall not be spoken in Texas school systems?  The fact that a STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION did this without bothering to even do a google search and hit up old Wikipedia makes me really sad for the state of Texas and the children subjected to that ignorance in their school systems.  Those poor children.)
7/8. Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach and The Witches: "James" was banned for obscenity and violence, while "The Witches" was banned for sexism and devaluing the life of a child.
(James and the Giant Peach can't be read as a book, but can be viewed by millions of children as an animated full feature film????  Wonder how many of the schools that don't have it on the bookshelves of their library have allowed it to be shown on VHS or DVD in the classroom?  What is even more depressing is that children who see the movie are probably not even aware it was adapted from a book!)
9. Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl:Anne Frank's diary has been banned on multiple occasions. The most recent was in January 2010 when the book was pulled from a Virginia school for "sexually explicit" and "homosexual" themes.
(Yes let's pull a book that grips a reader's heart and hopefully teaches them to have empathy for fellow man as a young girl describes her ordeal as she tries to survive the Holacaust because we can't have anything sexual or homosexual related in our schools.  Granted this shouldn't be read by first or second graders, but by the time children get to middle and high school they are learning about the Holacaust--I would hope--and I'm sure they know what homosexuality is--whether they agree with it or not, so they are mature enough to handle this book.  Banning books like this and keeping those types of horrifying events from the hands of the future will only lead to something like it happening again.)
10. Louisa May Alcott's Little Women: Not easy to figure out why this one was banned, but it may have been that the strongest woman character marries a boring and much older man--counter to feminism.
(Little Women?  A threat?  To what?????  As someone who considers myself a feminist I would never support taking this book--or any book in case you haven't figured it out yet---from the shelves.  If anything you can use books such as this to help teach young women they don't have to depend on a man for survival, they can do anything and be anything they want by their own efforts.  Banning this book just baffles my mind).
11/12. Ernest Hemingway's A Farewll to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls: How times have changed. "A Farewell to Arms" was banned for sexual content and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" because it was seen as pro-communist.
(Oh good grief!  Again, I've read both of these books and these books are so mild when compared to just what happens around us and on the news.  When books like these are banned I have to think the person challenging them hasn't even read them!)
 13. Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic: Banned in 1993 at an elementary school in Florida because it "promotes disrespect, horror, and violence," soon became one of the most banned books of the 1990s.
(I admit I've not read this one, but I can promise you it is on my to buy list now!  A book does not promote disrespect, horror or violence--a homelife will, lack of parenting will, sitting a child in front of a television playing graphic video games full of zombies and demons will--reading a book won't).
14. Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time: Because it's a tale of the battle of good and evil, many were concerned it was making a religious argument they didn't want their children exposed to.
(Wait isn't the Bible full of stories about a battle between good and evil?  Do we not teach our children from the time they are babies about good vs. evil and we want to be good people and prevail on the good side?  I mean help me out here--would this not be a great and valuable tool to oh I don't know use to actually engage in a conversation with our children?  Am I just expecting too much from parents these days?)

So as you can tell I do not believe in book banning or censorship.  I may not always agree with the subject matter and I may not like what it says however I do not believe in one person or a group of people having the right to determine for me whether or not it should be available for myself or my child(ren).  Instead of removing the books from bookshelves use them to engage in conversation over why we don't find the subject matter appropriate and educate ourselves and our children.  Yes, this requires parents to actually "man up" and PARENT and take an active, participatory role in their child and the development of that child's education, ideals, morals, and view on the world.  I think maybe that is the problem--too many parents want to shirk the responsibility to someone else and let them determine what is right and wrong for their child.  Not me buddy.  I want my child to know there is a huge world out there full of differences and we should make ourselves aware of those differences.  To make one's self aware does not mean to embrace, it just means you are not ignorant to the world around you and despite the saying--ignorance is NOT bliss.  Ignorance is compliance and I will not comply or conform to someone else's ideals and philosophies just because someone says I should.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I was in a slightly melancholy mood this morning when I woke up and these first couple of lines came to me.  I haven't written a poem in quite some time, a couple of years I'd even venture to say.  But this is what I came up with today.  Enjoy.

My world of darkness
Soundless screams struggle
Against the muted mouth
Helpless hands fight
Against the restraints
Being pushed underneath
Drowning gasping for air
The blackness takes over
No more screams
No more struggle
It is over now
--copyright 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

In Honor of My Daughter's Birthday

       I  remember the day I found out you were on your way. That was the day that changed my life forever. It was the day I stopped putting me first and knew that a great thing would grace this world. Then you were here. The most beautiful thing I ever laid my eyes upon, a head of gorgeous black hair, the most beautiful, bright eyes, and fat rolls everywhere! The cutest smile to every shine on the earth. I held you in my arms and knew you were special.

As you grew you reinforced every thought I had the day you were born. As impossible as it sounds, the most beautiful baby became more beautiful. That precious smile was ever present. The smallest and most simple things made you happy. You never fussed and you never cried. You were mama's little helper.

Not only were you smart, but talented as well. You danced your way into the hearts of everyone you came into contact with. You are a shining star.

Now my baby is growing up and turning into a beautiful, smart, talented, determined young lady. It's more fun to hang out with friends than it is with Mama now. Just remember you are always going to be my baby and I will always love you more than life itself.

You once said as we passed a movie theater marquee "One day my name will be on that board. I'm gonna be a star and everyone will know my name". You are already a star in my eyes and one day soon the whole world will know your name.

I love you.


I hope that every wish you make comes true and know that Daddy and I will always support you and have your back in everything you do.