“Have You Forgotten?” A View of War from The South

I’ve been in Tennessee and Mississippi the last few days, where my waitress at Sonic in Corinth rolled out on skates, her name was Faith, she’s going to be a senior in high school and has a fiance. Mississippi Public Radio’s follow-on to Garrison Keillor is a variety show promising to be “so good it will make you want to get on your mule and go to town,” and is broadcast from Oxford, Faulkner’s home.

The war looks different from down here. A country song made me think about it. I heard “Have You Forgotten?” on the local station in Jackson, Tennessee.

Darryl Worley, from Pyburn, Tennessee, grandson of a moonshiner, wrote and sings the song, which says, “Have you forgotten how it felt that day, to see your homeland under fire and her people blown away? Have you forgotten when those towers fell, we had neighbors still inside going through a living hell? And you say we shouldn’t worry ’bout Bin Laden — have you forgotten?” Another verse says, “What about our freedom and this piece of ground, we didn’t get to keep ’em by backing down.”

The South is military. The South is rural. The South is patriotic. Broad generalizations, and I don’t want to be condescending to either the rural South or the urban North. But in the South, if your country calls, you go. You serve. And you have faith that your leaders know what they’re doing.

So it must hurt a lot of people down here when those against the war seem to be against the troops and against the country. Against what they believe so deeply in, and have for generations.

That’s one of many great tragedies of this war. It’s billed as a defense of the homeland. Who could be against that? But it’s splitting us at home.

Those of us who oppose the war believe it is the wrong war in the wrong place, mistaken in conception and monstrously imcompetently waged. We also want to defend the homeland, and wish the battle had been finished in Afghanistan, where Bin Laden was. Bush/Cheney’s catastrophic war in Iraq has made America so much less safe, we feel.

But here, if your country calls (The United States, then the Confederacy, and now again the U.S.) you serve.

We against the war agonize as we watch things fall apart. And those here supporting the war may agonize too as they feel their patriotism affronted by our views.

We think we’re right, but we have to listen to the radio stations of those who feel we’re wrong. And we have to feel compassion for the way they see the world, or this country will fall into the widening gap of our lack of understanding of one another. It’s happened before, as the historic Civil War markers along every road here testify.

–Bruce Benidt 

Here’s the song — at a site where you can order American flags.


9 thoughts on ““Have You Forgotten?” A View of War from The South

  1. Shim says:

    This is a serious question: What does America do the next time we are attacked on our own soil (by idealogues not sponsored by any particular country)?

    What do we do? (Try to avoid answering this question by saying what we should not do.)

    Not so easy – is it?

  2. I think we do what we tried to do in Afghanistan — find the bastards and get them. And find their supporters and funders. And not put so many resources into fighting the wrong war that we don’t have anything left to go after the real culprits. And we should look clear-eyed at the intelligence, not jack it around to prove the view we already have, and we should listen to the generals. The Bush folks failed on both of these points because they felt they already knew the truth and would listen to no other views. We took our eye off the ball on this one, seems to me, by detouring into an idealogue’s war in Iraq.
    But yes, it’s all so easy to say this in the comfort of our own homes. No easy answers, which is why we need to listen to everyone.

  3. Shim says:

    You answered the question (“find the bastards and get them”), but slipped into the what-not-to-do mode.

    The biggest unanswered problem with your answer is that “their supporters and funders” are Iran, Syria, N. Korea, Russia and China.

    There are two fundamental options before us: Isolationism (protect the homeland); or preemption (fight abroad, and fight hard abroad). Right now, we’re doing a lousy job on both fronts.

    This is a huge mess that doesn’t lend itself to rear-view-mirror thinking. In opposing the war in Iraq, Democrats avoid answering the “what’s next” question. And that stance won’t get them the elected.

  4. jloveland says:

    “Forgotten about bin Laden” is a staw man argument, albeit one that very nearly rhymes. A closer look at the polls show that Americans question the war on terrorism’s methods, not the mission. That is, surveys show the majority of Americans think the Iraq war is hurting the war on terrorism more than it is helping it. That conclusion happens to be true, according to the Bush Administration experts (see below), and hardly makes Americans terrorism amnesiacs.

    What does America do next time it is attacked by terrorists? Before the preemption doctrine, we relied more on diplomacy, containment, narrowly targetted military retaliation and international cooperation. It obviously didn’t work anywhere near well enough, and it felt wimpy in the wake of attacks.

    BUT, if we care about what works more than what feels good, the National Intelligence Estimate has found that terrorism has increased, not decreased, since the preemption doctrine’s inception. So, I’m no foreign policy or military expert. But if the best we can do is go back to the pre-Iraq war policy, wasn’t even that working better than the current preemptive war doctrine?

  5. We should not:
    1) Go off half-cocked on trumped up intelligence
    2) React emotionally, but rather base our actions on facts
    3) Go it alone, alienating the few remaining countries who actually like the U.S.
    4) Spread our armed forces too thin. Focus. Finish. Move on.
    5) Enter into a conflict without understanding and stating the desired outcome, including time frames (have we not been in Iraq longer than it took to finish Hitler and bomb Hiroshima?)

  6. shim says:

    I happen to favor a strong isolationism policy. Secure the homeland – and I mean really secure it. Bust our butts on creating a true alternative energy source (hydrogen, not ethanol which is decimating the environment, the economy and food supplies). Continue developing the missile shield. And finally – make Europe, Japan and Israel do some of their own heavy lifting when it comes to defense. Let them see if America is so bad after all.

  7. John Reinan says:

    I notice that nobody mentioned Saudi Arabia, which supplied 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers as well as many of the current Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq.

    Our government never mentions them either.

    That wouldn’t have anything to do with GWB’s hand-in-hand walks with Prince Bandar, would it?

  8. I like shim and have always felt adamant that if we take care of business at home first, the world would become a better place. Instead we do things half-assed everywhere and look like asses to boot. Do you know how many kids will go without a meal and sleep under a bridge in the U.S. tonight. It’s staggering and it’s not necessary.

  9. Shim says:

    I don’t think the Saudi royals are sponsoring terrorism (there are a few, however). It’s those wacky wahabbis who would like to overthrow the royals – and attack us.

    It would be far worse to destabilize Saudi Arabia – we would have Iraq 2.0 on our hands if we did so.

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