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Mark Ye, Men of War and Political Fame!

Mark ye, men of war and Political fame,
Who burn the midnight oil over maps and blueprints,
Don’t lose your way, counting your spoil while others also toil,
Whose dollars buy the bombs, which mount up steadily with weekly bonds.
If it isn’t the steady fathers who don’t miss a day—
Socks and groceries what they are, keeping them on their way— It’s mothers laboring until midnight beckons the new day,
With mops and needles and gay prints,
Preserving, too, what they can to buy more “Bonds”.
All over our nation’s soil—from Washington to Maine,
Down the coast, over the hills, over rivers, deserts, mountains and back again—
A silent army of workers is preserving the real American Way!
How can you threaten them?
Where are the women who cherish you to let your minds so stray?
Yes, you may squander our money. This we’ve learned to endure.
But don’t squander our blood, our children!
Social Security in dollars may look fine in print,
But what good is a cold dollar on Johnny’s coffin?
Or on a newborn baby in her crib?
Or during poison-gas attacks and air raids?
Or to a father who’s not home ‘cause he’s got to do his stint?


War is wrong today!
You can’t give us dollars and call it “Security.”
Your headlines may dazzle youth,
Your radios thrill the young,
Your propaganda stuff the immature,
But wisdom knows true courage and to live for a true cause.
Our fathers found the way when our homes were threatened.
As our forefathers did before them: they led in a true affray.
I’m surprised at you, Lean Old Uncle Sam!
Or am I simply talking now to Old Chubby Johnny Bull?
(1940s)

I reconstructed this poem from an old torn fragment of faded paper. Mom wrote on anything she had handy when she had a spare moment. This was not titled and had many scratched out words. I’m guessing it was written sometime in the early 1940s. Mom had 8 children by then. Unlike most of her poems, which reflect themes of nature and the inner workings of her imagination, this poem reflects her outrage over war- mongering politicians and their policies. She always maintained, alongside her spiritual and religious consciousness, a social consciousness that was quick to scold politicians who put political expediency above the welfare of the common people. Since dad’s first job was as a social worker with the Agency for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Boston during the Great Depression years and his later work was as Director of the USO servicemen’s clubs during WWII and the Korean Conflict, she shared through him a deep concern about the discrepancies between the ideals politicians espoused and the actual policies they developed and forced others to follow. Social justice was her lifelong concern and Eleanor Roosevelt her social-political role model. She even wore braided hair like Eleanor Roosevelt and seemed to me as a child indistinguishable from her. So complete was the identification.

The term “Johnny Bull” in the final line refers to the conventional personification of England. Uncle John Bull is England’s equivalent to America’s Uncle Sam. It is clear that as a woman raised by hard-working, devout, educated, family-oriented parents, as the fifth of 12 children who now had eight children of her own, as someone whose husband worked with the poor and with young soldiers and sailors, and as some one who came of age during The Great War (WWI) and has now seen the even-greater horrors of WWII, mom is scolding the “hawks” of her day and the weak-kneed politicians who are trying to “dazzle the youth,” “thrill the young,” “stuff the immature” with their “propaganda,” . She is holding them accountable to a higher standard, the standard of their forefathers who knew the difference between a legitimate “fray, a “true cause,” when “their homes were threatened,” and an unjust, unnecessary, wasteful, politically-motivated, expedient set of policies. I know this is a condemnation, not just of American leaders who march the young too quickly off to war, but to all leaders worldwide who send the young unnecessarily into battle. Given the wars of more recent years (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq), the latter which is the most blatant example of a “preemptive” war, were she alive today at age 100, I think mom would be happy to send “Mark Ye, Men of War and Political Fame” to the current administration.


This post first appeared on Inspirational Poems Of A Prairie Girl, please read the originial post: here

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Mark Ye, Men of War and Political Fame!

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