Sunday, April 19, 2015

Poisoned Treasure

At every important meeting sponsored by the VFW I was always introduced last. This was because of my Distinguished Service Cross, second highest medal that can be awarded. No one else had any higher or even its equal, thus my announcement was considered one to be of saving "the best for last." My applause would be the loudest and my children and grandchildren had the proudest faces. These things were my Poisoned Treasure.

An investigation is done for every DSC to determine its merits. But mine was done during an unpopular war - a war needing heroes. The details of my story I shall not recount. Now now, not ever. The pain is too much. I am already shredded beyond recognition. I wonder if anyone noticed when I stopped laughing anymore. Weakness is a weight that buries you over time.

"What use is a dead nigger?" I'll never forget those words. It meant that simply by virtue of being white I was valuable without having to do a damn thing! I was drafted because I wasn't valuable like the college kids. I never rose in rank nor had the ambition to do so. It was Hamilton who faced responsibility. It was Hamilton who died rescuing the wounded. I lay hidden, trapped in terror, frozen, a complete coward in the eyes of heaven. I don't have the words to describe that paralyzing fear. I can't afford to have them regardless.

Hamilton saved three men but was shot dead bring back the fourth. I was too scared to even provide covering fire. God damn me. God damn me to hell. That's certainly where I've been all these years. All I did was bring back the fourth the last bit of the way. I did that out of instinct, before I could think. The sound of the moaning drove me to him. I had to stop both our suffering.

The political types asked me to lie. A live white hero could serve the country better than a dead black one. The way they put that question I don't think they had much use for a live black hero anyway. I agreed to the lie despite the screaming inside that told me not to. The fourth soldier's memory was so shattered he really did think I rescued him from enemy fire. The army ran with that tacking on the three, and you should have seen the smiling faces of the brass. Goddam, they loved a good lie more anything.

For a while I even had myself convinced I was somewhat worthy. I never told a soul I didn't lay down covering fire like Hamilton told me to. Thinking back, I guess I hoped that meant he wouldn't leave the fox hole - and thus wouldn't leave me. But I just blotted out the parts I didn't like and clung to that last short bit of my carrying a man back. But the war got even more unpopular no matter how many beaming white heroes were propped up or John Wayne Green Beret films were made. The whole damn thing was a lie.

"Come out from among them and be ye apart." I know exactly what that means. I lied, the army lied, the country lied. Who will be the first to admit it? It's why we keep committing the same mistakes over and over and over, believing the same lies over and over and over. Whoever breaks from the communal lie will be thrown to the lions. "Your son died for nothing, ma'am." Who has the courage to say that first? Sons and daughters will keep dying until someone does.

But what of me? My war is over. What is the point of breaking my family's heart? What good will come of destroying my heritage? The country won't come clean just because I have. Things will go on as before - except my descendants will be marked with the blood of a coward and a liar. I don't see the value of truth. If the powers-that-be come out and say our wars have been lies I'll certainly add my voice to the chorus. Otherwise, what's the point?

I have less than a year according to the doctors. Do I die a sinner or a saint? If God values truth then why doesn't He/She defend it? Why are those who tell the truth are left to be crucified and those who lie rewarded? My years of self-punishment were an exercise in futility. Watching TV I always sweated out the liars getting caught, rooting for them to remain undetected. Here I am about to get my wish: to die with my lie intact.

I would consider coming clean if I could see some point to it. Obviously, my soul is worth nothing in this world; nothing but a piece of meat to the army and everyone else demanding the rent - or a piece of my alleged glory. It would be pleasant to believe differently but that is wishful thinking. We all like to believe we're something special, something important. We all tell ourselves we're Jesus as we nail Jesus to the cross.

It's funny, because at times I feel it's life and death that I should come clean and tell the truth. But when I ask myself why I lose that understanding. What is real and what is not? It would help if I could see God punish the liars instead of making them rich or the President. Where's the proof truth matters? Philosophers say it's the currency of love. But I'm not going to destroy everything on a guess.

I guess I'll just die this way. Who gives a shit?

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