Thursday, March 17, 2016

"So they formed the St. Patrick's Battalion, and fought on the Mexican side"

A week ago, I was writing about how Maya Lin separated the grief for dead soldiers from the valorizing of war in creating the  Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Today is St. Patrick's Day, so -- as I always do on this day -- I listened to David Rovics' song "St. Patrick's Battalion." It tells the story of Irish-American soldiers in the U.S. Army during the Mexican–American War of 1846–8 who realized they were fighting for the wrong side, and formed the St. Patrick's Battalion to fight in defense of the Mexicans.

St. Patrick's Battalion members.  (More at MickeyZSays blog.)

I love this song. I especially love the part that describes how the soldiers arrived at the front and "realized the mistake they had made."

I also love the way it ties together the oppression of English occupation that the Irish were fleeing and the oppression of US conquest in which they found themselves embroiled.

Being of Irish descent, I love the way it describes as valiant my ancestors who were more often considered riff-raff.

I love the window it provides into US history -- real US history, a part of US history that is so vital to understanding issues in the headlines today.

I love the fact that it expresses solidarity with the victims of US imperialism.

However . . .

I don't love the valorization of violence.

How are we to remember people who acted with courage in the situation in which they found themselves, without getting carried away with thinking every aspect of their response should be emulated?

How are we to confront violence without resorting to even greater violence of our own?

Enjoy "St. Patrick's Battalion" and ponder . . . .

Related posts

The memorial designed by Maya Lin did something that hadn't occurred to anyone before: separate the grief for dead soldiers from the valorizing of war.

(See Maya Lin: Separating Grief from Glory)

It will take me multiple posts to spell out everything that I feel needs to be said about the Ayotzinapa 43.  People in the US need to work to change their own attitude about Mexico, and about the culpability or all of us here in the US in the wrongs that are being done down there. The Ayotzinapa 43 were persecuted for saying "the future can be different." It's time for us to take up their cry.

(See Ayotzinapa43: US People Need an Attitude Adjustment )

Violence or nonviolence? If you're interested in radical change, look at the hard facts on what's worked worldwide.

(See Chenoweth on Why Nonviolence Gets Results (The "Cliff's Notes" Version))

Anyone who has had to write a speech knows that the hardest part is to land on the main idea. Once you've got that right, the rest practically writes itself.

(See "The way to respond to ISIS is not through violence." )