Southern trees bear strange fruit, goes the old Billie Holiday song. Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
The lyrics come from Abel Meeropol’s poem, Strange Fruit. The poem was inspired by Lawrence Beitler’s famous photograph of the 1930 Indiana lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith.
Truth is the great beauty of such awful things. Forget about the promise of the Statue of Liberty. Keep your platitudes about equality. The legacy of slavery, genocide against those whose lands we stole, the satanic reality of lynching—there’s your truth. Words can’t cover it up.
Nor can they hide the lynchings among our nation’s military that routinely take place every day with the way the Pentagon and VA are covering up the body count of psychiatric casualties and rape. As I have reported below, the Pentagon and VA are engaged in unspeakable evil by allowing the military’s behavioral health crisis and rape pandemic to rage out of control. See the two-minute trailers for Thank You For Your Service and Invisible War for inarguable summaries from military and government leaders themselves.
If you know of a better word than evil for this, please tell me what it is. As The New York Times story The Military’s Rough Justice on Sexual Assault reports, military commanders are actually legalizing rape. Result: grisly crimes like the one committed against 20-year-old Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson.
The evidence clearly shows that she was brutally raped and murdered while serving in Iraq. The Army has officially ruled her death a suicide. This is tantamount to lynching her grieving family in public.
The VA has issued another ruling in the benefits case of Mary Kay McCollum. (See “Raping Mary Kay,” below.) Verdict: even though the Navy discharged Mary Kay in 1983 because the PTSD resulting from her serial rapes, forced drug and alcohol abuse and death threats by a superior officer who was convicted of his crimes against her destroyed her mental health and ability to function, her disability didn’t actually set in until June 28, 2017.
Or so say the casuists of the VA.
This is as patently absurd as the Army’s conclusion that LaVena Johnson committed suicide by savagely beating herself to a pulp, pouring lye in her vagina (it destroys semen DNA), surgically removing part of her tongue, vagina and anus, gluing gloves to her hands, shooting herself in the head with an M-16 rifle found beyond the reach of her violated, bloody body, and attempting to set fire to a tent belonging to the military contractor Kellogg Brown & Root where her body was found and photographed by military criminal investigators.
Would that be the same Kellogg Brown & Root that is a subsidiary of Halliburton, you ask. Yes.
Same Halliburton that gave its CEO Dick Cheney some $34 million in severance pay so he could become Vice President and help President Bush invade Iraq? Yes.
Same Halliburton that made $39.5 billion on the Iraq War? Yes.
The Iraq War that was based on Bush and Cheney’s fraudulent evidence that our former puppet Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction? Sigh. Yes.
So let me repeat: if you know a better word than evil to describe the situation that has placed America’s government and military in the hands of ruthless, corrupt, morally inferior individuals who allow the effective lynching by PTSD and rape of our military members, please let me know.
Post your answer in the comments section below. On behalf of my fellow veterans, thank you for your service.
7 responses to “The Strange Fruit of America’s Veterans”
You gave me the flat-out fantods—goose bumps even. You do great, fine work and have perfect timing. I like reading your stuff. Keep writing it.
So—old copy editors never die, but Par. 4 “…grizzly crimes…” should be “grisly crimes” (in my estimation)—although what happened is truly as scary and horrifying as meeting a bear.
Onward and keep the faith. Nora Divine
Sent from Mail for Windows 10
Thank you for the correction, ma’am. Done. It’s scary working without the safety net of an editor, although with readers like you I guess I’m really not. 🙂
And I’m with you: I’d much rather deal with grizzly bears than the predators now infesting our military.
Evil sounds like the best way to describe the military’s problems around sexuality. These incidents and countless others are unbelievably horrible.
Keep up the good work Larry!
These instances give a very realistic insight into the TV commercials about “an army of one.” There is no more lonely place to be than a member of the US military with a problem, on the other side of the planet and with your legal rights hampered by the Universal Code of Military Justice, which overrules the Constitution. The toll of MST (Military Sexual Trauma) and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Damage) on our young people is horrendous, and the actions of the brass, the management class, to hide, disguise, revise, and block any accountability are all evidence of the totalitarian nature of today’s American military. It seems all efforts to change the system are blocked, at the local level and in the Congress.
Thank you for this comment, John. Stories like Mary Kay’s and LaVena Johnson’s, and her grieving parents, Dr. and Mrs. Johnson, fill me with heartbreak and rage such as I haven’t known since Vietnam. But doing these posts is more lonely, and way scarier, than anything I did in Vietnam. Hell that Vietnam was, I had the blessing of serving with brothers whom I’ve always loved as I love no other. Stories like Mary Kay’s and the Johnsons’ terrify me that America just doesn’t care–as it didn’t care about what it sent us into in Vietnam and what it’s been like trying to “come home.” That we’re doing it all over again to our young returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is more than I can bear. It’s just immoral–conduct unbecoming Americans. For what it’s worth, your book. “And A Hard Rain Fell,” remains one of the truest and most pitch-perfect accounts I’ve read about that black moment in our history. Thank you for that. Please keep letting your voice be heard.
Thank you for holding high the mirror shunned by this corporate empire state. Your compassion and determination are profound and vital to any future the human project can actualize beyond the unconscious gluttony of craven avarice being pursued by people who have lost their own souls and prey on those of others.
Your bearing witness Larry is of supreme value in serving and honoring Life’s needs. The fragmentation and incoherence of our Scoundrel Time is reaching critical mass. The rigidity of male dominator top-down authoritarian control is playing out its final phase of the partial masquerading as the whole. Our only future, as a species woven inextricably into the web of life, is exploration of shifting from domination to partnership (see https://centerforpartnership.org/shifting-from-domination-to-partnership/). Transformation from the power of violence to the power of partnership is the only way to go if we are to learn how to live in peace internally and with all we share this single, irreplaceable planetary home we belong to by right of birth.