Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thanking Veterans Revisited

(A portrait of the blogger as a young Combined Action Marine, Vietnam, August [?], 1967]
My former colleague and friend Josh Bellin has written a wonderfully intelligent and provocative rejoinder to my piece "The Veterans Are Coming!, the Veterans Are Coming":  http://bellsyells.blogspot.com/2010/01/thank-you-for-your-service.html
     In the main, I think Josh is right.  You really can't judge a soldier's service apart from the cause in which he or she serves.  A few years ago, I made the same point about my war--the original "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time":  http://www.seattlepi.com/opinion/255016_hero10.html   I was surprised at the time that no brickbats came my way in response to this piece (so I'll invite some now).
      My only quibble with Josh's position is that, for most of us, life just doesn't admit such moral clarity.  Three passages from Graham Greene's seminal Vietnam novel The Quiet American have always struck a resonant chord with me:
      It's not a matter of reason and justice.  We all get involved in a moment of emotion and then we cannot get out. [The observation of a French pilot.]
     Yes, but you must wager.  It is not optional.  You are embarked.  [The observation of a French policeman.]
     Sooner or later . . . one has to take sides.  If one is to remain human.  [a Vietminh agent]
    Greene's moral vision is essentially akin to the epiphany Shakespeare's Hamlet has in Act IV, Scene iv, when he sees Fortinbras' army dutifully marching off to fight and die in a senseless cause--to settle the question of this straw," as Hamlet puts it.  To expect all of life to make sense, Hamlet finally realizes, is to drive yourself insane.  To be human is to need to belong, and that need, for better or worse, often outweighs whatever scruples we may, or should, have.  --EFP

1 comment:

J. David Bell said...

Thanks, Ed, for referencing (and critiquing) my blog. My only rejoinder would be that while I, like everyone, find moral clarity hard to obtain (or even recognize) much of the time, I still feel we need to start from the premise that we should try to find such clarity. Starting from such a position doesn't necessarily save us. But if we start from the premise that moral clarity is unobtainable, irrelevant, or nonexistent, God help us.