War and Peaceniks

“Where have all the flowers gone, and the young men gone for soldiers every one.” Pete Pete Seeger Newport Folk Festival 2009-wikicommons-wm-wallace-photoSeeger’s song. The death of that great warrior for peace made me think also about those for whom he became a teacher, the generation born during and soon after World War II.

Called “entitled” now, they are believed (often even by themselves) to have sold out. They were revolutionary proclaimers of a new age of peace and love. Now their children and pundits say they have “dropped the ball,” upgrading their Beemers instead of the world. But not one, I dare say, is unmoved today, thinking about Pete Seeger. Born in 1919, Mr. Seeger was a parent to the “flower children,” and throughout his long life he passed his mission for peace and justice on to their children and grandchildren.

Vietnam War

bumper-sticker if you don't stand behind our troopsListening to him sing, I thought of the Vietnam War. Today, we care about veterans, old and young. PTSD is a recognized issue for soldiers and effective methods of treatment are sought and tried. We nod thanks to soldiers and display bumper stickers of support. We honour World War II veterans. Even Korean War vets have been brought in from the cold, so to speak, acknowledged and thanked for their contribution.

But Vietnam vets? It’s a different story for them. It’s still relatively recent history – lived writerfox.hubpages.com_hub_WarPoems-CivilWarby many still among us. But, I think, the extent of its devastation remains overlooked. It caused the greatest rupture within America since the Civil War. It divided society and families. And we everywhere could watch it unfold, and judge. Combatants in the war about Vietnam were killed overseas and at home. But now, after 40 years, it is remembered in popular culture as a war of drugs and rock and roll and reluctant soldiers.

Conscripted Soldiers

writer.fox.hubpages.com_hub_WarPoems-Vietnam1That last observation is the nub of the issue, perhaps. Vietnam was the last war fought with conscripted soldiers. Thousands of young men fled their country to avoid it, thousands went to jail, thousands found Jesus or any excuse that would get them conscientious objector status. Many completed university degrees that otherwise they might not have sought: it was a way to defer the draft. Until the loophole was closed, the Peace Corps probably got many more recruits good-morning-vietnam-cdsfor its overseas development work than it would have in normal times.

And the poor schmucks who couldn’t escape or chose not to? Only they know what they endured during their tours of duty. But all of us old enough to be sentient at the time know what they endured when they returned. They were reviled. Few parades or ‘thank you for going through hell’ for them. They were spat upon and called ‘baby-killers’.

Those who went to Vietnam, and those who didn’t, all suffered. Veterans suffered because of what they endured there, and the reception they received upon return. Draft dodgers suffered because a) of guilt for escaping while others, including their friends, did not, and b) they left their homes for years, maybe forever, evading FBI and military police. Those who took what they hoped would be a tolerable option, such as medic, were still traumatized by what they had to patch up.

PTSD for all

No one won in that war. No matter which ‘side’ you were on, it was traumatic then and caused lingering pain, guilt and/or regret afterward. For many, the drugs that got them through Vietnam or the anti-war movement at home stayed with them afterward. They helped living with the memories or became a burdensome souvenir. The casualties of the Vietnam War still have not stopped. And yet the horror of it, and the opposition to it, is not talked about all that much. It’s become part and parcel of psychedelic imagery of bell-bottoms, flowers, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and, yes, Pete Seeger singing We Shall Overcome.

PTSD had long been known of course: shell shock, ‘he’s never been the same since’. But it was something you were supposed to get yourself over: put it behind you and get on with your life. The parents of the Vietnam era lived through World War II. They knew what it was to fight, and what it was like to get news of your war dead. Like their parents who had gone through the “Great War”, you went if your country called, like it or not. The WWII fathers knew they had stopped a monster and an invasion. Yet here were their sons saying “hell no, we won’t go.”

Duck and Cover

But perhaps those parents didn’t realize that their children had grown up convinced they duck-and-cover-SourceUnk-www.anthonysworld.com_airraidwouldn’t see adulthood. It was hard to think of ‘battleground valour’ after years of “Duck and Cover” school drills in case of atomic bomb attack. Maybe their awareness that war is hell and no one comes out unscathed led to greater concern with the psychological well-being of veterans now.

And that, children of the Baby Boomers, is what your daddy did in the war. If he doesn’t talk much about it, preferring to blast his eardrums with the Rolling Stones, you might think about why that is. He lived through a time of war never before or since replicated in North American history, whether or not he has a service medal. By the way, Pete Seeger also was a veteran of the US Army in the Pacific in WWII.

Poems and song lyrics are from War Poetry – some wonderful writing.

Corrie Street Jan. 26/14

The List

Gail’s parenting style, of helicoptering and martyrdom, gives me nightmares. So too do gail-reads-listthe products of her mothering. David has long been the most overtly, and dangerously, screwed up of the three offspring. But during his recent crisis, Nick’s injury and then Kylie falling apart, I thought he had gained some maturity, insight into himself and others and, dare I say it, empathy. I liked how he was with Kylie, encouraging and loving. He also seemed changed toward his mother – appreciative of the difficulty of her position, caught between two warring sons, and thankful for her efforts in caring for his wife and children. I was happy when he and Kylie reconciled, both of them seemingly a little wiser, a little more humble.

Then he knocked it all in the head. He no more than had his feet back under the family table than he suggested kicking his mother out. It wasn’t said in an angry tone, just as a matter-of-fact solution to a slight inconvenience to him and Kylie. He said does-have-her-good-pointsit in the same tone one might use about a chair that no longer fit the décor or had a spring come loose. Kylie lamented the lack of privacy that they had as a couple, what with kids around and Gail. “Do you think I should ask her to move out?” And Kylie considers. But then she has a second thought: no built-in babysitter if Gail left.

And thus began the list making. The pros and cons of Gail’s presence. They had fun, dissecting Gail’s personality and actions. So it defused the heightened emotion of their reconciliation and all the reasons for their original separation: they were kids enjoying themselves by looking at how another person fit, or didn’t fit, into their lives.

listWe don’t know if they made a decision based on their scorecard. But they were too thoughtless to destroy it or at least hide it well. Left half under a magazine on the coffee table, Gail saw the list as soon as she walked in.  Of course she read it. It’s not clear if she knew why, but she certainly knew she was being rated.

She shared it with her mother, which became a funny scene. Audrey certainly has her own difficulties with Gail and she couldn’t repress her amusement at some of the that-is-completely-untrueobservations made. Also, Audrey’s light hearted teasing took some of the sting out of it for Gail and made her see the funny side. But still!  Audrey might want to reflect on what this says about her grandson and the dynamics of the family of which she is matriarch. She might want to think about herself, and what might be his assessment of her should she be at his mercy. What would her future be if David had control of it?

What David wants, when he wants it, is his right, in his opinion. Yes, Gail made him what he is, as he is wont to remind her she-does-have-a-sense-of-humourwhen things are not going well for him. But he quickly forgets the good she has done him. Like this recent crisis he caused and Kylie contributed to: if not for Gail, there wouldn’t be a well-looked-after little family for him to return to.

Hayley Patterson Cropper

Hayley became a cornerstone of Coronation Street in her 16-year tenure.  She was brought on as a side story, maybe a funny story:  itv.com-roy-hayley-blackpoolRoy, resident odd duck, finds a ladylove, and turns out the lady is a man.  A quirky tale for a quirky character.  But Hayley caught viewers’ attention and affection and the powers that be had the good sense to run with it.

We saw Hayley taunted and rebuffed.  We saw even Roy have trouble accepting that the woman he loved was born a man.  Then we saw his acceptance of that fact, and of her.  We watched tvweek-roy-hayley-covertheir first wedding become a ‘celebration’ instead of a legally binding marriage. Years later, we watched their legal marriage.  We witnessed Roy’s words:  “We have remained still and the world has turned to meet us.”

What we never learned much of was Hayley’s backstory, her life before she came to the Street.  She has talked a bit about her parents and her life as Harold, but we never met anyone from that time.  Christian, the son she had fathered when still Harold and had not known about, is the only person from her past who has been part of her story.  He brought up issues about a child not knowing his parentage and then finding out that ‘dad’ is a now a woman.

Hayley’s community

But I think Hayley, when going through the process of deciding on a sex change, must have known people in the same position as she.  No one could go through such a profound psychological and physical process, even trauma, without becoming aware of, and a part of, a community.  Hayley is a loner, and likely would never have been part of any club scene, either as Harold or Hayley.

But political or socio-psychological activism of the Hayley-Cropper-1998-mirror.co.uk_tv_tv-newstype that used to be called ‘consciousness-raising’?  That fits Hayley’s nature.  The only people who truly know what it is to be trans-gendered, in your mind and your daily life, are trans-gendered people and others also stigmatized for their sexual orientation.  That is why the current definitional term, LGBT, includes all.

Obviously, from her dress style and make-up, Hayley was not attracted to the silks and satins of being a woman.  She cannot, by any stretch, be called flamboyant.  You know that under her sensible skirts and cardies, she is wearing serviceable white cotton from Marks and Sparks. Not for her the lacy products of Underworld.  However, she knows how it feels to present your inner self in the wrong body and wrong garb.

Hayley and Marc/Marcia

A chance to show that side of Hayley’s life journey was in the story of Marc/Marcia, Audrey’s transvestite beau.  He was happy as a man but liked wearing the fripperies of female fashion.  We saw his friends and support group, in scenes where he took Audrey to clubs where he and his friends hung out.  Audrey did try to understand, marcia-audrey-virginmedia.com_tvradio_did listen to the wives of his cross-dressing friends.  But why did she not talk to Hayley?  It may not be part of the trans experience that Hayley was part of, but she would have insights. And she knows Audrey.  I looked forward to Hayley explain how it feels to not match societal gender definitions.  But, alas, Marc took his blonde wig and disappeared off our screens.

When Hayley’s story first came out, I was disappointed that a real transgendered woman had not been cast in the part.  It struck me as appropriation of voice, no matter how much consultation was done.  It still is darkening up a white actor to play the Indian in a Western.  But over time, I pretty much forgot that – not that Hayley was transgendered, Sylvia looks askance at Hayley as she explainsjust that the actress wasn’t. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.  I think Hayley did a lot for dispelling preconceptions and misconceptions about transgender issues.  I doubt if anyone applauded occasional wisecracks about ‘Harold’.  Hayley had become part of our collective family.  So what if she had once been a man?  That’s good for sure, that she had become central to our hearts and a pillar of all that is honourable for both audience and the Street community.

End of life fears

But we should not be allowed to totally forget her struggle, the struggle faced by transgendered people still every day.  It is good that she brought it up, when thinking about her impending death.  Her fear that, under the influence of morphine, her mind 16_10_CORO_ROY_HAYLEY_NIGHTwould revert to being Harold was very real and very sobering.  It seemed even Roy couldn’t really understand her terror.  It never was fully aired between them.  Maybe it will linger in our minds, something to ponder when we remember Hayley and all she has taught us.

Corrie Street Jan. 19/14

Something Beautiful

you-will-have-me-to-answer-to something beautifulWhat was rather beautiful this week was Liz telling Peter what’s what in her pub.  She followed him to the men’s room to have a few words with him.  Those words were at first demure; it’s my responsibility as landlady to look after my employees etc.  Then she got more specific, and grabbed him around the throat and told him to stop messing about with Tina.  Oh, thank you Liz!

liz(A note about Liz – I think she is becoming a landlady in the mold of Bet Lynch with a bit of Annie Walker mixed in.  Her hair has memories of Bet’s piled locks but her dress of late is a bit more refined.  In all, it’s a good look; authoritative with a bit of glamour and excess, reminiscent of Corrie past.)

Whether Peter will listen to her is another matter.  It’s not likely Tina will listen either, to herself or Liz.  Both Peter and Tina seem set on a crash course for disaster.  It’s in keeping with his character, and normally wouldn’t be for Tina.  But she has had a horrible year so it is not too far a stretch to see her coming totally off the rails.  We have watched appalled as she zeroes in on Peter, knowing, as does she, that her “attraction” to him is an obsession destructive to her, him and Carla.  Ain’t no good going to come out of it.  But it hasn’t stopped her.

tina-and-peter“Something rather beautiful” was Peter’s answer to Tina’s question “what have we done?” as they lay together in bed.  What they had done was a quickie in Peter’s marital bed while Carla (his bride of what, a month?) was out.  The preceding scene – the one that showed us why Carla was out – magnified the ick factor of this.

Carla was visiting Hayley.  Sick, frightened and depressed, Hayley was in bed with the Carla-Hayley-talkcovers pulled over her head, absorbing her doctor’s prognosis of weeks to live.  She didn’t want to see anyone.  Carla barged in over Roy’s protests.  She got in bed with Hayley and, lying covered up side by side, they talked.  Hayley cried and Carla cried and consoled her.  It was the best thing she could have done.  She and Hayley comforting each other in their sadness was truly something beautiful.

peter-cleaning Carla came home emotionally drained and distraught about the apparently imminent loss of someone who has become a very important friend to her.  She found Peter busily cleaning the apartment.  What a wonderful man!  He’d even put a load of laundry in – the bed linen.

Corrie Street Jan. 12/14

Snow for Christmas

It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one
And then he sang a song, the Rare Auld Mountain Dew
I turned my face away, and dreamed about you…

the-pogues-festively-singChristmas in the Rovers, Mary sang this but her voice trailed off after the second line.  The look on Hayley’s face brought her back to the reality that Hayley indeed would not see another one.  Mary thought of the Pogues’ song when she asked Liz about Tina’s whereabouts.  Was she in the drunk tank?

cop-holds-kylieA fight had started in the Rovers and moved out to the Christmas card beautiful street. Everyone watched it, including the coppers who were there to see Sally about her snatched purse.  They arrived just in time to pull Kylie and Tina apart.  Kylie was hauled off to the drunk tank, her sparring partner Tina was not.  Tracey was there too, and quite willing to punch someone’s lights out – anyone’s – but didn’t get the chance.

hayley-roy-bus-stopLater by the bus stop, Hayley threw a handful of snow at Roy as he looked at the schedule, confirming the times of the Wayfarer.  He was distracting her with small talk, in an OCD kind of way.  While coming home from the Rovers, she had needed to stop due to an attack of pain.

Neighbours returning from or going wherever saw her lobbing snowballs at Roy and joined in and a full-scale snowball fight developed.  A laughing Hayley watched from her seat on the bench. roy-hayley-look-back-at-streetWhen she was recovered, Roy extricated himself from the snowball pelting (feeling relieved for himself and Hayley) and they walked home.  Hayley said it was the best Christmas ever.  The others went on playing.

There was enough snow to build snowmen.  Sinead ran to the pub and asked for clothes, and Rita snowman-from-windowdonated Norris’ old coat.  Ches said he could find the other coat they needed.

Tucked up on the couch at home, Hayley watched her new dvd about Amsterdam.  Roy made tea and prowled the flat.  He looked out the window, and grinned.  He beckoned Hayley over to look.

Across the road beside the bus stop, were two snow people.  One snow cropperswore a red jacket and wooly scarf.  The other wore a beige jacket and had a carrying case slung over its shoulder.  Hayley and Roy Cropper immortalized in snow.

Corrie Street Jan. 5/14

and The Dreamers

I think there are a lot of men like Dennis in the north of England, like Ritchie too. Those dennis-shows-new-look dreamerswho remember the Mersey Beat, the British Invasion of 1960s music because they were in it, or at least on its coattails. I met some of them, years ago, in Liverpool.

Guys who would haul out a guitar at the drop of a hat. Play a bit of House of the Rising Sun or Long Tall Sally. Talk about when they turned down the chance to play with The Animals before they were The Animals. Or when their band, named something like The Power maybe, almost opened for Manfred Mann. Their friend who jammed a few times with Gerry and the Pacemakers but decided to start his own band instead. The kid they knew who lived a few streets away from George Harrison, before he was “the quiet Beatle”. The nerdy kid they vaguely remember from school who went on to a big career as a promoter or sound engineer or record producer.

dennis-watches-ritchieThe bands these guys had played with, the names of which are remembered by no one aside from themselves, maybe were “this close” to making it big. Clubs in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle they remember being at, as musicians, hangers-on or just audience members. The look in their eyes when they’d talk about back-in-the-day. The memories of stages, music, touring, birds – the life.

Chances lost due to backing the wrong musical horse, thinking their group would be the next fab group to hit the airwaves. Promoters who just couldn’t get them the big dennis-calls-contactbreak, or ripped them off. Hand injuries from sports or fights that meant they couldn’t play a guitar long enough, well enough to sustain a musical life in the big league. Going back to school when gigs seemed to dry up. Staying in school so they’d have ‘something to fall back on’ on as their parents advised them. All meaning that, somehow, they’d been bypassed in the musical revolution that happened in England 50 years ago.

But it never died within them, even as they spent the next decades as lawyers, welders, teachers or unemployed drifters. And given half a chance, such as running into an old dennisfriend, they would be back on stage playing or behind the stage booking acts, wheeling and dealing. Living the glory days again, or for the first time. There are more dreamers than ever managed to play with Freddie and the Dreamers. It’s nice seeing that part of the dreams of the ’60s come to life in the eyes of Dennis Tanner.