Incarceration Nation

A Note Concerning My Military Career

By Steve Kowit

After I’d sent the Army my letter of resignation, two beefy Intelligence types showed up at my place in the Fillmore with a huge reel-to-reel tape recorder, and without mincing words I tore into America’s despicable agenda: the circle of hell reserved for our savage carpet-bombing campaign against the people of Vietnam and the puppet state the U.S. was trying to force down their throats. Which was why, I explained, I wouldn’t put on their fucking uniform ever again and why, if I had to fight, it would be for the other side.

Quiet, courteous, polite, they sat there listening to my ferocious rant till, after two hours, I asked what exactly it was they needed to know, and one of them said they had really been sent to find out if I was planning to shoot President Johnson, or do something else of that sort, and I laughed and said no, and we shook hands and they packed up and left.

But a month later, when the Army sent me the transcript to sign and return, I brought it instead to a young San Francisco attorney whose family firm did pro bono work for resisters, and Josh Callihan read that whole eighteen-page harangue and looked up and told me how much he liked what I’d said, and when I asked him what to do next, he advised me to get the hell out of town as fast as I could. Which, I did. I ran for my life and for the lives of all those they were trying to get me to kill, and of nothing I’ve done in this world have I ever been prouder.

Listen, if you’re reading this poem and you’re young or desperate enough to think of enlisting, or have already been suckered in, understand that all those self-righteous fairy tales about freedom and peace are meant to convince young men and women like you to massacre, city by city and village by village, America’s villain du jour, adding, every few years, another small state that stepped out of line to its necklace of skulls. And for those of you who will march to your own graves in so doing, the powers that sent you will bow their heads and present to your folks the flag that was draped on the box they carted you home in.

Friend, find any way that you can to resist or escape. If you have to run for your life, for chrissake, run for your life.

The Sun, October 2013