Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Loss and Grief

 I grew up knowing that I was given a different name when I was born. That name was soon changed to the name I have grown up with, my mother told me, on my grandfather's request. I wasn't particularly fond of either one, but grew to like them for both have interesting sounds. My birth name, Zaheer, easier on the tongue, carries a gentler ring. Moazzam, on the other hand, is tricky, the full extent of which I only discovered when I moved to the US and many had fun with it.

I was much older when I learned that my birth name initially belonged to a son, from an earlier marriage, my mother had lost, when he was one year old or younger. I have been very close to my half-sisters, but the mention of their brother never came up and it was almost as if he never existed. To make matters more complex, my mother also lost a daughter, Mushtri, who she occasionally called to remembrance. Having lost a few children, I retrospectively understand now why my mother worried about my safety. It is plausible that my mother choose the name without my father fully knowing the reason. 

It was towards the last few years of her life, just before dementia struck her, did she openly mention Zaheer's presence, with or without mentioning his name. Often, it seemed, she was talking to herself. But, then, one time she pointed up and informed me that he'd been up there beckoning her. 

It was decided, considering her mental state, she'd be better taken care of in Lahore by her daughters, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren, not to mention neighbors - because of the culture's overall intrinsic kindness towards elders. She finally left us to be with her dead children a couple of years later. My short story Cafe Le Whore was an exercise in comprehending my loss of her.

She left me with a few piles of her papers saved in a couple of plastic bags consisting of letters (mine and from others), receipts, addresses, postcards, invitation cards, brochures and newspaper cuttings about the plays she had acted in - and photographs, many of which I'd seen before, but not all, wondering if she had kept a few of them hidden. Or perhaps, despite being very attracted to the stories photographs tell us, I might not have paid attention to those which now suddenly drew my attention. One of the pictures among those, black and white, faded and crumpled in places, is that of Zaheer. I have a habit of going through her photographs as a hobby and I look at Zaheer's occasionally, not because I feel jealousy or a deep connection with him, nor does his face reminds me of my mother. I can remember her based on my own memories! I look at his face to feel my mother's sense of loss and grief she must have carried in her head and her hazel eyes all those years. Is that even possible? 

A dear friend of mine, a fine writer based in Bombay, lost a sister in an automobile accident a few days ago. And his mother a daughter. My eyes have been flitting from his face to hers, though they are thousands of miles away, while I try to understand the desire in us to map the loss and grief etched or hidden on the faces of others. My mother's face, always busy with the worries of day to day survival, didn't allow me a peek at her camouflaged pain numbed with the passage of time. She also witnessed partition; yet it is not my place to guess if a callosal collective tragedy can lessen the impact of personal suffering. 

When my cousin and one of my dearest friends - we were only 6 months apart - fell victim to a robber's bullet in Lahore, I learned that my close American friends lacked the means and culture to grieve with me for one reason or another. I don't hold it against them, but I keep on trying to fathom the DNA of that posture. Not a day goes by when I don't think of him. Losing him became a very private feeling. 

Perhaps the toughest day of my professional life as a librarian occurred a week ago when a woman around thirty sought help securing two books, one on bi-polar disorder, the other on PTSD. As I pulled out those books off the shelf, she whispered she needed help with another book. After a pause, barely audible, she managed, On child loss. Thrown off, I asked, mostly to find my own balance, if she meant miscarriage, disappearance or abduction. She said, her eyes downcast, No, as in loss of a child. I remember mumbling, That's heavy. We walked back to the reference desk to do research. I found her a title that dealt with healing and trauma, containing a chapter on losing a child. She thanked me again. I don't know if I did right or wrong by asking. Are you trying to help a friend or something personal? Personal, she replied. Murdered! I inhaled, then told her how sorry I was to hear that and I hoped that she'd find the strength to deal with her loss and grief. She heard me and said thank you again before she turned away. I suppressed the urge to tell her about my mother and the children she'd lost as if another person's loss could lighten one's grief. I wanted to tell her about my cousin and about my writer friend and his mother and many other tragedies that have ricocheted me. Perhaps I wanted to say that one person's grief belongs to others too and must be shared. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

A review of the novel The Eggplant Curse and the Warp Zone by Shawn Rubenfeld

The review originally appeared on the website of Compulsive Reader:

Before the reader has turned the first page, Josh is already a mess while grieving his mother’s passing. Also, Josh has always been burdened by self doubt and it doesn’t help that he begins collecting retro video games, a metaphor for being stuck (chasing nostalgia) in the past and zoning out. That speeds up the break up between Josh and Heloise, the love of his life, as they move towards divorce. Even worse, he has zero motivation left to finish his dissertation on Yiddish dialectology, which he cautiously equates with his dead mother. The sudden onslaught of addiction to collecting (and playing) retro video games plunges Josh into a sizable debt as well. He hasn’t talked much to his father since the funeral. His only sibling, his brother has dashed off to a kibbutz on a soul-searching mission. His addiction, Josh tells one of his therapists, is a result of hours and hours of playing them as a kid – a sarcastic nod to parental negligence!?

Shawn Rubenfeld has written an impressive debut novel. It explores the travails of having to step across from being a boy-man to a proper adult, taking responsibility for one’s actions. It also meditates on that unique institution of American loneliness. Only an American fiction writer, and I hope I am not putting too fine a point on it here, while sketching an American canvas can draw a life without extended family that should include aunts and uncles, loving or mean-spirited, first and second cousins, not to mention neighbors and childhood friends one grows up with and may stay in touch with despite moving away. I have lived in the US long enough to know that it’s possible to have that gift, but I also know that it is not a common feature of American life, a literary void that often sets up the mise-en-scene of white American novels, the invisible ghost that haunts the main characters – call it the quintessential curse.

Mr. Rubenfeld employs metaphors/images from video games, especially the retro world, light-heartedly yet with philosophical underpinnings. I was initially intrigued by the novel because I wanted to understand my own children and my own apprehension. Although Joshua Schulman turns out all right in the end, The Eggplant Curse and the Warp Zone serves as a cautionary tale. It is not a stretch to say that everyone grows up with an eggplant curse and a warp zone of his/her own. Joshua Schulman, too, is no exception. The novel under review is about how he overcomes the curse and discovers the hidden.

Just when it seems Josh couldn’t avoid his downward spiral, reminiscent of Ben Sanderson in Leaving Las Vegas with his addiction to drinking, he’s given a chance to put his life back in order. He accepts a teaching position at a boarding school in rural Iowa, but his appointment is based on deception. There Josh encounters a cast of characters and eccentric rituals. His addiction, his lies about his ex-wife and deception about his PhD lead him to a dilemma until he can’t take it anymore and ends up confessing everything to Natalie, a married woman, who feels a mutual attraction towards him. Natalie, Rubenfeld seems to suggest, has a moral spine and that becomes the catalyst for Josh’s own moral reckoning, which the author situates in direct clash with his addiction. Unbeknownst to Josh there’s another Josh within him, an inner dialogue ensues via cyberspace, triggering the collapse of the house of cards, an important development Josh can love anew. The novel ends on a positive note since Josh overcomes fear and allows self discovery. It’s not just the fear of losing his family and Heloise, his ancestors’ language or his beloved New York. There’s also a burden of being Jewish and persecuted, despite assimilation ( because of white skin) – like a curse. Only the possibility of love, a possibility (the warp zone?) one is not aware of unless one tries, can liberate one. That seems to be the central point of the novel.

There’s a hint early on that Joshua may be suffering from depression as Heloise begs him to take medication. There’s no clue whether he ever took medication. His resistance, thankfully, is not explained. There are therapy sessions which yield little to no result. It is possible that Josh’s addiction is one way to deal with depression, which his mother’s death has exacerbated. We find no discussion of it once Josh moves to Iowa, except one casual remark one-third of the way. Change of scenery can help fight depression sometimes for a short period of time, it cannot cure it completely. It’s also plausible that he does not have depression and he’s simply suffering from something called dissertation fright or something similar, which Heloise fails to understand. Whatever the malady, it cannot be easily cured. Running away might, just like his father and his brother did. I may be stretching a point here, but if we read along this bend of thought we cannot help but invoke the myth of the Wandering Jew. Could Mr. Rubenfeld be suggesting that the curse the modern (western) Wandering Jew carries is simply his presence among his fellow white Christian citizens, a presence which mocks them and reminds them of their history of brutality?

Despite being a novel that deals with serious issues plaguing American society, it gives the impression that one is reading a lighter text because the author uses humor so well. That’s partly because the humor embedded within the title The Eggplant Curse and the Warp Zone anchors the text. The characters the narrator seems to make fun of are never turned into buffoons, dehumanized but respected for their humanity. This allows the reader to have unwavering empathy with the central character.

There’s one area of the novel which, I believe, is a missed opportunity: the Palestine/Israel issue. I bring it up, not because a white author (Jewish or otherwise) touches on it by sending Josh’s brother to a kibbutz in Israel, but also because that freedom/space is not allowed to a writer like me with Muslim or non-western background without consequences. For example, Assaf Gavron’s brilliant novel, Hilltop, makes us evaluate serious issues when the protagonist goes to visit his brother turned religious living on a settlement in Occupied Territories. One of the book’s central points suggests that there’s very little difference whether one lives on a kibbutz or a settlement because when looked at from the victim’s point of view, land theft is land theft. Josh can afford to be oblivious to the issues of settler colonialism, the author cannot. Why the brother, for example, opts for a kibbutz and not a settlement? It was an opportunity for both the narrator, and the author, to place their liberalism under self scrutiny. Most novels have moments where the author could distance himself from his character(s). Call them moral moments. By avoiding to engage with the Palestine issue, Josh risks being seen as condoning the status quo, especially, after a respected organization B’tselem, based in Israel, has finally decided to call Israel an apartheid state. Admittedly, this is an unfair burden for white American fiction writers to carry, but we all know that a novel is a heavy beast. Having said that, I truly enjoyed reading Mr. Rubenfeld’s crackling, witty, modern prose and spending time with fully alive characters. Finally, I wish Mr. Rubenfeld a wider audience for his thought provoking and entertaining novel, and more opportunities to make up for this missed opportunity.

Monday, November 22, 2021

My Review of Murzban Shroff's Third Eye Rising as published in Tiferet magazne's Autumn-Winger 2021 issue

THIRD EYE RISING by Murzban Shroff Spuyten Duyvil Publishing, 2021 222Pages $17.99 Paperback ISBN: 978-1952419027

Murzban Shroff's recent collection Third Eye Rising is a deeply satisfying effort. In story after story one witnesses not only his compassion and controlled empathy for his characters but his desire to challenge the standard narrative. He keeps on pushing the boundaries of how far and wide he can stretch the limits of storytelling. The real pleasure of reading his stories, almost all of them, however, comes from discovering an additional symbolic layer wrapped around the narrative arc. 

Take, for example, the leadoff story, "The Kitemaker’s Dilemma", which, on a cursory reading, appears as a straight forward story about a kind-hearted kitemaker, who develops a paternal bond with a scarred-skin, motherless boy locked inside his home all day while his uncaring father goes off to work. The kitemaker notices the shy boy behind the window curtain, becomes curious, hopes to connect with him and, failing that, learns the boy's story from another elder in the town: the boy's father not only killed his wife, he also shifted the blame on to the son, who ends up with a burnt skin. The kitemaker tries a new approach, leaving a kite for several days in a row outside the boy's window, which the boy does not touch. Yet by the time the kitemaker must move on, he has won the child's trust, and unbeknownst to his father, the child's kite has soared into the sky for everyone to see. A simple story about love's triumph! But a careful reading allows the reader to find several hints dropped by the author regarding what it means to be a writer/kitemaker: pondering over the kite or story’s size, design, strength and its development. Just as Murzban  Shroff’s stories test their wings and soar into the sky, the viewer realizes the kite has acquired new contours. A story must be a chameleon, Shroff insists. A second layer appears. Just when the reader thinks it is the boy who must seize the center stage after much coaxing from the author, they realize that the story is not just about one kitemaker or one child left unloved, but the entire country of India caught in a tug of war between those who care and those who don’t. His stories become what Dostoyevsky calls "the human heart where good and evil battle each other". 

The second story, "Bhikoo Badshah's Poison", broadens the canvas. !e poison of a beggar king, if loosely translated. A situation, which grows embarrassing for the narrator as it exposes the flaws and innate inequality rooted in India's casteism, shifts the narrative, again, metaphorically speaking, from the kitemaker to the kite-flyer, from the benevolent bank officer/narrator to the clerk named Bhikoo Badsha/ protagonist. !e story, which begins with exploring the bank officer’s gullibility and Bhikoo’s harmless cunning, reveals an extra layer which connects Bhikoo’s actions - to get basic education, leave the conservative trappings of his village, send his son to an English medium school, visit his village on his motorbike and bring gifts - all result from Indian government’s abject failure to provide honorable life to the poor, such as basic health care and good education. !e poison inside Bhikoo is the societal one, which had killed little children after eating contaminated lunches due to the principal’s criminal negligence. 

Murzban Shroff weaves micro and macro brilliantly like no other writer I have read in my recent memory. !e fourth and fifth stories, "Diwali Star" and "A Rather Strange Marriage" respectively, show his innate understanding and command over the socio-political fabric of modern day India that he feels is constantly being ripped and only a return to compassion and empathy can save it. "Diwali Star" revolves around an honorable retired police officer and his family. Despite having done everything within his power, he cannot control the disintegration of his family. Consolation comes from letting things go, not having his sons by his side on Diwali, and forging a bond with the night watchman, who has literally lost his only son. There’s a bit of a Nehruvian touch to the story, but the point the author makes is that human connection does not rely on blood or caste or religion. "A Rather Strange Marriage" pushes the narrative a bit further and in Shroff’s somewhat male-centric point of view, (and the author's sarcastic murmurs that belittle hollow patriarchy), women take charge of the action, if not the narrative. Even in this story, Shroff does not lose sight of the connection between the modern day feudal cruelty and debauchery, that comes at the cost of poor peasants (and 75 the free sex their women should provide), and the feudally-minded who insist on enjoying the entertainment cities provide. If the crops fail, the poor cannot pay the feudal masters; if the feudal masters cannot collect the taxes, they cannot pay for the fun in the cities. !e story bravely suggests one way to break the cycle. 

The title story "Third Eye Rising", however, sets the stage for how "A Rather Strange Marriage" would end. Satinder Bijlee reaches a breaking point witnessing his father, a symbol of India’s deeply entrenched superstition and patriarchy, act cruelly and insultingly towards his daughter-in-law. Killing his own father without leaving evidence as the only solution to ending his and his wife’s misery may suggest that India is giving birth to a new kind of man, but it does little to shift the status quo from patriarchy to a more inclusive system. While most of the stories allow hope of a different kind, a fractured utopia of sort, perhaps, the title story says it bluntly that India has a long way to go. 

Shroff’s major stories here use death as a driving vehicle, but they allow a rebirth as well. Except the longest one in the collection. "A Matter of Misfortune", which is most poignantly fleshed out. This is perhaps his ‘mini’ magnum opus. It is about two very close friends, opting different values and goals in life, with one meeting a tragic end because, the narrator, and by extension the author, suggests, is due to chasing an economic mirage, the lure of the American brand of capitalism injected into the veins of a shining India. But the story also offers a character study, and if I am not mistaken, a bit Balzacian. Look at the opening sentence, for example: "I was there the day Amit died. He fell from a height he was unable to handle." 

It is told from the point of view of someone whose love for his friend is immeasurable, hence the name Amit. As the narrator mourns Amit’s death, he recalls the character development of his friend, the one who is driven to achieving his goals, someone who is not willing to settle for small blessings. !e narrator conjures up Amit’s obsession with soccer, especially during rain, the influence of a blockbuster Yadon ki Barat, which works as a catalyst to blur in Amit’s mind lines between reality and fantasy, and a sense of identification with actors larger than life such as Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, and even Jack Nicholson. The story also tests the limits of deep friendships when other players are involved. All in all, it is a master stroke. 

The last four stories are lighter and they serve well to allow a reader a breather. They also allow the reader a peek into the author’s skill at humor such as in "Oh Dad!". Murzban’s diction is rooted in realism and its flow keeps the reader glued to the characters' voices. He also very carefully avoids pontificating, thus raising the level of the stories much higher. Therefore, it is irritating to find easily avoidable distractions such as when the reader is unnecessarily reminded that the conversation is taking place in Hindi. Or when both a Hindi sentence and its translation occur in the same sentence as here: “Dhanda kaisa?” “How is business?” Baba Hanush asked, after the casual courtesies. Or: “They call him chotta bhoot, meaning little ghost.” When two people are talking in Hindi, why would a character feel the need to translate the expression in English? This kind of sloppiness should have been taken care of by the editors, if not the writer himself. While there is tremendous empathy in the stories, there is very little or no romantic love, which is the strongest device to break caste, religious, racial and economic barriers. 

Finally, despite minor hiccups, what lends Shroff’s fiction staying power has to do with his observation that is grounded in moral/immoral reality. While the universe may be amoral, the world that we live in is not. It is laziness to think otherwise. Recognizing morality does not mean it is synonymous with sexual, religious, Victorian, patriarchal or national morality imposed on one by the powers that be. Rather it is something a sensitive artist develops as their own sense of right and wrong, along with several shades in between. If they don't have that, they've got nothing that’s of any real value. Sure, vacuity and denseness can be, and often is, presented as art, but it is the author/artist who cannot detect the morality in or of the work. Of course, I am talking about the author’s moral sense, not their characters, but a good writer learns not to conflate them. When the narrator of "Bhikoo Badshah’s Poison" informs the reader: “Morally speaking, I was bound to advise Bhikoo against the consequences of impersonation. But seeing his face I realized how important this might be for him . . ,” Murzban Shroff must be congratulated for having a moral vision that consistently negotiates his characters’ thews and frailties.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Thirst - Amélie Nothomb - Strangers

I don't read books while walking as a rule. Only very rarely, something I've done recently when I picked up a book, very slim, by an author I have quite warmed up to in the last couple of years. I can't read the same author back to back even if they are one of my favorites. But I keep them on my radar.

  So I thought it was time to see if a new title by Amélie Nothomb had showed up on my San Francisco Public Library's fiction shelf or not. There I found Thirst, detailing the time Jesus is condemned to be crucified to the point he actually is. In her unique, irreverent yet cold humor style, it's a brilliant book and I found myself reading it while traversing long blocks until the next traffic light. I'd begin once I'd crossed the road.

   Last Wednesday, as I got off from work, I remembered to visit the Farmers' Market in the shadow of the library. I opened the book and began reading while ambling on Hyde Street, the backside of the library facing the market. From the corner of my eye, I noticed an approaching man slowing down and then stopping. I became cautious, gave a quick look to his Asian looking face, his short, slim, lanky body and tried to find the line I had left midsentence due to the uninvited intrusion. But finding the man non-threatening, I also realized he might have been looking at the book, curious to know what I was reading. This sort of thing used to be common when the cafe culture was (more) alive. That used to be San Francisco. But no more. I decided to show him the front cover.

   "It's a great book. I have read it," he said excitedly.

   I said something in a concurring manner, adding I have read her other works also.

   "I have too . . . I have read everything by her. The one that takes place in Japan."

   "Fear and Trembling and Tokyo Fiancée," I said.

   "Yes, very good!"

   "And the really weird one Strike Your Heart," I offered as a bonus.

   He nodded fervently, incanting yeah, yeah, yeah!

   He was grinning uncontrollably now. I felt a rare joy at being stopped by someone who was willing to connect via literature. I bowed gently, signaling I had to go and buy spikey bitter melons, red and white onions, and fuji apples. He nodded and, smiling, moved on. If I were younger I might have exchanged phone numbers to have coffee. After all, that was how I met one of my closest friends Jeff White, and then through him John Smalley, in 1986 or 87 discovering a mutual passion for foreign cinema and women straight out of Godard's films. But I was much older now and with limited energy. If I see him again, I'll be sure to say hello, ask if he's seen Kiarostami's cinema, read Toomer's Cane or Rulfo's Pedro Paramo, and also find out what he's been reading lately. 

   Call it a friendship in the time of covid!

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Literature, Cinema, and Life


I recently found myself drawn to finding out how many (major) films in the US had been made with a direct link to Tennessee Williams' plays. Although I don't have the exact answer, it seems the number may fall around 16, some of screenplays Mr. Williams himself collaborated on. I had seen some, the famous ones, all classics, but there are some I haven't, so my wife and I decided to get more of those under our belt. Therefore, last night we watched Summer and Smoke, directed by Peter Glenville, with high class performance by Geraldine Page, who in recent popular memory is associated with her performance in Sweet Bird of Youth. I further plan on investigating if anything has been written on whether or not Geraldine Page decided her performance to bounce off Vivian Leigh's iconic presence in A Streetcar Named Desire, made exactly a decade ago. 

Anyway, midway through the film a discussion takes place between the characters played by Geraldine Page and Laurence Harvey as one of them asks if the other knew who said, 'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,' and to everyone's surprise, the other replies Oscar Wilde. That innocent moment in film reminded me what had occurred the day before at work. A youngish white man with a boyish face, a bit blemished, approached our reference desk and politely asked, a rarity indeed, if he could have his library card number by looking into his account. This request has become quite common with the rise in homeless population and/or opioid crisis engulfing the US. All of those problems were writ large on his face, especially eyes. After I said, welcomingly, "Of course! Can I have your last and first name please?" the fact that despite appearing and sounding not being fully there he wore his mask correctly, I further warmed up to him, and as I typed his last and then first name, mentioning his middle initials to extract a nod from him, I informed that his name read as if it belonged to a poet. I could not see his lip, only his eyes offering a smiling glint. Then I asked if he was a poet. He said, "I am!"

"Can you recite any one of your poems? I asked

He shook his head and I said that was okay. But as I wrote down his library card number on a piece of paper so he could use one of the library computers, I asked him if he could recognize who wrote the following verse:

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow/And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field

Do you know who wrote those lines?

Shakespeare, he said.

You're right, I acknowledged, as he walked away.

If I see him again at the library, I would like to tell him that a conversation between Geraldine Page and Laurence Harvey reminded me of him. I would also like to suggest to him that he memorize at least one poem of his for the sheer pleasure of hearing poetry.

Monday, August 23, 2021

In honor of Jack Hirschman, may his soul roam the streets of San Francisco, as he makes a guest appearance in my unpublished novella Postcard from a Stranger

After sitting in the park soaking in the morning heat, we decided to walk 
around the neighborhood and see if we ran into a beat poet or someone 
connected to the movement. We said it as a joke, but as we began walking, 
we’d spot people who fit our stereotype of the beat people, of hippies, their 
diluted versions, often with long and unkempt hair, a beret or a hat on top, 
their general attire scruffy and casual looking, a leather jacket or tweed coat 
with elbow patches. On spotting a person, men in this case, one of us would 
say, Hey, that’s Ginsberg! Then, as we crossed Columbus near the North Beach 
Public Library, Ambika elbowed me gently and drove my attention to an older 
man walking downhill on Chestnut and said, “Now, that’s Jack Hirschman. I 
can’t believe I recognized him!”

“Is he a beat poet?” I asked.

She called his name aloud, “Hi Jack!” waving. He looked across the street and 
without worrying who we are, waved back with a smile. He’s used to it, I told 
myself. But, then, he really noticed us, two young, attractive Indian looking 
women and he visibly cheered up. Good to see ya smilin’! he hollered as he 
moved on Columbus Street.

“Jim Morrison was his student when he taught at UCLA,” Ambika filled me in.

“Oh, wow!” I exaggerated my surprise. I had never like The Doors. Not really. 
Even though I had visited his grave in Paris.

We crossed over and saw Jack’s diminishing back. He reminded me of a wandering 
poet in medieval India, like Kabir, his long hair like a mane, a thick rebellious 
moustache covering his lips, begging bowl in hand.

“He’s a poet of the streets and cafes. I used to see him occasionally at Adobe 
Bookstore on 16th Street. He was friends with the store’s owner Andrew . . .

(An excerpt from Postcard from a Stranger by Moazzam Sheikh)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Untitled - a poem by Somnath Mukherji

If you love your soldiers,

Don’t send them to war.

If you love your soldiers,

Work for peace & justice. There is more death in war than peace.

If you love your soldiers,

Understand structural violence. Death of the soldiers starts 

long before the battlefield.

If you love your soldiers,

Love them as human beings. Not their uniforms.

If you love your soldiers,

Know that they do not want to die. They love life like you.

If you love your soldiers,

Understand the agriculture policy & its effects.

If you love your soldiers,

Go to a drought-stricken village. A village plundered for coal,

That is where the fodder for your jingoism grows.

If you love your soldiers.

Read history. Have there been parallels? Striking!

If you love your soldiers

Take a breath before you bay for more blood,

Who will fight the war of revenge? Will you?

Can you love the farmer? The daily wager? The poor & the oppressed?

Then you have already loved the soldier, without the uniform.