Vietnam was a country where America was trying to make people stop being communists by dropping things on them from airplanes.
Sound familiar? Can we transpose this sentence to read: Ukraine is a country where Russia is trying to make people stop being Ukrainian by dropping things on them from airplanes. Except that the Russian military and their mercenaries are using missiles and scorched earth tactics as they did in Chechnya.
War. When will it ever end?
George Kovach (1947-2020) served as a combat infantryman in Vietnam where he was awarded a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars for Valor. Like many soldiers who have experienced brutal combat, and been trained to kill against his nature, he suffered from PTSD. He married, went into real estate, raised children, and found that his debilitating symptoms were eased when he returned to literature, which he had always loved, and when he was writing. After earning his MA and then MFA in Creative Writing at UMass Boston, he launched Consequence Magazine, an award-winning literary journal addressing the culture and consequences of war through poetry, prose and visual art. He eventually returned to Vietnam to meet other writers who had fought in the same war, as enemies. Let us hope that Russian and Ukrainian writers who are fighting today will once again share their work at a PEN America gathering, among many other venues:
I have worked with humanitarian relief workers and combat veterans over the years as a writing mentor and can attest to the healing power of témoignage, as the French call it. It means testimony, or witnessing, and it is powerful.
To contemplate the consequences and impacts of a war in the midst of a war is difficult, if not impossible, especially when one nation—Russia in this case—is the obvious aggressor. Clarification only arrives after a ceasefire and later when truth and reconciliation commissions have done their work, or the International Criminal Court in The Hague has prosecuted documented atrocities. This process takes decades. In the meantime, the artistic community—journalists , writers, dramatists, visual artists—can begin to sift the events, and their experiences, as they create work that attempts to explain, and to heal.
Consequence Forum is an online offshoot, or continuation, of Kovach's original literary magazine. I found it by chance as I was trying to place this essay about America's first lockdown drills:
I invite you to browse the Forum's mission statement, offerings, submission requirements and conversation. Their editorial standards are high, they are responsive, they have a small budget, and, most importantly, they are dedicated to working for world peace.
This post is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Ellsberg.