Monday, October 5, 2009

Take Up Obama's Burden--With Apologies to Kipling

Apropos of the Afghanistan escalation plans, I recently re-read Kipling's 1899 poem "The White Man's Burden."
Much of it still rings eerily true compared to what's being pressed on Obama today. So I prepared this humble update, which is offered herewith.
Beneath it are some stanzas of Kipling, which show his prescience, even 120 years, and several versions of political correctness later.
If this doggerel speaks to you, please pass it on, link to it, spread it around!

Chuck Fager

The New Person’s Burden, 2009

(with apologies to Kipling)

No more the White Man’s Burden,
That phrase won’t fly today.
It has to be re-packaged
If we’re to make it play.

Let’s speak of “the Imperative,”
And “nation-building” too,
A bow to Nine-Eleven
Should help to push it through.

Be sure to mention brand-new schools,
Young girls who shed the veil;
The sacred war for “hearts and minds’ --
How could we let that fail?

The Afghans, they can’t help themselves,
Else they’d be done by now.
But Bagram and Guantanamo,
Will help to show them how.

So take up Obama’s burden,
Send our best of every hue
To a fruitless war in a distant land --
Say they died for me and you.

The drone strikes here, the rockets there,
The Rangers’ slashing blade;
The bodies in a village square
Mark progress that we’ve made.

What if it takes a score of years
A flood of casualties?
At tunnel’s end a light will show
Our exit strategies.

We’re sure to win this Afghan war,
Our generals know it well.
But what’s the toll, the price-tag there?
On that, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

So fie on the poppy-growing warlord,
The scheming Taliban.
Where England stumbled, Russia failed–
We’ll triumph: Yes, we can.

-- By Chuck Fager
[As read on the Mike Malloy radio show on October 5, 2009. Thanks, Mike!
One correction: Mike Malloy described me as a Vietnam Veteran;
I am not. But I say YES to the troops who served there, as I also say NO to that war.]

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The White Man’s Burden, 1899

Rudyard Kipling

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

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