Monday, September 12, 2016
GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS #200: HISTORY IS NEVER FAR BEHIND US
I'm a weird bastard when it comes to writing. Very few of you know of my literary pieces. It's a shame that THE BRACELET CHARM Winter 2012 isn't available anywhere because one of my stories in there is germane to tonight's GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS. Anyone ever read "The Hand That Shook the World?" It's the story of a WWII soldier who comes home at the end of the war and tells a bunch of lies about what he did overseas to get free drinks. He was really just a paper pusher. He saw zero action. And then he sees an ancient man in a wheelchair who told him a story about being a drummer boy at Gettysburg and having actually seen Lincoln deliver his famous address. Later in life, our soldier realizes that the old man was just as full of shit as he was.
I kinda-sorta based it on a supposedly true story I'd read in READER'S DIGEST about a Civil War soldier meeting with someone who fought for George Washington. The major thing to take away from this is that both scenarios I have just described are POSSIBLE. Keep in mind that former US president John Tyler still has grandchildren alive today. He was the 10th president of this nation. He was a Whig, for Christ's sake.
The point is, history is never far behind us.
I was reminded of this recently when my grandmother found something in the backyard. She showed me the badge in the above photo. She thought it was from the Indian Wars. She thinks it was from a US soldier, who left it behind after they raided the Potawatomis in the area. However, if memory serves correctly, Elmhurst is one of the few areas around here that wasn't stolen from the Potawatomis (or anyone, for that matter). There never was a settlement here. In Oak Brook? Yes. Not here. It's possible that they passed through here, as it is possible that the US Army passed through here. Every once in a while the neighbor finds some arrow heads in her backyard, and they didn't just come out of nowhere.
But this? This is different. I looked this thing over and over, and I very quickly surmised that it never belonged to a US soldier from that time. Look at that gun. They didn't have weapons like that back then. But then something else caught my eye, and I almost wished that it *had* belonged to a US soldier. It would be so much easier to categorize, then.
Look at the eagle on top of the thing. Then look at what it's holding in it's talons.
That's right. A motherfucking swastika.
It would be so much easier to explain if it was a US Army badge. But a Nazi badge? That's a bit harder to figure out. That leaves me with an interesting mystery. I love mysteries, but unfortunately I can never solve this one.
That leaves me with speculation. What are the odds that it came from an actual Nazi who moved to the states after the war? It's possible, I guess, but it's wildly improbable. Maybe a WWII memorabilia collector lost it back there. Again, unlikely. But here's a very real possibility, and it's the only explanation that makes sense.
It was lost there by a WWII vet, and it was taken off the freshly killed corpse of a Nazi rifleman. Possibly the vet who dropped it was the one who killed the Nazi in the first place.
But who could that vet be? The house has only had one owner besides my family in its entire existence. There was a very old couple who moved in when the house was built in the 'Fifties, and they sold to my grandfather when I was a kid.
The man who lived here was EXACTLY the age of someone who would have fought in WWII. It matches perfectly. But . . . well, he's no longer around. Neither is his wife. There is no way for me to track them down and ask about it. I don't know if they have kids, but I don't think it would matter much. WWII guys just didn't talk about the shit they did over there. They needed their loved ones to think that it was a noble war, and that they were heroes. Real heroes in war are very, very rare, no matter what our government says. Why do you think so many soldiers become drunks or junkies or they commit suicide?
On a side note, before I get people complaining about what I just said, I *do* believe WWII was a noble war, but I'm not stupid enough to think that our guys didn't do a lot of scary, awful shit overseas.
If I'm right, this story died with him. I'm never going to know how that Nazi badge wound up in my hand. And I would love love LOVE to know. I'm a huge fan of history, and I would love the story behind this.
History is never far behind us. Only recently did the last WWI soldier pass away. The Greatest Generation is not quite as plentiful as they once were. Vietnam soldiers are old men, and Desert Storm soldiers aren't getting any younger. I held a piece of Nazi history in my hand, and it isn't the first time. My step-grandfather gave me a lot of old coins, and quite a few of them have swastikas on them. To say nothing of the arrow heads I've found since I was a kid. I have a bullet from the Civil War (unfired). I have a hunk of fossilized shit. Who knows what lies a mere foot under your lawn? Where I sit right now used to be a sea millions of years ago. I've held the fossils of trilobites that were found here. I touched the bones of a woolly mammoth from millions of years ago. It's all within our grasp.
But it's slipping.
Without history we have no future. #NeverForget has been applied to a lot of atrocities in our past, but it should be applied to everything. Even something as silly as the founding of Facebook will be important to the generations that come after us. I wonder what the future archaeologists will think of us. When I was in high school I used to joke that they would find all of these McDonald's golden arches, and they'll assume that these fast food restaurants were our places of worship. Maybe it's not so much of a joke than a pretty good guess.
Which is why #NeverForget is so important. If we forget, there is no reason for us to relearn. Let's make it easy on our descendants, huh?
This is the 200th episode of GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS. Thanks for reading, and I hope we're around for #300. Hugs and kisses to you all.