INTERVIEW, VIET NAM AND IRAQ
Mr. Michael Lee Johnson lives in Itasca, Illinois after spending 10 years in Edmonton, Alberta Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a freelance writer and poet. He is heavy influenced by Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Leonard Cohen, and Irving Layton. 300 plus poems have published or are pending publication in 2008 early 2009; in nearly 300 journals, anthologies, and online publications. He has been published in USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Turkey, Fiji, Nigeria, Algeria, Africa, India, United Kingdom, Republic of Sierra Leone, Israel, Nepal, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Finland, and Poland internet radio. Michael Lee Johnson has been published in nearly 300 different publications worldwide. Audio MP3 of poems are available on request.
Michael Lee Johnson’s personal website can be found at: http://poetryman.mysite.com/. He is a member of Poets & Writers, Inc and Directory of American Poets & Fictions Writers: http://www.pw.org/. He is a member of The Illinois Authors Directory. Illinois Center for the Book: http://www.illinoiscenterforthebook.org/directory.html.
Michael Lee Johnson, Author of:The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0-595-46091-7
Books also available on: http://stores.lulu.com/poetryboy
Interview Vietnam and Iraq
What were your reasons at the time when you went to Canada?
With youth, decisions of this magnitude were difficult, confused, disarrayed, and flowed with the intervening events at the time. It was a combination of personal turmoil over a protracted war, causality numbers being broadcasted each day; discrepancies in draft status from one local draft board location to the next; the futility of rationalizations floating out of the Nixon, Johnson administrations that very clearly misguided: the domino affect, bringing democracy to the Asian world, etc. It is my opinion that the United States is preoccupied with its own sense of importance and pushing these values onto others not so receptive.
Circumstances of your return, and how it changed your life:
It forever changed my life; a price that continues to be paid. Initially I was given conditional amnesty via President Ford (admit you were wrong, do manual labor, and come back). Later total amnesty was granted by President Jimmy Carter (to all those not involve in violence, draft card burnings, etc.) who to this day I owe a volley of favor. Being in exile is not like going on vacation with a few thousand dollars in your pocket and coming back a few months later. You are left with emotional void, lonely holidays, no roots, no sense of real belonging, no safe way to go home-only God to keep you company, and at times I wondered about that. But, as years have passed now, my appreciation for Vietnam veterans has grown over the years, the price they paid, the ridicule they endured, the price they continue to pay. In the end, the United States public lost, draft resisters lost, and many Vietnam veterans lost, many with their lives. It has developed a political, poetic insight into some of my poems and prose over the years. Carrying “causes” on one’s personal shoulders is a heavy burden to lift each day. I try to avoid causes now days. I must admit, the issues of poor health care, in terms of access, in the United States is near criminal proportions, with approximately 54 millions American without basic access to health care services while we spend millions of dollars providing heath care to other countries.
Regrets (Would you do the same things now if you were 18 and going to be drafted in the current conflict?):
Sure I have regrets: forced to make such a decision at a confused young age, losing years without family or roots. The experience did contribute to my views and the depth of insight sometimes reflected in my poetry. With the same set of circumstances as the Vietnam War, I would be forced to do it all over again; fortunately, not at my age of 59. I’m not sure what I would do faced with the current conflict. The magnitude of the Iraq War is no where near the devastation, and prolongation of the Vietnam War. There is not draft. I confess though, I see some similarities: guerrilla warfare, not knowing who the enemy is, involvement in an endless daily struggle of few results. However, there is one huge difference: this war is ideologically based in radical Islam. True scripturally based Islam, fundamental principles of Islam, is rooted in violence, the need to convert all to its fold. There is no such thing as “moderate” Islam-just moderate followers of Islam. Without a draft it’s hard to say what I would do: likely nothing till a draft, when forced to face head on the need to make a decision. Thank God, I don’t have to do that again. There are benefits to aging.
Patriotism, your thoughts:
Patriotism is a devil; reincarnated as a cause. When patriotism screams out: “my country right or wrong”, it’s usually wrong. Nationalism is a better alternative where you can look at results your country has accomplished and say “I’m proud of those actions”, “I’m proud of who we are.”
Thoughts on war protesters:
This is difficult for me. I never protested accept internally. True protest requires sacrifice in action not vocal yelling. I was not a protester, I was a resister. I took a stand, I lived with it, I paid the price of it. Vietnam veterans paid the price; Iraq veterans are paying the price. Protest alone is not enough.
Thoughts on the current administration:
This is a loaded question for me. I believe many are good people one-on-one; to chat with, to share beliefs, to argue with. In my opinion only: this is the worst administration since or before Nixon. In making the Iraq war the central focus of misdirected attention (rather than pockets of terrorism) this administration has ignored others views of this country (mostly negative); it has failed to improve roads, ignored health care, and routed most funds to a draining effort to force democracy on an Islamic nation for its own interests. It is the misdirection, false premises, and wrong direction of decisions that is at the core of the problem: that means, poor leadership. It is my opinion you supply health care for your people and protect them as the highest two priorities; not do one, and ignore the other. Largely due to the war, rightly so in some cases to protect, privacy is a thing of the past for most Americans. We, as Americans, have less freedom today then at any other point in American history.
Thoughts on peace is it possible:
No, peace is not possible due to our war like and self-interested natures; we are creatures of conflict; some are more “just” then others. An example of a “just” war was World War II. It is my belief (even in the United States), it is becoming difficult to refer to our Christian roots: but there will be no peace till the return of Jesus Christ.
Now Listed at iUniverse Publishers: http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0-595-46091-7 The ISBN # is: 0-595-46091-7.EBook also available at iUniverse at: http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0-595-90391-6 The ISBN # IS: 0-595-90391-6Now Listed at Lulu.com Visit his storefront at: http://stores.lulu.com/poetryboy
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