Monday, February 22, 2016

Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 13: “The Blues of Lynndie England” + Peter Molin & Marwa Helal

Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 13: “The Blues of Lynndie England” + Peter Molin & Marwa Helal

Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
            --1 Peter

The Blues of Lynddie England

[G] played me
I guess I was blind
by love
maybe it was

[                       ]

for documentation
maybe it was
for his own

[                       ]

I don’t know
what was going through
his head
but he took it

[                       ]

it shows
he has power
over me
anything he asked

[                       ]

he knew
I would do


I just looked up where Lynndie England is now. After serving time for her part in the abuse scandal, she’s been struggling to find a job and raise the child she had with Graner. At the time of the media blitz in 2004, she became a huge object of derision, an easy scapegoat for her Appalachian roots, her redneck sensibilities, her boyishness. I felt some pity for her, even though she expressed little remorse for what she did, and for the war itself. But this is not about her alone. She was part of a larger protocol that encouraged abuse. It is about us. We need to stop “lording” over her—as Paul’s letter to Peter suggests—our own purported separation from her crimes. The following reflections complicate the picture of her as simple victim or perpetrator, as does the poem. The more we see her as one of us, the closer we can get to owning this.

“The Blues of Lynndie England” by Peter Molin

“The Blues of Lynndie England” is US soldier Lynndie England’s lament that her participation in prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib was the result of her infatuation with “G”—Charles Graner, the older, charismatic ringleader of the American guards. The heart loves whom it will, but claiming a pass on the grounds of docile subservience to love makes mockery of military ideals of gender-equity and professionalism.

And England’s claim to have been Squeaky Fromme to Graner’s Charles Manson is undercut by England’s shameless mugging in dozens of pictures depicting prison abuse. The pictures suggest a more gleeful complicity, as if she saw herself as a Bonnie to Graner’s Clyde: soulmates and partners in…  what? Mischief, at worst, as she saw it? Crime, as the guards’ acts were viewed by the military tribunal that tried them? An “isolated incident” as Abu Ghraib was called by the Bush administration? Stupidity, as it certainly was? Evil, as Sand Opera asks us to consider?

In 2004, England gave birth to Graner’s child, only to see Graner in 2005 marry a fellow guard, Megan Ambuhl. Are England’s blues the cry of a broken heart and a woman scorned?  Sand Opera’s not interested in either demonizing or humanizing the American guards, but the tawdry subplot of soldier romance adds melodrama to its exploration of the cultural structures of horror.

--Peter Molin is a retired US Army infantry officer who currently teaches in the Writing Program at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. He blogs at Time Now: The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars in Art, Film, and Literature.

“The Blues of Lynddie England” by Marwa Helal

multiplication of the blues

you, you: lynddie, you. lynddie: manipulatedanipulator. i made a new word for you. i've known you from that small town. went to high school with a girl like you. you never were too good at math; a multiplication of the fools. never would have imagined you, of all people, on the big tv news. but life's got a fancy calculator and you caught a case of 'be all you can be' attitude. counting hoods on pointed fingers... all those things he made you do. lynddie, you damn fool. i would have helped you cheat on math. could have told you he was cheating you. girl, they played you like the saddest kentucky blues. now, now, lynddie lou. you made a deal with the devil while singing: "anything he asked/ he knew/ i would do." but did you, lynddie, did you have to make a baby with him too?

--Marwa Helal's poetry has appeared in Day One and The Offing. Her other writing has been published in Poets & Writers, American Book ReviewEntropy Magazine, and elsewhere. More at: or @marwahelal


Maureen said...

Every time I think of Lynndie England's story, I think about her son by Graner, and how England's story will follow him the rest of his life, always be so easy to find. The sins of the parents forever visited upon their children, who are entirely innocent.

England's son is the focus of the poem I wrote today and titled "What'd You Do in the War, Mama?" Here's the first stanza:

What’d You Do in the War, Mama?
(Lynndie England)

I ‘spose some day my kid’ll ask,
“What you’d do in the war, Mama?”

I done a lot of time, thinkin’
on that one. I ask myself, “Lynndie

was you stupid, or what?” I weren’t
brought up like that, even if my mama

and daddy didn’t have no schoolin’.
Hell, we lived in a trailer park and all.


Philip Metres said...

I hope that, in the end, we can see England as one of us!