REFLECTIONS  Fragmentary Connections: A Novel, A Poem, A Song, Videos, A Meditation on War, Peace, Community, and Climate


By Sue Ann Martinson



Lately I have been reading a novel in which the war in Crimea figures as a background the plot turns on. No, not the current war, although the geopolitical reasons for war are much the same then as now, with Crimea having Russia’s only seaport on the Black Sea: “Windows to the sea” my tenth grade history teacher called Russia’s need for a seaport. So history repeats itself, and once again control of Crimea is a focus for a war about empire.

Crimean War 1853 − 1856:

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854) by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Half a league,1 half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:

Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Of 600 British cavalrymen, 400 who rode into the Valley of Death were lost by the incompetent British commanders who sent them straight into the guns of the Russian soldiers: Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them…


It’s time for the Nuland administration to step down so we can have some peace.

− Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs calls out the Biden Administration and especially neo-con Victoria Nuland for the same kind of mentality as those commanders who sent the soldiers to their deaths for the sake of empire. Although the poem celebrates the nobleness of the soldiers, Tennyson can’t help but note the ruthlessness of the commanders along with the deadly obedience of the soldiers: “Ours not to reason why/Ours but to do and die,” just as so many of us are being led into the danger of WWIII and the use of nuclear weapons through the propaganda and fog of war in regard to the current Ukraine-Russia conflict. Although they like to bill “The Charge of the Light Brigade” as noble, it is still remembered as an example of what can happen without the “reasoning why.” And as Sachs points out, that is what is happening now to us as we  follow our leaders blindly to possible death.

Another great example of the same mentality as Nuland personifies is in Pete Seeger’s song written in 1967 during the Vietnam War.

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy, by Pete Seeger

It was back in nineteen forty-two,
I was a member of a good platoon.
We were on maneuvers in-a Louisiana,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,
That’s how it all begun.
We were — knee deep in the Big Muddy,
But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?”
“Sergeant, go on! I forded this river
‘Bout a mile above this place.
It’ll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.
We’ll soon be on dry ground.”
We were, waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, with all this equipment
No man will be able to swim.”
“Sergeant, don’t be a Nervous Nellie,”
The Captain said to him.
“All we need is a little determination;
Men, follow me, I’ll lead on.”
We were, neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,
We heard a gurgling cry.
A few seconds later, the captain’s helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, “Turn around men!
I’m in charge from now on.”
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn’t know that the water was deeper
Than the place he’d once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
‘Bout a half mile from where we’d gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I’m not going to point any moral,
I’ll leave that for yourself
Maybe you’re still walking, you’re still talking
You’d like to keep your health.
But every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We’re, waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
Tall man’ll be over his head, we’re
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on.



Thoughts on the “circus” video of pro-Trump demonstrators by Matt Taibbi, Racket

This “circus” is so sad: Marjorie Taylor Greene calling the Democrats Communists. I wish they were at least Democratic Socialists instead of the fascist neoliberals they are who have chosen to destroy our country, refusing to join with other major powers to end the proxy war in Ukraine, draining billions of dollars for war, money that should be used to help the homeless and hungry in this country, to stop the killing and devastation that war brings to Ukraine, and to focus on addressing the climate crisis, a threat to the planet. The “leadership,” if you can call it that, of both Democrats and Republicans is culpable. And all these people in the video are so riled up, supporting a narcissist and proven misogynist. Work them up into a frenzy, like January 6th. So very very sad. So very unChristian-like with their foul language and screaming, while the Christian fundamentalists are Trump’s avid supporters.. I am so tired of this screaming and hate. It is beyond me how these people can support Trump.

So people/citizens think they are having a say in their government. Unlike the fiasco and violence of January 6th, at least in these demonstrations Trump supporters are basically nonviolent except for the hate speech (yes, that is a crime) as evidenced in this particular “circus” video in the form of verbal violence against gays (watch the video, link below).

As far as I can see, most citizens are having no say at all in either party. Especially not the citizens who are 1) opposed to war  2) opposed to corporate control of the government − control the corporations have in spades, both parties being under their control, most especially the gas and oil and war industries (who are making billions). Corporate control is a known trait of fascism and authoritarian governments who not so incidentally are not at all interested in saving the planet from the disasters of climate chaos.
I cry for my country and the world.

Those of us who care, and we are many, work in community groups on climate issues and continuing antiwar work with demonstrations, webinars and conferences locally and regionally and worldwide, and a full page ad  in The New York Times calling for peace in Ukraine. Even if the so-called left has been declared dead by several pundits, the antiwar movement is not, although attempts are made daily to render us invisible in the mainstream media and to silence us by those whose interests we do not serve.



The following is a quotation from an article written about provoking Putin/Russia to start the Ukraine-Russia War. The role of provocation as discussed applies in other situations as well.

Provocation is Not an Innocent Act, by Alfred de Zayas

While both the provocation and the response should be considered criminal, the one who provokes bears greater moral responsibility.  The moral culpa is intensified when the party who provokes pretends to play innocent.

Who provoked the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. capitol? Who declared and still declares hate for people who are LGBTQ+ and all the variations as the example of verbal abuse in the “circus” videos illustrates?  Who is known for his attacks on people of color: slandering Hispanics, support for the blocking of the Black vote and Republican gerrymandering? A few Black people are in the video as Trump supporters, but very few, who are represented in an incident that could easily have been a set-up. The overwhelming majority of people in the videos, whether at demonstrations or political gatherings, are white. Regardless, Trump’s culture of hate, his principal legacy, lives on at many levels from verbal abuse to the shootings of random people that are now part of our daily lives. Yet he “plays innocent.”

It is obvious that I do not like Trump. His misogyny alone is enough to engender that dislike. Many other politicians have been forced to resign for lesser violations of women than Trump has committed. His political sins are many, from gutting the Environmenatal Protection Agency (EPA) to his alliances with billionaires and corporate interests while pretending to be for the people, along with those acts he is being charged with from removing classified government documents to tax evasion, and more.



Collaborative Communities

The sign on the building that houses the Center for Urban Service down my street expresses an entirely different direction from the hierarchical military model of the domination of the military in our federal government and often in state governments and encapsulates a direction many community organizations as well as those working on the climate crisis and antiwar activities have taken. The sign reads: Cultivate Collaborative Communities.

Recently I was part of an event called Shall We Gather at the River sponsored by Twin Cities Nonviolent, which is part of the national Campaign Nonviolence that sponsors the 12 Days of Nonviolence annually, September 21 (International Day of Peace) to October 2 (Gandhi’s birthday). Forty justice and peace groups from around the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) gathered to learn about each other, stepping out of our silos to network.

Earlier this month on June 10th the City of Minneapolis held the Community Connections Conference, “Minneapolis in Motion,” another opportunity for community groups to connect.

The community work going on in Minnesota is heartening, including helping protesters like those arrested trying to stop Line 3 with bail, to community garden groups that support Hmong and other gardeners whose work is planting seeds of change by creating community through gardening, to neighborhood groups who gather to share concerns, to antiracist groups and those working for justice in the prison system, and others. It was a beautiful evening of shared ideas and values as each group manifested the work it is engaged in, ongoing work we do not hear much about in our media. Similarly, we do not hear much about what is taking place along the same lines in other states.

I often see articles on the web about groups that endorse this idea of collaboration of communities. Yes! Magazine is always a good source of positive organizing happening in communities around the country, and as I travel around the information highway of the web I see collaborative efforts at work.

Needless to say, this almost “underground” of community collaboration is in direct contrast to the model of rhe hierarchical “do and die” mentality of our militaristic culture led by a government obsessed with military domination worldwide that is supported by the mainstream corporate media.

Yet most of these community groups are unaware of the role of the military in causing the climate crisis. Lately the military’s role in burning of fossil fuel and CO2 pollution has come more to the fore. But many are still unaware of the role of the U.S. military in polluting the planet , the air and the water, and the fact that they are not being held accountable.

Meanwhile, cries for a ceasefire and diplomacy in Ukraine are ignored by the U.S. government, as are attempts by leaders of several other countries’ leaders as varied as France and China as well as groups worldwide. I keep thinking of that phrase, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” The planet is burning and instead our governmental resources and tax dollars are wasted in destructive wars.

End the Wars. Save the Planet. There is no Planet B.

Photo by Rise Up Times: Painted on the Center for Urban Service building, Lake St. and 11th Ave., Minneapolis, Minnesota

Sue Ann Martinson is the editor of Rise Up Times

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Sources, Notes, Actions

Jeffrey Sachs: A Debt Crisis or Backdoor Extortion?
Marcy Winograd interviews Jeffrey Sachs

Peace in Ukraine Petition:
Tell Biden Putin & Zelensky: No to WWIII, Yes to a Ceasefire in Ukraine

It’s time for the Nuland administration to step down so we can have some peace. − Jeffrey Sachs

“Instead of promoting a ceasefire and peace negotiations in Ukraine, Victoria Nuland chooses to escalate the war by promising the US will arm Ukraine to seize Crimea, the site of Russia’s naval fleet on the Black Sea, part of Russia for nearly 200 years and home to ethnic Russians who voted to join the Russian Federation.”

Women Don’t Let Women Drive War: Feminists Say Fire Nuland

The US Should Be a Force for Peace in the World”  Text of a full-page ad by the Eisenhower Media Network in The New York Times on May 16, 2023.

Medea Benjamin: Why There’s No PEACE Movement From the Left in America


Alfred de Zayas: Provocation is Not an Innocent Act

Victor David Hanson, Signs of Decay, Fears of Decline

Twin Cities Nonviolent

Campaign Nonviolence

Ignoring How Militarism Fuels Climate Change Will Be the Death of Us, by Sue Ann Martinson

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy by Pete Seeger (Video)

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy Lyrics as written by Pete Seeger
Lyrics submitted by almostmanda
Lyrics © T.R.O. INC.
Lyrics powered by LyricFind

The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson

A Sudden, Fearful Death, a novel by Anne Perry. Available at your library and online at MELSA (Twin Cities Metro Library).


By Published On: July 4th, 2023Comments Off on Fragmentary Connections: A Meditation on War, Peace, Community, and Climate

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