It is remarkable the kind of vitriol you encounter when you ask people to think about the clichés to which they have committed themselves. I am grateful to those who understood what I was trying to get across, whether they agree with me about the war & the moral responsibility of those fighting it or not; as for the majority of those who posted comments, they speak for themselves. Truly. I did want to take time to respond to a few individuals, however:
E.C. Hopkins: I take your point. My very angry language is directed as much against the clichés of compliance as against individual soldiers. SJ: What was that you were saying about crude language & the left? Brendan: You say a "representative democracy . . . decided to send troops to Iraq." No. A small anti-democratic clique within the US government "decided." Democracy's got nothing to do with it & that's my beef. As for paying my taxes, don't you know that liberals love taxes? So, sure, I'm a moral coward for not becoming a tax protester. How about you? Anything you dislike about the government enough to withhold your taxes? As for my NEA & NEH grants, I'm surprised you didn't turn up my Fulbright to Vietnam. By the way, are you also outraged by the corrupt no-bid contracts to politically connected corporations that have cost us all billions of dollars? JA: Thank you for this information about military law. It does make a difference to my argument. Obviously, I do hold the morally corrupt political leadership, along with its military & civilian bureaucracy, responsible. My post was intended to penetrate the hard shell of cliché that surrounds all discussions of the military in Iraq. Mark Jaeger: You & "die hippie die" would like to beat me up or see me beaten up or killed. What the fuck sort of moral universe do you live in? Rob: I think we ought to love & respect those young people enough to treat them like adults with serious moral responsibilities, not like recruits for a children's crusade.
Finally, to those who thanked me for coming clean & admitting what opponents of the war have supposedly always thought, thanks. But even a cursory reading of my post reveals that I have not hoped for the "defeat" of "the troops." I would like to have them all tucked safely into their beds at home after a careful withdrawal from Iraq combined with a massive diplomatic & international effort to mitigate the effects of the Bush administration's disastrous intervention. Such an effort would no doubt cost the US as much as the war. So, no, Jon, I don't wish for your personal defeat. But defeat was written into the DNA of this war from day one. Those who determined your "defeat" are those who conceived the war & the subsequent occupation of Iraq. Update: The post below has garnered more comment than anything I've written online -- all the way from a Free Republic Moonbat Alert, complete with threats of violence accompanied by my photograph, to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which couldn't bring itself to print my final phrase. Further reading: Digby at Hullabaloo has a full discussion of the right wing celebration of atrocity in war & the way in which the militarist mind turns on those soldiers it deems to have betrayed them. Remember, it was American Legion members who really spit on returning Vietnam vets, not the dirty hippies of the myth.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

11 thoughts on “Clichés”

  1. When you use invective language, you can’t be surprised when it is returned. It isn’t remarkable at all, unless you are hypocritical. It is also easy to respond to and dismiss certain comments and ignore the more difficult ones. It is a favorite tactic of the losing side, as it trying to re-characterize the comment as being about a general topic of commitment to cliches, as opposed to a personal attack on people of a certain perspective. It is disingenuous to claim otherwise.

  2. Justin, I agree. As I said somewhere, I fully expected the response I got. I used invective intentionally. I’m not sure what you’re saying, though your tone seems accusatory. I just spent a fair amount of time responding to specific comments on the post in question. Do you expect me to treat as rational those who wish me violence, or who have failed to actually read anything more than the title of my blog post? As for those who questioned my “logic,” none offered a substantive argument that I could respond to. A cliché is apiece of language used without thought. I’m claiming that “support the troops” is a cliché & a dangerous one at that. The problem with such language is that it masks real argument. Mostly, the responses you seem to be defending are simple name-calling.

  3. Joseph Duemer is Professor of Humanities at Clarkson University in northern New York. He is a poet and the poetry editor of The Wallace Stevens Journal. His own most recent book is Magical Thinking (2001). He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2000 – 2001 he was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Hanoi, Vietnam. He blogs at

    Have you considered the possibility that you, yourself, are a cliche?

  4. Sure, Steve, every day. That’s why I’m so sensitive to the issue. How about you? How does your bio stand up in the great American list of job descriptions?

  5. If you fully expected it, then why did you call it remarkable? If it was just about cliches, why is it tagged “Politics?”

    My tone isn’t meant to be accusatory; merely curiosity in trying to understand exactly what it is you are trying to say. You seem to keep trying to hedge your bets.

    “Do you expect me to treat as rational those who wish me violence…?” Be careful with a statement like that. You are getting dangerously close to restating the justification for the war on terror.

    I wasn’t defending any particular comment that was left in response to your post. I’m not sure which comments you think I was defending. But to spell it out for you and give you an example to work with, let us take your response to “JA.” His/her comment was not simple name calling, and your response I would characterize as a non-response, thereby ignoring the point of his comment. It would have been a good chance for you to actually give some substance to your argument and spell out your logic. To explore exactly what it is about the moral and policy influences behind laws such as those that you oppose and feel divert away from what you think is moral.

    As for your flawed logic in your post, it is facially obvious. I am not going to take the time to argue how you make irrationally conclusions based on your own personal views.

    The greater problem is that there really isn’t any logic to your post. You make bald assertions. I could teach a chimp to sign “the Iraq war is immoral.” It would be as persuasive as you are in your post. Unless you want to be taken as about as intellectually rigorous as Michael Moore (to take a pop culture critic of Iraq war that far too many people take seriously), I would think you would put a little more time in supporting your assertions.

    As far as the cliche masking the real argument…your own post seems to say otherwise. You seem to think that everyone that says they support the troop is automatically making the assertions that you think are implicit within the phrase. Therefore, merely stating the phrase is making the argument you think is masked.

    But what you are really saying is that you are more intelligent than those that have the bumper sticker. You make the assumption that the people with bumper stickers that say they support the troops are just too ignorant or stupid to know they are making the argument you think is implicit in the phrase. But you…you are smarter than them. You know what they are saying and it is your job to wake them up…bring them to their moral senses.

    It is arrogance that is leading to your flawed logic based on your presumption of what people know, don’t know, or think they are saying when they have a bumper sticker that says they support the troops.

    I agree with stevesh…you’re nothing more than a cliche yourself.

  6. One last note, I just want to make clear that I don’t think it is a cliche at at all. I only speak in that term since it is the term used in this idiotic postings. I think it is an important statement to those who take the time to buy the bumper sticker or whatever and proudly display it.

  7. There’s going to be a national catharsis, probably summer 2008, probably violent. (It’s one of the main themes of my place.)

    I’m accused today in LA Times of coveting genocide for political gain, while a Washington Post columnists equates Edwards’ haircut malfeasances with Fred Thompson’s work for pro-choice organizations as he runs as pro-life.

    Reasoning won’t work. There will be a catharsis.

  8. jd, hang in there…


    Poetry’s never really about anything
    at all so much as you might
    have imagined sounds are

    pretexts hammers fulfilled
    by the houses they build
    while only wanting to be
    homeless themselves

    sometimes it is given to see the end
    before the beginning it hums
    to itself like a hypotenuse of bees
    filling the lungs with constellations

    and just to be helpful
    that shout of fire fire
    right inside your head.

  9. I said nothing about wanting to see you get your ass kicked; I merely provided you directions to the front gate of Fort Drum. I don’t think any of the men and women of the 10th Mtn. Div, would risk losing a stripe over kicking the ass of an old Lefty.

    C’mon, man, speak truth to power!

  10. stevesh:

    “Have you considered the possibility that you, yourself, are a cliche?”

    Of what? That Joseph Duemer is the cliché of an intelligent man? Or that he suffers the cliché of independent thought?

    Long may the Joseph Duemers fight the empty phrases we use to justify our atrocities.

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