By Al Carlos Hernandez
On Memorial Day, as we reflect on the untimely loss of Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, who fought and won our freedoms we enjoy. The somber and respectful observance reminds me of a street tradition we had, that many still maintain, before we took a drink we would pour some on the ground and say, “For the fellas that ain’t here”…My brother used to throw the cap away.
I am of a generation who suffered many lives were wasted during Viet Nam. It is ironic to know very few men my exact age because many my homies who accepted a certain patriotic bravado, thought it best to enlist and forgo college for a Semper fi tattoo.
My journey of civil disobedience afforded me the notoriety of being the first low-rider at community college. Obdurate in my political convictions, my credo then was, “You draft your Mama, I ain’t wasting the only life I have, fighting a no win war for standard oil”.
We know now that Viet Nam wa s a mistake, but they didn’t, and that doesn’t bring the brothers back. Memorial Day is a day of honor and remembrance we should value their willingness to serve. Big respect to the soldiers of Iraqi Freedom.
What is most troublesome for me is that this is also the day when we remember family members and intimate friends who has needlessly passed on. Vibrant life, cut short, due the rigors of street life, and the death march of La Vida Loca.
I remember in a veil of tears, the passing of my younger brother John, Compradre Jose, Big Jack. Brad, Bernie, Bob Delgado, our Nephew Peter just to name a few. All of them proud street soldiers taken out, way before their time. My life is poorer because of their absence.
Some fell victim to substance abuse, others over to a willful disregard for the gift of life. They didn’t think that it could happen to them. In their brutish Machismo they viewed themselves indestructible, but it did happen to them and they are gone, a nd I am bone weary of going to young men’s funerals.
It’s those of us who are left behind with scarred hearts in hand, who miss the joke that Johnny would have said, the wise crack Brad would have made, and Big Jack’s three hundred pound New York City laughter.
I memorialize them too with certain anger, harboring certain bitterness in the knowing that they didn’t have to go out that way, choosing the irresponsibility of street life over the straight and narrow.
We live in a climate of violence, young men poised to prove their media and rap fueled bravado, youngsters flying colors and innocents, smoked over a color of a rag. North verses South, East verses West, all Latinos, all under paid over worked, leaving scores of teenage baby Mamas, kids raising kids, and the cycle doesn’t stop. We as Latinos are making ourselves a servant class, under educated colonized people.
My Familia and I reminisce sometimes about how our world would be like if their unc le was around, how it would be to ride motorcycles with him, what kind of insult caps would he boasts, and how he could get a crowd laughing to the point of tears.
I am sure many of you who have lost a loved one to ravages of war in a foreign country or on the mean streets wonder sometimes how would it be if, so and so, was still here…but they are not.
Memorial Day is a day of sadness.
War exists in many arenas, the national, political, social, economic, and in the spiritual. It is a condition that mankind seems to be born with. Some call it the thinning of the herd. Although political and national warfare seems irreconcilable inevitable, the street wars, brown on brown, brother to brother warfare can and must be stopped.
We should fight the good fight and wage war against community violence, drugs, aids, and miseducation.
I don’t feel like having a picnic, I am compelled by unfortunate circumstances to ride my motorcycle alone as the rest of the fellas went home early.
Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.