I Can’t Write Left-Handed — Bill Withers
Today, November 11th is Veteran’s Day. Veteran’s Day is known as Armed Forces Day in the United Kingdom, Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth Nations, and Armistice Day in many other countries. The holiday first came about as a day to honor all military veterans whether or not they ever went to war or not. The date of November 11th was picked worldwide to denote the signing of the Armistice that ended hostilities in World War 1.
Many of the men and women that I know have donned the uniform of the various branches of the Big Green Machine. Some were drafted when they themselves could not fully enjoy their inalienable rights, some joined to find a sense of purpose, some joined to provide for their families, some were probably sent there by a judge in lieu of imprisonment, and some joined to pay for their educations. No matter what the reason, each person’s world view, good or bad, was somewhat shaped or will be shaped by their time in uniform. They are friends, classmates, fathers of close friends, uncles, grandparents, and coworkers. Many of them served places like Okinawa, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Germany, Panama, a few places that I dare not ask about, and like my maternal grandfather, Kansas. (Honestly, Kansas in 1940’s America probably sucked too. Just saying.) Some of them may have enjoyed their time in uniform and for some it was probably hell on Earth.
Like I stated many come back changed by their experiences physically and mentally. The song above is a story of both. I had never heard of the song “I Can’t Write Left-Handed” until I saw John Legend and The Roots perform it on Comedy Central’s little sanity Rally two weeks ago. It was originally done by Bill Withers, and co-written by Ray Jackson, after talking to a Vietnam veteran who had lost his arm. The young soldier in the song’s narrative finds himself in a bad place because he simply can’t perform one of life’s simple functions; writing. He asks for prayer and a deferment for his brother so that he does not meet the same fate. (The link above is Bill Wither’s version. Give it a listen.)
If you know a vet they may not ask you to put pen to paper for them today but do something for them anyway—thank them. It doesn’t matter if you agree what they did or not, thank them.
Vaya con Dios.