Category Archives: Veterans

End the Crisis in Gaza

By David Gibson and Dr. Janet Amighi,
7/20/14

While Israel claims it is under threat, its own actions and policies are actually the driving force of Palestinian resistance.  It is most extreme in Gaza.

Gaza is kept shut off by land, sea and air from the rest of the world and even from their relatives in the West Bank. They cannot export their products or import needed supplies to rebuild after each Israeli incursion or bombing. They are locked in an overcrowded prison with undrinkable water and worse and then condemned as terrorists if they protest.  Gaza is permanently under siege- who can live like that?

Now as Israel attacks, Gazans run terrorized in the streets or cower in their homes with nowhere to flee. (Warning leaflets dropped from the air have no use when there is no place to evacuate to.) They have no shelters, they cannot become refugees. They can’t even get ambulances through to collect the wounded and the many dead. Even on the beach a group of boys are not safe.  They are trapped victims of an unbelievable horror. No one comes to their aid.

What is the cause of this brutal attack?  Israel says it is self-defense, against rockets, against kidnappers, against tunnels.  Palestinian leaders in Gaza say they will not accept a ceasefire until the blockade is lifted, that they will not stop resisting until they can lead tolerable lives.

According to Nathan Thrall writing in the New York Times, the trigger of this most recent Israeli attack against Gaza was the Reconciliation Agreement under which Hamas agreed to turn over leadership of Gaza to President Abbas and his Fattah party and create a unity government.  The West at first supported this move, but Israel resisted and her allies fell into line. Thrall calls it, “Gaza and Israel: The Road to War, Paved by the West, (July 17, 2014).  He claims that Israel is trying to preserve the status quo- keeping control over Palestinian land, water, and lives.

The US is Israeli’s willing ally to the tune of 3 billion dollars a year in military aid, not because it is in our national interest, but because our politicians are afraid to confront right wing actions by the Israeli government.

The United States can help save both Israeli and Palestinian lives by demanding a lasting ceasefire, lifting the blockade on Gaza, ending U.S. military aid to Israel (or at least withholding such aid until a ceasefire begins and lasts for, say six months), hold all sides accountable for human rights violations, and engage with all Palestinian factions (including Hamas).

Peace, Shalom, and Salam to all

Please take action for peace in Palestine and Israel.

Call the White House comment line:

202.456.1111

Demand a ceasefire and suspension of U.S.  weapons and military aid to Israel.

To call your Member of Congress:

US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121

To locate your Member on-line:
U.S. House of Representatives: www.house.gov
U.S. Senate: www.senate.gov

White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/

Demand a ceasefire and suspension of U.S. weapons and military aid to Israel.

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History Shows, People Power Makes the Difference.

By D. E. Gibson ©

Power comes down to two things. Money and People. When they have the money, we need the people!

It was dusty, hot, and the air and the ground around us, seemed yellow. It was sandy, rocky, sage brush with a few stunted trees all around. On one side of US 95, was a steel chain link fence some 10 feet high or more, which stretched for miles in both directions, topped with concertina razor wire. On the other, about 3,000 individuals from all over the country were lining up to support hundreds who were illegally entering the gates on this side of the fence. Beyond this throng, just a mile north, organized in a sand pit past some small hills on Bureau of Land Management property were a collection of tents, small and large, pitched as I recall, about 100 yards from the road. White ones. Bright yellow and orange ones, blue ones. Olive… There were a number of vehicles as well. Support vehicles, generators, water trucks, and personal transportation of a wide variety. Some of the tents were individual one and two person affairs. Some were much larger canopies, and house size structures used for kitchens, dining halls and communal meeting spaces. I remember flags on poles. Peace flags. Rainbow flags, even American Flags. (I will have plenty more to say about the American Flag in later posts)

I have been told that you could hear the sound of the drums in the back ground. I do not remember this myself but do remember drums and other musical instruments there, so … why not? Sounds like something we would have been doing then. Playing drums and clanging cymbals and making noise in celebration of life and resistance to oppression. And if we were not, we should have been. Like the Canadian activists who have come out recently banging their pots and their pans during their protest marches! How cool.
Here was the layout:

Top

In 1988, in the Nevada desert, I was part of an event involving civil disobedience where about 3,000 people were arrested over the course of 10 days. I have read that this was the largest civil disobedience action in US history with a record of arrests.

We were protesting underground nuclear weapons explosions to test and develop new and more dangerous bombs and missiles about 1,000 of which, could destroy most life on Earth. (There were about 70,000 in the world then, ready to launch) The demonstration was named “Reclaim the Test Site.” I had trained and prepared for this event for months. I had flown out here all the way from Montclair NJ to meet my crew. They had driven out earlier, caravan style, meeting up with other caravans and rolling into “Peace Camp” within hours of many others that I had spontaneously coordinated by phone and fax back in our office in Montclair before driving to Newark Airport and boarding a plane to join the fun. (This was all before cell phones… Members of other caravans from the South and the North East and the East, and the North West called in to their headquarters by pay phone… Does anyone reading this remember those?) I spoke with their home offices. They, in turn, would let their folks — who would call in from time to time – know how far in miles they were from some other group of fellow travelers and on what particular route some other caravan from some other part of the country might be. Some joined up en-route thanks to this. Some joined up outside of Peace Camp. Others aimed to roll into peace camp as close to a common arrival time that we organized in an impromptu fashion over the phone. Me with my map spread out on my cluttered desk with my speaker phone in front of me… No google maps in them days … Most of the travelers arrived on the same day within hours of each other… an intermittent procession of caravans arriving from all over the country. I imagined cheering campers greeting them, which indeed is what I was told later actually happened. This helped build solidarity and gain us some local media attention too.

I was up most of the night alternately on the phone and at our brand spanking new copy machine, my back pack and travel gear stored on the floor by the door, as I was running off materials for a professional door-to-door canvass we had organized as one of our contributions to this effort. While the protest was set for Nye County, the canvass was in Las Vegas, which was the next county over. Since none of the money we collected was for the protest, but to set up a group in Vegas of locals who would call for conversion of the test site to peaceful purposes, we were completely legal,– much to the chagrin of Las Vegas police who wanted to arrest us, like their Nye County Compadres, but were unable to. So… Ha!

My crew, all experienced professional canvassers, had caravanned out to meet some other canvassers from other canvass offices — most from SANE/FREEZE, (The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy merged with the Nuclear Weapons FREEZE Campaign.) Some were committed to the canvass, and others were committed to the action and planning arrest. We were well represented.

When I arrived just hours after most of the caravans got there, I disembarked at Las Vegas Airport. As I got off the plane the very first thing I saw drove home what we were really resisting. I saw a line of Slot Machines. “Yes” I thought to myself with a wry smile. “Makes sense”.

I was up and animated when I got to Vegas thanks to the excitement of the occasion and adrenaline in my system, despite my tired state due to a night of little sleep. (Exacerbated by the little plastic bottles of bourbon I drank on the plane.) I made my way to the temporary office for the American Peace Test in Las Vegas. The American Peace test was, in a way, a splinter group of sorts, breaking off of the larger FREEZE Campaign to mount increasingly militant, disciplined, civil disobedience against the US nuclear weapons program, and the US’s overall policy of militarism. They coordinated with groups protesting in Greenham Common in England and at the test sites in, what then was still, the Soviet Union as well… making this a truly global organizing campaign. Most Americans would have been shocked and in denial of the fact that there was a robust peace movement in the USSR in those days.

The office certainly felt temporary. It was located in the rear of, some sort of commercial, newly and cheaply constructed mini-mall sort of thing, though it didn’t appear to have any retail outlets. It had small offices of the kind where you might find a moving company, a machine shop, or a fly-by-night furniture warehouse. Lots of white and silver and aluminum, and no trees to mention in the parking lot except for the small, spindly newly planted variety. The kind held in place by some cable tied to the ground and supported by fresh pine one by twos. Even the doors seemed to be made of a hollow aluminum frame. The office was located across from the rear parking lot of one of the smaller casinos… (Casinos were everywhere. So were more slot machines. They seemed to be in every commercial location one entered, including super markets.)

Some of the canvassers took what they made canvassing and leveraged it at the gaming tables. One guy won enough money to buy an airplane ticket back to Los Angeles, which was fortunate as he did not have a return plan when he got there. All of us took advantage of the very cheap food, steak dinners and the like, and cheap booze that the Casinos made available to attract out-of-towners to come in and lose their savings. What a racket! But it was, after all, Vegas! Back at the office there was a kitchenette kind of deal, with a sink a very small refrigerator, and a microwave.

We lived on peanut butter, bagels and bread, and some whole wheat pasta which I would cover with tahini sauce. At Peace Camp there was a communal kitchen with lots of … well… chili and salad I imagine… I never ate there myself. We ate pretty well off of the money we canvassed. Which was also OK because the contract called for paying us from revenues that we raised while signing people up. Not a bad system.

The whole operation was run on consensus, which immediately ended my role in the canvass as a leader as soon as we had our first meeting. It stung my ego but enriched my soul. I was suddenly no longer the architect of this unique first ever organizing model, but simply the driver and another canvasser. It was kind of liberating in a way and immensely satisfying seeing everyone step up and take responsibility. My ego healed quickly.

Upon arrival I met with an organizer or two. The details are a bit hazy, but we arranged, from previous contact, to have access to either one of the two rental vans that were around to bring people to and from the office to Peace Camp and back.

We also arranged whose couch I would sleep on as I did not have a tent at Peace Camp. I don’t remember getting much sleep anyway. As I remember I moved around a lot, staying on the weekend with other canvassers and activists at some out of town lawyer’s home for a night and a day. I was charged with going to the grocery to pick up food for a large group meal, and since I had not yet gotten my paycheck, I was to do most of the labor for my part of the meal. When I got to the super market, I dropped a few quarters (all I had left) into one of the slot machines up front and won enough to cover my share of the groceries and a little extra, saving me from a night of indentured servitude at the whim of my fellow activists… WHAT a relief. Capitalism came through for me that time.

We would have access to the van at around 2:00 PM each day to bring people to the City and then, after meeting and preparing for the field at about 3:00, we would drive canvassers to their neighborhood and drop them off. Then I would drive back to the office, and pick up whoever needed a ride back to Peace Camp. Then I would turn around, and head back into the city giving anyone who needed it, a ride and drop them off. If I had time, I would go out and canvass. If not I would just go and pick up the crew. Then drive back to Peace Camp. To get around during the day or on the weekend, I used the little red Mazda owned by one of my crew, a young man with blond dread locks.

I found myself going back and forth to the city for various reasons during the day while some members of my crew joined hundreds of others crossing the line and being abducted by Wackenhut Security on the test site grounds and put in a large metal “pen” in the desert until they could be loaded on buses and driven to the town of Tonopah, some 65 miles from the vicinity. We called it “The Cage”. It was a 28,800 square foot chain link fence built in the shape of a square near the South Entrance not too far from the road. As activists crossed the cattle guard at the gate’s entrance, or scaled the fence, they were picked up by security guards, some on foot, some driving souped up dune buggies. Once herded into the “cage” they were taken, as a group, to the buses.

On March 13, 1988, the Los Angeles times had this to say about it: “Orchestrating the arrests were about 100 sheriff’s deputies, 50 Nevada Highway Patrol officers and an unknown number of Department of Energy security officials, who used helicopters, motorcycles and camouflaged dune buggies to track down the hundreds of trespassers who managed to evade a wall of guards manning the area near the entrance.”

The first time this happened, on the first day of the action, it was not expected… Organizers scrambled to find all manner of vehicles and gave chase. After about a day or two, we got really good at following the buses and retrieving our folks and getting them back to the scene of the demonstration pretty quickly thereby effectively thwarting the Nye County Sheriff’s office in their plan to break the civil disobedience.

The reasons they cited for this strategy, to bus our people far away, showed our evident effectiveness at gumming up the system, which, at its root, is one of the reasons for civil disobedience to begin with.
Also in the LA Times was this:

“Activist Jessie Cox was one of many who chastised authorities for using “the cage.” “This cage that has been built in the desert appears to be a detainment camp for nonviolent protesters,” Cox said. “We are not only concerned about its use, but about the historic precedent that the image of a stalag-like structure conjures up.”

But Chris West, a spokesman for the Department of Energy, which manages the test site, said the enclosure, which cost $35,000, was needed to control ever-increasing numbers of protesters here.
There have been 3,610 people arrested here since the first demonstration was held in 1957, authorities said. But 3,217 of those arrests were made in 1986 and 1987.

“We are sorry this is happening,” West said, “but we can’t just let people go haphazardly anywhere they want on the test site.”

Still, Nye County prosecutors stopped filing charges against most trespassers here a year ago in an effort to ease the county’s mounting court load.
“They are trying to use the Nye County criminal system as a forum and we are not going to waste taxpayers’ money by giving them that recognition,” said Nye County Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Morrison. Instead, he said, “the complaint is routinely dismissed and they go on their merry way.”

So it was obvious that all of that work, demonstration after demonstration, was paying off from a tactical point of view at least.

But was it paying off strategically? A most important question. While the department of energy denied any effect on operations, which was true at the time, the effect on political policy was another matter.

Representative Pat Schroeder, a Congressional ally from Colorado introduced HR 3442, mandating the cessation of US nuclear testing (and thereby British tests, since they used our test site for their own nuclear tests… stopping the US would stop the Brits… A twofer) so long as the USSR maintained their moratorium on testing. The bill eventually gained over 100 co-sponsors, but was never voted on. Schroeder claimed its support was influenced by the civil disobedience at the test site.

The Soviets ended their unilateral moratorium on February 5, 1987, but the last US test explosion was 4 years after Reclaim “The Test Site”, in 1992, though the amount of tests were vastly reduced before that time.

However, later in 1988 the US and the USSR began the Joint Verification Experiment, where technical personnel from both countries traveled to each other’s testing facility to begin the actual monitoring program that would allow each to verify that the other side was not testing. So this, then, was the beginning of the end of nuclear test explosions by all countries to this day with the exception of North Korea, and it looks like possibly Pakistan (and then maybe India?) again soon. We have to organize to stop this if we can!

In 1992 the US Congress passed the Hatfield-Exon amendment, cutting funds to achieve a nine month nuclear testing moratorium. This cancelled the last three scheduled tests for 1993. The ban has held ever since despite our Senate’s refusal to verify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by Bill Clinton in ‘96.

My own belief is that what finally ended nuclear explosions was civil disobedience, like this action and the threat of continued demonstrations, along with millions of petitions, tons of letters and phone calls, and simply ongoing unrelenting pressure of ALL kinds from many, many regular folks from all over the place.

There was also the largest single demonstration in US history to end the nuclear arms race, earlier in Central Park in 1982, which can be seen as the start of the final grass-roots push to end all nuclear testing. Protests had been going on since the beginning of nuclear testing.

The nuclear weapons freeze referendum passed in many states across the country before being defeated in Congress… which helped change tactics to a more militant variety culminating in the mass arrests at the test site.

Who knows? The increasing acts of civil disobedience (CD) HAD to worry policy makers. As the protests and CDs grew in frequency and numbers I am sure, it is only common sense, that despite official denials, it had to worry those in power that this kind of thing might continue to grow until it got unmanageable.

Back in the late 80’s a one judge, Judge Sullivan, after listening to an emotional appeal from a family member who was in court on his trespass charge (which they received at the Test Site) stopped the proceedings and told the court and everyone there that “I just want you to know I think you are making progress through your efforts.” according to a personal account in a book entitled “A Family Says No to Violence: Personal Empowerment through Nonviolent Civil Disobedience.” by Sally A. Mack.

We must never underestimate our own power… It is, after all, all we can count on in the end… and when united with others, we can multiply that power to make real, and often lasting change.

But our power is not like the power we resist. The power of greed, suicidal greed, when one thinks of the polices that give us realities like 70,000 nuclear weapons, “Shock and Awe”, addictive use of fossil fuels resulting in increasing average global temperatures, and the very real and staggering threat of a possible runaway greenhouse effect.

Their power is massive, it seems to be everywhere, but it isn’t. It is pervasive, and it is coercive. Ours is different and, when planning to resist and work for change it is always, in my opinion and that of many experienced organizers, best to organize from a place of your own power. As a matter of fact, Saul Alinsky, one of my early organizing role models, had set down some principles for us to use when developing strategy. He said, we need three things to give an organizing campaign a decent chance of success.

1 – Give your people a sense of their own power. You do this by organizing from your own experience and outside your opponent’s experience. Mass CD is often a good case of this, but not always. It is good to assess the degree to which your target understands and knows how to respond to CD.
2 – Alter the relations of Power. Doing things outside their experience can win you a seat at the table.
3 – Win concrete improvements in your people’s lives…
The Anti-Nuclear Arms Movement has succeeded at all of these…

What’s next?

There are still dangers to be sure, and nuclear weapons still need to be abolished because they still pose a very real threat to each of us and all life on the planet, though we ARE in an undoubtedly safer position than we were in 1988.

But in terms of the goal of the campaign for the Anti-Nuclear Arms movement, I would say that if we can succeed in achieving a ratification of the Test Ban Treaty in the Senate, then we have won and we should have one hell of a very public and audacious party to celebrate because we need to, for our own psyches, reward ourselves for a hard-fought campaign that many of us sacrificed much for. But as importantly, we need to organize that celebration as a national event. We need to put some resources into it to give notice to those in power that – yes — we DID win. We went up against the most powerful death machine in history and we pushed it back from the brink and saved us all from annihilation.

ANNIHALATION!

That IS something to celebrate. And we want them to know that we will not take whatever else they have in store for us without a fight. We need not be violent. That is their way of playing the game. We will NOT let them reduce us to their level. We WILL overcome… That is the message a large victory celebration would send. Stand by, next chapter in the saga is coming up and we are prepared to win again…

We have no choice if we want to live. Because as soon as the hangover wears off, we will be planning our strategy for our next campaign to make this world we live in a better place to live the kinds of lives we want to live and that we all deserve.  So, to spell it out, what I am proposing is a national celebration as a campaign strategy.

The powers we resist threaten to do us all in, globally and in our own neighborhoods. All to serve a system which more and more people have witnessed serves a very few at the expense of an increasing number of people at the bottom. A growing, and REQUIRED underclass that must exist for this system to operate.

This is what we resist: A war around the planet, and one in communities of poor and African-American people and other people of color and people who are divergent from the main stream life style.

We resist a system which pits us each against each other to purposely keep us divided so that we never learn our power. The power of our numbers. The power of the many, the power of people, the power that has been seen throughout history to eventually overthrow the tyrants that have oppressed them time and time again. The Power of unity. The power of love!

A power we can realize when we break down the barriers and differences that divide us and when we learn that everything IS connected.

Like the power of 3,000 people from all walks of life and an amalgam of backgrounds that came together in the hot Nevada Sun to stand up to the nuclear nightmare that had been created to threaten us all just to profit a few.

It is the same power that we use when we reclaim our streets by building community and sharing the burden to make the streets safe to walk again. The power to change how we raise our children so that they suffer less trauma than we have, and can grow with understanding of, and compassion for others. Nothing else will do… There is no other way for us to survive, otherwise, as things progress and resources dwindle and new ways of organizing society are called for, we won’t be competing and killing each other to eat, but feeding each other to prosper.

We ARE all in this together. So far, there is no other planet we can go to and the world as we know it keeps getting smaller. We must choose to run our own lives, personally and as a community. Power structures HAVE to change. Patriarchy, and yes, Capitalism, at least in its current form, must become a thing of the past. We must evolve or perish.
________________________________________

I Want My Country Back

Yes, you heard me.  I want my country back… back from the Tea Party and the big corporations that financially support them.  I do NOT want my country to return to the Tea Party and Republican principles of:

  • Repealing the Civil Rights Act because the central Government should not tell States how to treat American citizens.
  • Eliminating the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  Women should not be voting.  They don’t have time for politics because they need to be in the kitchen cooking and they should be waiting on their husbands.  The bible tells us that women are subservient to men.
  • Returning to slave labor and sweat shop labor practices because businesses should be free to abuse their employees without Government interference.
  • Dismantling Social Security because seniors should have planned better for their retirement.  Too bad and too sad if Wall Street bankers stole most of their IRA money.  Tough luck if the seniors worked at jobs that didn’t have a pension program or 401K program.  If these seniors worked for minimum wage, they still should have thought ahead even if it required providing less food and clothing for their children so that they would have that extra money to save for their retirement.  Some Republican candidates are claiming that Social Security is unconstitutional.
  • Dismantling Medicare because health care is not a right, it is a privilege and the Tea Party does not approve of privileges except when it comes to their idols and themselves.  Besides, only the privileged deserve health care.
  • Eliminating disability payments because people need to be more responsible and not get injured on the job.  This includes our military veterans.  They should stop whining because after all, they volunteered.
  • Forcing Catholics, Jews and Muslims to commit sins by having to read and study the protestant bible in public schools.
  • Allowing property owners to create toll roads.  People have a right to collect money from anyone that crosses their property line.  Good luck with getting to work on time and having any money left over from your paycheck after paying all the tolls.
  • Supporting “Second Amendment” solutions as a means of conflict resolution.  This might also work as a method of population control.
  • Returning to the glory days of lords and serfs.

I want my country back from hate mongers like Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, Malkin, Kristol, Bachmann, Rove, Cheney, and all the rest that appear on Fox News, the opinion network.  The goals for these people are to divide our country and to make piles of money while undereducated people do their dirty work for them.

I want my country back from racists such as Beck, Laura Schlesinger, the Tea Party and the Larouches.  These people are so upset because there is a black family living in, what they perceive as, the White(‘s only) House.

I want my country back from people that profit from the suffering of others (Beck, Palin and Limbaugh).

I want my country back from politicians that place Wall Street above and before Main Street, such as Pat Toomey, Tom Corbett, Jim Gerlach and all the other Republicans and Tea Party members.

Yes, I want my country back.  The one where everyone is treated with respect and  equality, the one where everyone receives good health care, the one where everyone receives a livable wage, and the one where everyone is free to practice their religious beliefs without interference from other religions.

I want back, the country that was progresing forward.  Not the one that is currently heading in Reverse.

In Their Boots…

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The Republicans talk about John McCain’s war experience. John McCain spent most of his Vietnam military time as a POW. Not to make light of that, but John McCain didn’t spend much time in direct combat. George W Bush spent his military time during the Vietnam War pretending to be a combat pilot and then when he tired of that, he went AWOL and was protected by his father’s rich and influential friends. Barnacle Dick Cheney, well, lets just say he had a “doctor’s excuse”.

And then there is “Support Our Troops” which is nothing more than a yellow ribbon magnet made in China. The media has been ignoring our troops and Bush and Cheney certainly don’t discuss the troops. And McCain, well, he was against the Webb military bill before he was for it and never showed up to vote for the bill. His fundraiser was more important than voting to support our troops.

For these veterans, there was no avoiding combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here is their story.

There’s a new website, In Their Boots, which will have weekly live Internet shows. I’ll let the producer explain.

Over the past several months, as we gathered our staff and began to meet the men and women who have served, we knew that it would be a privilege to be able to share the stories of these servicemembers and their families so that the other 99% of the US population can better understand what is happening to our troops when they return from war.

We wanted to do something different than our usual short videos with this project, so we developed an idea for a LIVE internet-based show and decided to call it In Their Boots to let the audience know they would be hearing the information from the servicemembers’ points of view.

The show premieres today, Wednesday July 2nd, at 4pm Pacific/5 Mountain/6 Central/7 Eastern at www.intheirboots.com. The stories are riveting and the show will be broadcast LIVE. You will have the opportunity to hear the stories from these servicemembers, learn about organizations that are helping, and find out how you can help as well.

The show will be broadcast from our brand new studio (it was a beauty parlor just 2 months ago), not quite finished since we are still doing some fundraising, but looking pretty good. Since it is LIVE, we invite you all to join the discussion and become part of webcast history by asking our interview guest a question, live, “on the air.”

We are proud of what we have put together and we hope that you all tune in to see this. Please let us know what you think of it as well. And if you miss any part of the episode, be sure to check it out on our site: www.intheirboots.com. We plan on producing a new episode every Wednesday, live at 4pm Pacific.

I hope to hear from you soon. As always, thank you for your support.

Best,
Jim Miller
and the Brave New Foundation team

—-
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We are located at 10510 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232 and info@bravenewfoundation.org

Take the time to visit and make a donation.’

UPDATE: Then there is this

A Dollar Fifty Patriot

A Dollar Fifty Patriot

 

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or why I don’t celebrate memorial day)

 

Monday is officially Memorial Day. This weekend, however, our nation’s beaches will be full of laughing half-naked tourists looking to shake that pale, white tone of skin they earned through a winter full of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Superbowl dinners. The stores will be full of shoppers eager to make a penny on a buck savings on cheap, dime-store plastic items they really don’t need. Backyards will be spent grilling and barbecuing cholesterol laden foods which will inevitably cause a night’s worth of painful indigestion. Alcohol will be consumed by the gallons to be rewarded by a Monday or Tuesday morning hangover. All to remember our fallen dead.

Memorial Day is to be celebrated as a day of remembrance; to honor those who have fallen in the service of our country. Originally started to remember the dead of the Civil War, the holiday has grown to encompass all of the wars of the 19th, 20th ,and now 21st century. Overall, including the Revolutionary War, some 1.2 to 1.3 million men and women have answered the call and have paid the ultimate price for their country.

On Memorial Day, everyone feels patriotic. Flags, not ordinarily seen during the year, will come out in droves. Kids will paint their faces in red,white and blue colors and people will pat a veteran, one whom they probably never would have talked to otherwise, on the back to say, ‘good job’. Everyone can be a patriot and for a ‘buck fifty’ you can buy those cheap yellow decals to put on your car that says, “I support the troops”. For one day, everyone can feel as if they’ve done their part.

But have they?

It’s nice that you take a day to honor our serviceman who’ve died for our nation, even when our nation was in the wrong, but what about the other 363 days?

Ask anyone on the street if they know what happened in Iraq today and you’ll get a “I don’t know” answer. Ask about Afghanistan and you’ll get a response of ‘where’s that’?

Ask a person on the street how many have died in the Iraq War and you’ll get a range of answers from about a hundred to ten thousand (4,069 as of last week). But while they cannot remember how many fell in battle this month they sure as hell can tell you who is still standing on American Idol or how many rebounds a NBA player made or homeruns their first baseman hit.

You see, I don’t think that America is feeling the sting of this war enough. Other than having to pay over $4 bucks for gas, they just aren’t feeling this war as our parents and grandparents did in Viet Nam or the Second World War. I don’t see rationing of any kind. I don’t see posters asking you to buy war bonds. I don’t see recruiters on the streets or a lottery being held to determine the draft. I do, however, see a lot of people at Starbucks and with heavy shopping bags at local malls.

Where’s the love?

“I support the troops” this funny, little decal, made in China, says but do you really? When is the last time you even visited a military base? When is the last time you ever visited a hospital to comfort the wounded? Do you even know that many returning veterans are still not receiving the care they deserve? How about our troops in the field? How are they?

While we come home to the safety of our homes, our soldiers live in the field, sleeping on the ground, in the cold, dusty, hard sands of Iraq and Afghanistan. Showering is a luxury and hot meals ever more while people back home are stopping off at McDonald’s on their way home or stuffing themselves at Red Lobster.

Patriotism is much more than waving a red, white and blue flag or having a yellow decal on your car. It’s much more than voting Republican or joining the American Legion. It’s much more than talking big at a bar, fueled by alcoholic liquid courage, about how many Iraqis you’d kill if you were there. If you belief in it that much, you should do something about it.

Talk, my friends, is cheap.

Patriotism, my dear, unforgiving countrymen, is about sacrifice which very few are willing to perform.

Sacrifice means giving up something freely for another. In America, I just don’t see much of that. You may call me bias, but as I walk through the Center City portion of Philadelphia, that famed City of Brotherly Love, I am still ashamed of the growing number of homeless people which many of us here pass on by without a second glance. By the way, the number of homeless veterans (Iraq and Afghanistan) is growing at an alarming rate. It stands currently at 1 in 4 but looks to go even higher.

So, I ask, where is your support?

Employers continue to look the other way at a returning vet. Why? Because they are afraid of having to pay the bill if our returning soldier should suffer effects of PTSD or incur a recurring health problem. It’s better just not to hire them than to have to get involved. So, our vet, our returning hero, comes home to no job, finding himself collecting unemployment and welfare. In an instant, he went from hero to bum.

Where is your support?

Why are there no cries when our President refuses to grant a GI Bill to repay those who’ve served their country with benefits to go to college? Why are people not ringing the phones off the hooks of our Senators and Representatives? Why aren’t people holding our politicians responsible for how our vets and soldiers are being treated?

I just don’t think you are getting it people.

But, I guess people need to feel their comforts; to be a part of something even when they are not. They need to drown themselves in a 12 pack of Bud or a face full of hamburger. They need to walk around with blinders on. To continue living their lives as if nothing is wrong. To wrap themselves around their flag and bang their drums and talk their talk of devotion and duty from the safety of their home.

That dollar fifty patriot must sure feel good about themselves.

I can’t celebrate Memorial Day anymore. It’s a fake holiday with a fake sense of patriotism. I won’t celebrate it because I feel that we should be remembering our soldiers every day and not just once a year.

America, be proud!

Welcome home boys! Fire up the grill!

phillyblues@paforchange.com

GOP Presidential Candidate John McCain Doesn’t Like Veterans…

John McCain thinks that Senator’s Webb GI Bill is too generous to our veterans. He supports the Republican plan which would increase the number of years of service before our veterans can get their full benefits.

A little bit about Webb’s bill;

The bill is, for all intents and purposes, a non-controversial measure offering veterans who have served three years educational benefits equal to the highest tuition rates of in-state public universities. Updating an antiquated system that was implemented during World War II, Webb’s legislation took more than a year to craft and currently has 57 co-sponsors.

McCain believes that Webb’s bill is too generous to the people that served our nation.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, working with Sen. John McCain, recently introduced competing legislation that modestly increases the monthly education benefits for active-duty and reserve personnel, adds incentives to stay in the army, and allows officers to transfer education benefits to their children. But veterans under their measure would have to serve 12 years before garnering the maximum, $2,000 a month, benefit.

And to think, there was once a time when our nation truly honored it’s veterans. After WWII, our veterans received excellent benefits particularly help with payment for their college tuition. Something happened along the way. The Reagonites and those that followed didn’t want to continue with this so-called “government handout”. Instead, it has become an everyman for themselves attitude. There is no “thank you” for your service. Instead, Veterans’ hospitals are turning away veterans that need care and veterans are having difficulty finding jobs in this slow economy. Yet, John McCain doesn’t want to increase Veteran benefits. He refuses to get on board with Senator Jim Webb’s Veteran Benefits bill. And then there is the issue with BUSH… he promised to veto this bill because it exceeds his interests.

The Defense Department’s concern with this bill is that it will discourage re-enlistment in the all-volunteer army and right now, Bush’s wars need all the bodies it can get for its multiple deployments.

Defense officials are alarmed by the very real prospect that Congress this year will enact the robust GI Bill education plan designed by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). One Defense official, who declined to be named, described the bill as a “retention killer” for the all-volunteer military.

Webb reintroduced his bill, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act (S. 22), last week with changes that attracted strong bipartisan support, including the endorsement of Sen. John Warner (Va.), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator Jim Webb understands that not all people that want to serve their country by joining the military are interested in making the military a “career”. Many volunteers see military service as a duty and it is this group that S. 22 addresses.

Webb said, that a volunteer military is “only a career system to a certain point.” The current system isn’t properly rewarding those who enter “because of love of country, or family tradition, or the fact that they just want to serve for a while,” he said.

More on S. 22 here.

One might think that John McCain being a veteran and all, would support S. 22. Instead, John McCain will side with his buddy and mentor, George W Bush and will refuse to increase our veterans’ benefits.

John McCain and George W Bush – see the love?

\

Shame on you, Senator McCain.

h/t Huffingtonpost

UPDATE: From VoteVets. This is a disgrace. If this is the “Change” that Republicans will bring, well then, we don’t need their freakin’ change.

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Thank You Uncle Sam But No Thanks

I have to tell you a little about myself. I served twenty years in the Armed Forces in service to my country. I joined the U.S. Navy during the last year of President Reagan’s administration and retired during President George W. Bush’s. During that time, I volunteered for the Gulf War (my orders to the USS Nassau were suspended when my own unit, USS Wasp, received orders to join the war effort. The war ended before my ship was to sail but I did participate in refugee operations), the Kosovo Campaign (where I was decorated with a Navy Marine Corps Achievement medal) and even volunteered for the Iraq War; which I was deployed to in support of twice. For my service in Iraq, I was given a promotion, a Navy Commendation Medal, and both the Global War on Terrorism Service and Expeditionary Medals.

I was a very dedicated sailor during my time. I gave 110% towards everything I was involved in even when I did not agree with the mission I was assigned to. I did this because I felt it was my duty to do so. I believed that this is what was expected of me when I rose my hand and said, “I do solemny swear …”

I have never been a fan of sick call. I thought that sick call was for the walking wounded, those who spent their weekends getting drunk only to face hangovers on Monday morning. If I got a sniffle, I took some Tylenol. A headache; some aspirin. An ache or pain; I sucked it up. Suffer from depression? I saw a counselor at Family Services on my own time. Again, this is what I thought I was supposed to do. As time wore on my service time began to take a toll on my body. My knees ached from walking upon steel decks and climbing ladders. I developed sleep apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) which, at times, can be so painful that walking becomes difficult. During the last two years of my service, I couldn’t postpone it anymore … I took a trip to sick call.

I was placed on Requip for my RLS and after several sleep exams, given a C-Pap to deal with my apnea.

I expected that the U.S. government, who I had supported so loyally, would take care of me when I retired (oh, by the way, thank you for the plaque which has my name misspelled on it.)

I was wrong.

I received a letter in the mail just the other day from the Veterans Administration. In the letter, I was told, in a overly worded 3 page document, that I had been denied my medical benefits upon review of my medical record. I was denied my benefits, not because they (my ailments) do not exist, but because my medical record wasn’t documented enough. In a nutshell, I didn’t complain loudly enough while I was on active duty.

So much for trying to live up to an image.

Since I left the service I have found employment hard to near impossible to come by. With all the talk about PTSD, it seems that no one wants to hire a veteran because they (HROs) fear that if we ‘snap’ while working for them, they might have to pay for our medical bills. I have a meager retirement that is divided between paying my bills and an alimoney check. I’m left with less than 50 bucks in my bank account after all of this. That’s not enough to pay for health insurance.

So, after serving my country for twenty years I have a box full of medals, citations and awards and that is about it.

I don’t even hear from the ‘guys’ I worked with anymore. They don’t want to hear from me.

I have the thanks of a grateful nation who is so ungrateful that they won’t even give me a job and they consider me a liability.

They were happy to send me to war but won’t even look me in the eye during an interview to say “I’m not going to hire you”. They save that for the form letters and messages left on answering machines or no message at all.

I’m now nothing more than a ghost; a mere shadow of what I was which I am not even sure exactly what that was.

I feel a bit betrayed by all of this and, for all my loyalty, I don’t understand this betrayal. I had your back, why didn’t you have mine?

I was a puppet; a marionette, taught to dance the dance my puppeteers made for me.

So, with no further ado, please allow this former Gulf War, Kosovo and Iraq War Veteran to tell the VA and my dear, dear Uncle Sam, Thank you for all that you have, and have not done for me, but also, No thank you.

If I had my dithers, I’d disown my uncle right here and now.

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