Greetings and Salutations;
I have been poking around online, and, on the cable channels this weekend, and contemplating the state of the World in general, and America in specific. It is, I am sorry to say, not a very pretty picture I see before me. We are now in at least year 15 of our entanglement in the Middle East. While technology – in the form of the drone program – had cut back on the number of American casualties, the war is still killing and maiming too many people, both innocents and combatants.
I look back to the time, some 77 years or so ago, when the World was caught up in the madness of World War Two. Considering that World War 1 was called “The War to End All Wars”, the fact that over 100 million combatants were caught up in a conflict that split the political allegiances of the countries into two, opposing camps, changed the motto of World War 1 from a fervent wish to a sad irony. Not only did World War 2 leave deep and lasting scars on the citizens of many countries, it was the only time in the history of Mankind that nuclear weapons were used by one country against another. No matter whether one holds the view that this was the best thing to do, or was totally wrong, it did happen and is part of our heritage.
World War 2 also saw one of the most widespread abrogation of the Constitutional Rights of a group of citizens that has happened in the history of the country. As most of us may have heard of by now, thanks to George Takei’s play Allegiance,
tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were rounded up and confined to internment camps for no other reason than they were not White Americans, and looked like the enemy. HERE
is an article that discusses the situation, and includes many, contemporary images. However, the Japanese Americans were not the only group so treated. A large percentage of the German American population in
America was subject to the same treatment. In some cases, though, these citizens were deported to Germany or other countries. At the end of the War these German Americans were also required to sign a non-disclosure promise, where the penalty for talking about ANY of their experiences would be immediate deportation. HERE
is a good article about THAT side of the equation. In spite of these massive attacks on the Constitutional Rights of these citizens, many of them enlisted and fought bravely for America. Thanks to the executive order that allowed the FBI and Military to sweep up anyone they wanted, without an recourse from the Law of the land, these people lost everything that they had worked for their entire lives, preserving only that which they could pack up and take with them. After their release, not only did they have to face the challenges of starting over from scratch, but, they had emotional scars that, in some cases, were never healed.
In 1945, not more than a year after the end of World War 2, the first American soldier was killed in Vietnam. The French had been in Vietnam from before 1939, but had finally come to their senses, and pulled out in the early 1940s. America, thanks to the Cold War concept of the Domino Theory, dove right in, and stayed there for 30 years. The Domino Theory, which for all y’all that slept through history class, said that we had to prop up South Vietnam, because if it fell to North Vietnam (and the Russians), then, Cambodia, Thailand and the various other countries in the area would be taken over by Russia also, and before we knew what would be happening, we would have Russian troops on our doorstep. This proved to be nonsense, and, while the South East Asia was a nightmare for decades, none of the projected outcomes of the Domino Theory or the Cold Warriors came to pass. We lost 50,000+ young men and women in that war, and many times that number were left with physical and emotional scars that are still destroying their lives today. For a variety of reasons, American soldiers engaged in some of the worst destruction of human rights that we had ever done. There were soldiers who wiped out villages of men, women and children, simply because they looked Vietnamese, not because they had attacked the soldiers. To add to the complications of the time, America was going through some serious, political uproar and changes in Society during this time. The 50s brought us the rebellion in music, personified by Elvis Priestley and others. The 60s brought us the general rebellion against the traditions of society with the Hippie movement. The sad thing was that too many of us did not understand that there was a difference between the Government, and the Soldiers, so, often, when the boys would return from the Hell of South East Asia, they would be spat at, and called “Baby Killers”. This “welcome” and the fact that therapy remains today to be nearly impossible to get are some of the factors that that cause there to be far too many Vietnam Veterans living on the street, as well as killing themselves.
Our excursion into the Middle East has, alas, not been the success that America’s leaders thought it would be. Our actions there have caused the death and maiming of millions of citizens of the countries involved. Our casualty list is short, in that we have had under 8,000 fatalities, and a total of around 57,500 killed and maimed. Technology has made a huge difference for us. America went into Iraq based on a lie – the existence of an active Weapons of Mass Destruction program – and after overthrowing the government, stayed there as an occupying force for years. Much the same issue happened with Afghanistan, except this excuse was to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden
, who was allegedly using the country as a refuge. Again, American troops went in, generally destroyed the government and the infrastructure of the country and stayed for nearly a decade. The result of this has been a region thrown into chaos, with several groups contending for power, many, many civilians being killed. The worst thing about this madness is that it has fueled a high-end terrorist group called Daesh, who is trying to unify the area into a totalitarian state, using fear and murder as their main tools. This group also is reaching out and encouraging bombings and shootings in various countries around the world.
Now…that all having been said, you may be wondering why I am wallowing in this ugly history of America. The answer is fairly simple:
This is one section of Arlington Cemetery, the final resting place of too many brave Americans, of all races and religions, who, when their Country called them, answered that call and gave all on the battle field, fighting to protect the rights we are granted by the Constitution. If you have never visited Arlington, or, one of the many other Veteran’s cemeteries spotted around the country, I urge you to do so. Go there. Walk among the tombstones, and contemplate the sacrifice of these brave men and women.
Then, look at the society you live in now. Look at the growth of hate for folks that do not look like you. Look at the reports, on a daily basis, of police who kill an unarmed citizen who is not resisting them, and, in many cases is already restrained. Look at the next homeless person you pass on the street. There is an excellent chance that he is a veteran
Now, take a moment to look at the Race for President this year. The Republicans have presented a candidate who is a chicken-hawk, who has expressed a willingness to use nuclear weapons, and to torture prisoners of war in order to extract information from them, and, claims to have raised millions of dollars for Veteran’s groups, yet has only distributed a fraction of that. . His total experience with the military? He went to a military academy, and spent considerable time and money getting out of the draft to avoid serving. Add to this the Republican controlled Congress who claims (as does the candidate) to be a great supporter of Veterans, yet, time and time again has refused to pass appropriations and laws that would actually make it better for those Veterans.
Look at the way this same Congress has tried to obstruct President Obama’s programs, and, in spite of that, he has managed to get a number of major items through, helping Americans, and improving America’s financial state.
Look at the way the Right-Wingers who support the Republican Party seem to have forgotten the concept of truth. Day after day, I see claims made that are patently false, and have no basis in truth. Yet, the Right-Wingers NEVER call out these liars and demand they prove their claims. Rather, they accept these untruths and run with them.
As I contemplate the sacrifice that so many of our brave warriors have given over the decades, I weep when I see the way we, as a society are spitting on their bravery and sacrifice. Let us, on this Memorial Day, make (and keep) a promise to them that we will work to return to an ethical path that is controlled by the Constitution, as it should be. That we will put aside name-calling, emotion based argument, and clinging to lies because they feed our prejudices and our agenda,. I believe it is only this way that we can really honor the memory of these men and women and what they gave for each of us.
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