Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Statement

I love the outdoors and cookouts but there's a meaning to today's holiday and I intend to challenge it. This Memorial day I am not hanging up a flag, or a yellow ribbon, and I am not running around talking about how we need to support the military. Quite the opposite- the military budget dwarfs all others. We support the military by refusing to support children struggling with failing schools, or hard working Americans who can't afford privatized health care. America outsources every job it can and busts the unions at the ones it can't and has been lowering most Americans' standards of living for decades. Instead of decent jobs it gives us prisons or enlistment bonuses to repress people somewhere else.

I don't support this America at all.

I agree that it sucks to be in Iraq and soldiers over there totally get shafted with multiple deployments and having their PTSD classified as a "pre-existing condition" by pentagon doctors when they get back home... I want to recognize and support those people in some way...

But I completely disagree that our military is "defending our freedom". Our military is every day knocking down doors and kidnapping and interrogating and attempting to destroy any sentiment in Iraq or Palestine of Afghanistan that supports those countries being free, i.e., sovereign and unoccupied. The war was completely based on lies and was completely unnecessary and is a humanitarian disaster. Iraq is the biggest refugee crisis in the world. And for all the families from that country who can barely survive on the streets; the US has slammed its doors shut tight and is letting almost zero refugees in... countries in Europe who denounced the drive to war from the start have absorbed most of this burden without a bit of thanks or humility from the US.

I love living in Colorado but I'm not proud every time I see a homeless Native American with a sign and I think about how the US military kicked them out of their homes and shot them if they resisted before condemning them to barren reservations of poverty and despair. I'm not proud of our military killing 2 million southeast asians from 1945-1975 in order to manipulate the political future of a tiny, strategically insignificant nation.

Some of the people I miss the most in DC moved there with their families in the 1980s to flee a brutal dictatorship in El Salvador which Ronald Reagan was giving millions of dollars, military equipment, and intelligence to prop up. I'm certainly not proud of that, and I'm also not proud of the many similar interventions in central and south America we have conducted for two centuries.

One of the things I miss the least about DC is working in Georgetown. I'd be waiting tables making really good money... but some of the people who came in really challenged my sense of dignity to have to work for. One example is that on at least three occasions I can remember, a contingent of American military officers and Saudi Arabian military officers, with a politician or two sprinkled in, would come into our fancy restaurant and spend lots of money on nice wine and endangered Chilean sea bass. We're told everyday by pentagon spokesmen that the reason we are spending a billion a day in Iraq is to support "freedom" and "democracy"... But who are our allies in this endevour? The Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian hereditary monarchies! These are Islamist dictatorships where women can't drive cars, and democracy is tortured out of anyone who speaks out against the status quo. Great company we keep... I'm sure the leaders of our country and these can find a lot to agree on in their vision for a new Iraq.

I'm not proud of how the military is used at all. I'm also not proud of the fact that our economy sucks, the dollar is week, it costs $4 a gallon to fill up a tank of gas while minimum wage is only increasing to $7 by 2009. I'm not proud of the fact that in Oregon last November a 70 year old couple committed suicide along with their three dogs by running the cars in the garage because they were being kicked out of their home after they had gone bankrupt for the third time.

I'm not proud of the fact that the American military is one of the biggest sources of pollution in the entire world, and I'm also not proud of the fact that people are literally starving in third world countries right now because free trade agreements have driven local farmers out of work and replaced them by American agricultural imports whose prices for things like corn have drastically risen so that corn can be bought and made into ethanol in order to comfort Americans with a false sense of environmentalism.

I'm not proud of the role of military recruiters who turn our youth into mercenaries signing up to kill and die for something they don't believe in in order to get $20,000 signing bonuses, and not because of any sense of "patriotism", or because "we the people" actually believe the war is good or necessary or worth getting behind. I think for us to wave flags and celebrate this killing machine is completely absurd.

Our military is in the wrong. The myth that our country stands up for freedom is no longer believed by most of the world. We have a responsibility to confront and reign in the sickening spread of militarism and national chauvinism which like a cancer has been chewing away at every decent value left in America since 2001. Waving flags doesn't help this... Unthinkingly saying we need to "support the troops" doesn't help this either... it doesn't help them, marching off to historically high suicide rates, alcoholism, and PTSD (not to mention death), and it doesn't help anyone in the middle east, to who in every nation from Afghanistan to Palestine we're seen as the oppressor.

The soldiers I support are the ones with the courage to actually confront the war and break with the convenient conformity of unquestioningly marching off to it. The soldiers I support believe democracy lies in the every day actions of people making their own decisions, and not letting FOX news make up their minds for them. Those I support are today realizing that what they think is more important than what some president with the lowest approval ratings in history and a teetering cabinet of liars, torturers, and resignations thinks- or what any gaggle of fancy educated, big lettered yes-men from DC colleges living out their power fantasies by pushing pens in a think tank behind a safe desk in the beltway thinks.

The military stands above and lords over the people... it is not a lever of democracy. It does not defend freedom. It is not the "ally" of anyone who dreams of freedom in their heart, who detests oppression and ignorance, and who believes in humanity and truth. That flag doesn't represent me, and that military doesn't represent me. And I as a citizen of an increasingly authoritarian government masquerading as a "democracy" feel it is completely appropriate for me to make my thoughts known today.



  1. The carbon-monoxide Auschwitz that is "Rolling Thunder" is all I need for reasons not to give a fuck about Memorial Day.
    These crass, bovine ZZ-Top leather-boys with their pigstresses in booty shorts and fishnets, and "BITCH THAT FELL OFF" shirts. Yeah. Harley, Baby. Fuuuuck yeah. That's what I'm talkin 'bout... fuckin' up some Beltway traffic at RUSH HOUR while my ROAD COUCH gyrates its' saddle on my ass. My kinda folks!
    They blaze along, blackening the sky behind them, flags waving off of obscenely long antennae, birds dropping out of the sky DEAD from the mixture of flatulence, B.O. and exhaust wafting in their path. I just wish the gang from Akira would drop out of a helicopter on their rice-burners and sledgehammer them.
    They pull into the greasiest spoon in town, with a whole wing of the walk-in BUILT out of RAPA Scrapple. You bet your ass they better have some mother fuckin' mountains of bacon and the grits best flow like diarhea.
    I worked at one such "Layhill Cafe" out in the suburbs of Montgomery County not far from here in the late nineties. On memorial day, I got there early, and we covered the fucking grill in shingles of frozen scrapple three times over. This was not a big kitchen. It was clean, but it wasn't easy to escape the smoke and the smell. Then we did bacon, sausage, eggs, onward... just basically getting ready for the first round before lunch, which meant ribs n' more.
    I went out to smoke a cigarette, and realized what I needed was fresh air. However, the smell of diesel fumes hit my nostrils like a fist in the solar plexus and that wasn't going to happen out there. Something close to eighty bikes had pulled into the the lot, and most of them, I'm sure were Dentists n' shit from the neighborhood with a hobby. I worked from seven until six, literally. How many of these hairy man-tits really were veterans or not, I don't care, they get their little holiday to be a pain in the ass, along with more benefits than the kids in the current war are likely to see.
    I tend to feel like Memorial Day becomes increasingly less of an acknowlegement of dead soldiers than it is a big auto-show and a day for our unelected officials to salute the flag and say one big 'sorry' to all dead soldiers' mamas.
    If we are to look at our involvement in any war since Korea, the only thing to remember is failure. What does it mean to win a war? How do you substantiate a victory? This isn't a fucking sports event. This is strategic rape.
    It makes it as if anyone who's lost a family member in battle has to deal with two anniversaries of the same death each year. I'm sure such folks feel well-represented by these asexual flesh mountains on two-wheeled floats.

  2. I'm going to agree with you on 99% of what you said. There is one thing I haven't been able to swallow, however. I guess I see the military in general as an entity separate from the troops. Regardless of the bullshit reasons they were given for going to Iraq, regardless of the fact that their presence overseas is in no way protecting "freedom", regardless of the fucked up assignments they're being given- these troops have my support. I would consider bringing them home, paying for a college education to any school of their choice and giving free mental and medical treatment to everyone who's been forced to fight for this pseudo-democracy as the best form of support. I hold the ones in charge responsible for the travesties, not those following orders they often don't agree with. Combat is nothing like real life. Morality is almost non-existent. Kill or be killed. And how any of those troops joined the military because they had so few options that it was really their best shot? Hell, sometimes I think that, if the military actually did all the things it promises prospective troops, these 18 year old kids with no where else to turn, then maybe I would have joined too. It's a sure sign that this country is fucked up when these kids have to decide between homelessness, hopelessness, jail, and failure OR joining the armed forces. Yeah, the military as a whole is full of lies, hypocrisy greed and jingoism. But those actually fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. are not responsible for that. Maybe you weren't saying that they are, I couldn't quite tell the attitude you had about the soldiers themselves as opposed to the establishment. Overall though, you're absolutely fucking right. Patriotism is a sham, and it's being used against the people in this country to take the attention away from the reality of this war (and others). Fly a flag to show that you're a proud American! Fuck that. I'm not proud. And I, like many (yet still too few), refuse to let those in power make me feel guilty about not "supporting" the troops because I'm not blindly following the decree of the "Commander and Chief" and his corrupt lackies. Kudos on this blog. I'll be checking back to read these. And if you don't mind, I'm gonna send this link to a few people.

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  4. One of the things that pisses me off most about this war is the good friends I have who could be called in at any point. I know only one who is already on the field, and a handful who could be pulled out of reserve, sick leave, and even honorable discharge. And for what?
    It is a waste, firstly of good humanity, and next of very precious human resource. How much choice one has to say 'no' as a conscientious objector is debatable.
    The little handful of basic need the armed forces offer people with no future elsewhere gets very enticing when one sees how hard it is to survive with or without a degree. It is no easier, but it's slightly more efficient.
    'Supporting the troops' is a very deceptive and divisive phrase, but I'm not trying to be a disagreeable pain in the ass. Bottom line, I never looked down on any of my friends for joining, but I NEVER 'supported' the notion. I'm not going to preach to my friend about politics they already know and resent, however, I'm not gonna go misty-eyed and pull old glory out of my ass, either. I am up front that they are making a choice I consider regally stupid.
    The first thing I remind any of my friends who are joining to escape minimum-wage slavery, is the fact they'll be doing the same shit once they get out. Granted, there ARE people who advance and better themselves by said means, sure, sure... none of my stoner pals fall under this fucking category. I see the same shit without fail. Join up, fuck up, ORDER UP!
    The next thing I remind them of is the fact that, no matter what I am doing for a living, that I oftentimes would rather be killing people, too. I would much rather have fired a machine gun at some of the immigrants I've had to serve coffee , let me tell YOU.
    But the fact remains, you are still in a service industry, whether you are splattering people's guts or filling them with fried chicken for a living. You can't have capitalism without this balance.
    You will still work for shit-sucking bottom-feeder scum who got to higher positions by mere longevity. You will still be dealing with roaring, spewing, loudmouth assholes. Sure you can kill them, but they can kill you, too. You will still be scrubbing some kind of toilet. Is it any better to dig the fucking latrine?
    The fact is, I don't know. I just know the U.S. military has been brazenly, smugly abused for over fifty years. By politicians, who, like the very ones they criticize, know how to use military families' love of their sons and daughters to grim, pedophiliac advantage. I can't scorn my friends for walking into such an armpit of hell voluntarily, but I'm not gonna be cheering them on for it.