Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Old Thought, a New Thought

...for Veterans day.

I woke up late this morning... the Sun was off from school and the Moon went to his cousin's, so we didn't have to get up right away. Both the Sun and I needed some catchup sleep, so it was good to not have to get up.

But I woke up thinking about Veterans, and war...

Last year I wrote about Grandpa, and how he was instrumental in the integration of the Army. And in my I Hate Black History Month post, I mentioned how Veteran's Day started out as Armistice Day, a day to honor WWI vets. But the "White" ones, since African Americans weren't allowed on the battlefield until Grandpa Truman came along. And if they were, they were in their own segregated units and often poorly trained.

I spoke to my Homegirl on Sunday, the one from Back In The Day, the one who is a veteran of Kosova, and of Baghdad. She lives in Indiana now, and when she called we started talking about our new President-elect. How Indiana's African Americans and Hispanics got out the vote in favor of Senator Obama, and how they rejoiced in the streets when he won.

We were agreeing on how badly this was needed, how it would help raise the bar for young minority men. We were agreeing how neither of us ever expected to see a brown face in the White House in our lifetime. And then she said "For once in my life, I can call myself an American. For once, I feel like I am. My faith in my country has been restored, and I can forgive her for everything... even forgive her for sending me to Baghdad."

I woke up thinking about what she said this morning... how many brown, red and yellow faces soldiers went off to war, carried the flag and fought and died for this country, but never really felt included here at home? Were discriminated against at home, and on the battlefield, and yet still fought proudly, and with honor?

I also thought about how much I dislike war. I hate the "rah rah patriotism" that war brings out in people. I really hate the expression "Freedom isn't free", because to me, it's a "rah rah patriotic" way of justifying war. Freedom IS free. It's people that hold you back. And often, America has gone to war to force ideas on other people... very often ideas we espouse on paper and in the Constitution, but not in actuality. I am not in favor of war... and I am certainly not in favor of America sticking her nose in certain places and not in others, depending on the resources of the country. So we'll send our soldiers to fight and die in Baghdad, but not in Rwanda or the Sudan.

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We went to the dojo today, the Sun and I. On the way home we missed the bus back to the rock by 5 minutes, which meant we had 25 more minutes to wait before the next one came. Fuck that... I'm broke but we were both sore from the workout and it was cold, so I took my last $10 and hopped in a cab. The driver, turned out, was nuts... but actually we should have expected it since I seem to find that most cab drivers in New York are nuts. Or foreigners. One of the two.

In any event, he chatted all the way out here. During the day he drove limos he told us, and often for the government. "Don't trust the government" he said, "I drive for them, don't trust them." He then proceeded to tell both of us how everything about the U.S. was encoded on the money, and if you looked closely or folded money a certain way you could see certain things.

He then took out a $20 bill folded into a paper plane, then unfolded and refolded it into the shape of the Pentagon, folded it again so that the engraved picture on the back looked like the Twin Towers burning (I kid you not) and then demonstrated how the names of airlines hijacked (American and United) could be "folded" into existence. Lastly, he picked out the word "Osama" by folding the bill several more times.

The Sun was impressed and as we came up the stairs he asked me who Osama was, how he was responsible for the attacks on 9/11. When I told him, he said "We should kill him. Was he caught?"
"No, never, though the President said he would get him."
"Where is he?"the Sun asked.
"Probably in Afghanistan" I explained. I then told him that this was one of the reasons I was upset with Bush; he promised, in the days after 9/11, that he would get Osama, and he never did. Instead of going to Afghanistan, we ended up in Iran.

And this is one of the reasons I struggle with the concept of war, because in the modern era we often don't go to war for clearcut reasons. Or rather, reasons that aren't clearcut to the general public.

Yet it occurred to me that in a time of war, particularly for the soldiers actually doing the fighting, we almost have to have clearcut reasons, and if they don't exist we have to manufacture them. Our soldiers really can't be doubting themselves and their reasons for being in some hellhole... isn't that sort of what was happening in Vietnam?

And whether we agree with whatever war we're fighting, we do owe it to our troops to believe in them wholeheartedly, to support them unconditionally. Their survival depends on it. My friend had to believe that the reasons she was in Baghdad were valid; it's what kept her going on those nights she said she slept with a loaded attack rifle, what kept her focused when shells aimed at a her were going off around her.

But in the larger sense we owe it to our soldiers to send them to war responsibly. It must be the last resort. To sacrifice them for vague reasons is tremendously irresponsible. I hope that our new President will keep his promise to use our troops as a last resort.

And on Veterans Day it's good to remember our vets... my Homegirl; a friend's son who may shortly be sent off on another tour, the countless others. The ones still in some far away country, fighting because they believe in our country and what they're doing.

May they come home safe and sound.

2 comments:

RoadGrl said...

thank you for writing that down so eloquently...
I too believe in the concept of a "just" war, but just for the many, not the few.
And I took some time yesterday to think about my friends who serve, my patients' parents who serve, and my family members who served in their time, sometimes at cost of life or way of life.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

yep, folks sure did knock on doors and work them streets


u be safe sister have a great weekend