We don’t fear much anymore, and that scares people in power

Cindy Sheehan flashes a peace sign outside the White House.

Cindy Sheehan lost her son,Casey, four years before I lost my Mike. He was killed in Iraq, in a war fought for power in an oil-rich region, in a country where we hoped we would be able to control the oil.

“I remember sitting out on the front porch the day after he was killed, wondering how the world could just be moving on,” Sheehan says. “People were going to work, the sun came up. … It was awful.”

But Sheehan did get up and move again, and with great determination, to create a world where people’s children don’t die from the foreign adventures of imperialist powers.

She bought land near the ranch of then-president George W. Bush and made sure Camp Casey was visible to anyone going to the ranch — a reminder that public policy has consequences, usually for people who don’t deserve those consequences.

I admired the hell out of her then, as I still do. But now I’ve gotten to know her a bit and I love her. I love her fierce determination to bring about peace, to educate others about the damage caused by wars — even those far away that seem to have little effect on most of us here in the US. I love how she stands up and speaks truth to power — even roundly criticizing Barack Obama again and again for his continued use of drones.

She holds Republicans and Democrats in equal disdain for the policies that perpetuate war and for their support of the war economy that bleeds the nation dry.

But all of us are complicit in these wars, whether we know what’s being perpetrated in our name or not. We’re complicit because we vote for the people who continue our overseas adventures, or we don’t vote at all.

We’re complicit because we should know what’s happening and we don’t, and even when we find out, most of us don’t take action to put a stop to it.

Before the Women’s March on Washington, Sheehan approached organizers to ask that they condemn war and the war economy, since war and the imperialism that feeds it are “the biggest purveyors of violence against women in the world.” The organizers said they would address other issues when all women are free.

“I took that to mean all Democratic white women,” Sheehan says.

Someone suggested she hold a mock women’s march on the Pentagon, and she decided a real march would be more effective. She set the date for Oct. 21 and put it up on social media (it’s on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/184236778838247/), with a Children’s Peace Festival the day before. Immediately, people started jumping on board, eager to help.

Most of the people who have become involved in the march so far are women, Sheehan says.

Sheehan is criticized often for her in-your-face style, but I agree with her and it’s my preferred style as well. Not everyone can stand up after the loss of a child and speak publicly to confront those responsible. It’s a skill some of us are born with, and it helps me fell less alone. I’m grateful Cindy and I have the ability to speak truth to power.

“They want us to go away and grieve quietly,” she says. “But why shouldn’t they have to have our grief thrown in their faces? Why should we be the only ones suffering?

“We’re doing what we do for a reason. We were thrust into it and we’re not afraid. I mean, what are you gonna do, kill my son again?”

Sheehan is not polite about her disdain for war, or about her fury at the way innocent young black men are being murdered by police and then vilified by media as petty criminals, as though the petty crimes they MAY have committed merit the death penalty without even a sham trial.

“They can’t lynch people anymore so they shoot them and claim they feared for their lives,” she says. “We are living in a police state.”

When people argue that she’s being unfair, that police have a dangerous job, Sheehan answers by posting on social media a list of jobs that are more dangerous (a higher number of injuries and deaths) than police work.

“Grounds maintenance. Grounds maintenance is more dangerous,” she says.

Neither Cindy nor I asked to do the work we do. We didn’t, as children, say, “Gee I hope one of my kids dies so I can be an activist fighting bad government policies.”

I would be much happier to have my son still with me. His death radicalized me, as Casey’s death did to Cindy.

Neither of us wanted to be a troublemaker. That’s just how our lives worked out, and neither of us is leaving this fight for the soul of our nation until we succeed or we die.

I plan to stand with Cindy Sheehan on Oct. 20 and 21. I plan to demand we stop wasting our precious children’s lives and spend that money on something useful — like creating jobs to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure or making college free.

It’s time to listen to the women — especially those women who have been harmed the most by our really bad public policy. We’re not going to shut up until you do. And we’re not going to be polite about it, either.





We are not a moral nation. Why does this surprise you?

Image by CNN

All over social media these last couple of days, I see people who are shocked, shocked, I tell you, over the Occupant ending DACA.

“I can’t believe this,” people are posting with all due righteous indignation.

Really? This surprises you?

I do believe what’s happening.

This is a nation built on the blood of enslaved people.

This is the only nation to have used a nuclear bomb.

This is the nation of Jim Crow and strange fruit.

It is the nation that abetted the political famine in 19th Century Ireland and then exploited the people escaping that famine.

This is the nation that refused to stop Stalin in the USSR as he killed millions through purges and political famine (an entire class of people, the Kulaks, were starved when they balked at turning their farmland over to the state).

This is the nation that turned away boatloads of Jews who were trying to escape genocide in Hitler’s Germany. And many Americans wear the symbol of that attempted genocide today while chanting white supremacist themes.

This is the nation that wiped out 90 percent of the people we found living here already when we “discovered” it.

This is the nation that turned a blind eye to genocide in Rwanda in the 1980s, to the genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s …

This is the nation that started a preemptive war with Iraq, the consequences of which will echo through the decades to come — perhaps longer.

This is the nation that refuses to pass laws allowing people to make enough money to support themselves when they work full-time.

This is the nation that allows people to die horrible deaths rather than offer access to lifesaving health care.

This is the nation that forces young people to mortgage their futures to get a college education.

This is the nation that cuts funding for Meals on Wheels, food stamps and free and reduced-price school lunches.

This is the nation that allows corporations to poison the water supply with farming and fracking chemicals in the name of profits.

This is the nation that allows privateers to run prisons for profit and to assess its future “inventory” based on fourth-grade reading scores.

We are not good people. We are a nation of thugs.

You and I may be righteous people, calling out the crimes committed in our names, but this nation, collectively, is not just or moral.

We as a nation committed these crimes and continue to commit crimes.

If our people won’t put a stop to these policies by getting out and voting for something better, we can not call ourselves a righteous people.

A deadly budget

Sorry, GOP, but you can’t call yourself pro-life while letting children go to bed hungry.

If the powers that be in the Republican Party want people to die, then they got it right with this budget.

Cut Meals on Wheels and stop feeding hungry children.

Get rid of the arts, cut funds for medical research, zero-out PBS and slash funds for education.

And while we talk about how Americans have equal opportunities, let’s cut assistance for college students and then we can call them lazy when they can’t go to college and minimum wage is still less than half of what people need to pay their bills.

Oh, and let’s not help poor people in cold climates to heat their homes. So what if they starve? It’s their own fault for living in a cold place. They should move to Florida or Texas or something.

While we’re at it, let’s slash after-school programs so families that are struggling to get by on minimum wage have no safe place for their children while they work. And then when their children get in trouble, we can say their parents are to blame for neglecting them.

Well, maybe they shouldn’t have children if they can’t afford it, right? Then, why are we closing women’s health clinics? That’s the only place many low-income women have to get reliable contraception. But then, these clowns don’t think women should have access to contraception. Or abortion. We are, after all, pro-life, aren’t we?

Oh, and let’s cut programs that offer nutrition to pregnant and nursing mothers. If the kids don’t get good nutrition for brain development, then they won’t need college anyway.

And we can get rid of programs that help people with their rent in emergencies — you know, if the car breaks down or someone gets sick.

And speaking of getting sick, the GOP plan for health non-care is breathtakingly cruel. It seems intended to kill poor people.

But, hey, let’s fund war. Lots and lots of money in this budget for more war, and for a wall we don’t need, since Mexicans aren’t coming here in great numbers anymore.

I have a question for people who call themselves Christian or pro-life: How can you reconcile your support for these lethal policies that target the poor with surgical precision?

Have you read the red print in the Bible? That’s the stuff Jesus says — and in case you’ve forgotten, Jesus Christ is the person Christians are supposed to be following.

I wish the Pope himself would write to Paul Ryan and tell him his policies are deeply, grossly immoral.

I don’t think anyone can make the occupant of the White House a more moral person. I think he believes his only concern should be with the wealthy and powerful. I think he’s just too cruel, willfully ignorant and immoral to change his ways.

But the Republicans are skipping merrily along, allowing him to wreak havoc across the country and around the world.

This is evil on a massive scale. We must resist. We must persist. And we must find a way to enlist Republicans in the cause. This is not about party; this is about morality. This is about fighting the greatest evil the world has seen since Hitler and Stalin. We can’t afford to lose.


The lasting impact of war

My favorite image of the Vietnam War Memorial. It reminds me of my friend, Jerry Donnellan, who served in Vietnam and was awarded three Purple Hearts.

My favorite image of the Vietnam War Memorial. It reminds me of my friend, Jerry Donnellan, who served in Vietnam and was awarded three Purple Hearts.

As a newspaper reporter, I interviewed hundreds, if not thousands of people. Some of the ones who stand out most in my mind were veterans and family members.

Two — one a veteran and one the sister of a man who served — were from World War I, and they were the same age as most survivors of World War II are today.

The woman lives in northwest New Jersey and was the sister of one of the last men to fall in World War I, which, by the way, was supposed to be The War to End All Wars.

The Armistice called for an end to fighting at 11 a.m. on 11/11; her brother was shot and killed less than five minutes before it took effect, and more than 60 years later, she still wept as she recalled reading the telegram. She had felt relief when she heard the news that the war was ending — relief that her brother finally would be safe. Then the telegram came, telling her that her brother had been one of the last to fall, as though that would offer comfort.

The other World War I veteran left the US for Europe filled with excitement at being able to defend freedom, ready to kill Germans. The reality was that Germans shot back, and he watched friend after friend fall in combat. The trenches were so muddy, filthy and disease-ridden that almost as many of his friends succumbed to disease as did to bullets. He, too, wept as he recalled what war had been like.

My generation’s war was Vietnam, and since so much of it was televised, my generation turned against war — at least for a time. My friends and family members came home changed. They arrived alone, not as heroes, but as broken men in too many cases. Many died years later from the effects of Agent Orange and other toxins used in war.

My friend, Jerry Donnellan, who lost a leg in Vietnam, came home and set about living his life, starting a stage production business called Peg Leg Productions. He actually owned a “peg” prosthesis. But one day a falling light caused an explosive noise and Jerry found himself ducked between the third- and fourth-row seats, crying “Incoming!”

He went on to help start the Vietnam Veterans of America chapter in his county and to become veterans’ services coordinator for Rockland County, NY. He tended a watchfire every Memorial Day beside the Hudson River.

The people who actually serve in wars sacrifice more than the time they spend in combat. Even when they come home without physical injury, they suffer emotional trauma.

They deserve our respect, but even more, they deserve the dignity of being able to access health care and mental health care. They deserve decent, safe housing.

Veterans don’t want to hear, “thank you for your service,” with no real effort behind it to actually show appreciation for their sacrifices.

I am anti-war. I believe there are peaceful solutions and that we must have the patience to pursue them. But I live in a society that fights wars, and while I hate that, I do not hate those who have gone to fight.

So today, I thank veterans for their service and I call on our leaders to make certain those people who survive their service get everything they need to come home and live decent lives. Please, no more cuts to benefits and no more talk about turning over veterans’ health care to a private, for-profit entity. Think about what’s best for those men and women you sent to fight, not what’s best to line the pockets of your corporate friends.

It isn’t about hate?

Photo by Evan Vucci/AP People wave Confederate flags outside the hotel that President Barack Obama is staying the night, on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Oklahoma City.  Obama is traveling in Oklahoma to visit El Reno Federal Correctional Institution. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Photo by Evan Vucci/AP
People wave Confederate flags outside the hotel where President Barack Obama is staying Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Obama is in Oklahoma to visit El Reno Federal Correctional Institution. 

When President Obama arrived in Oklahoma City last night, he was greeted by a crowd of people waving the Confederate battle flag and shouting their displeasure.

While it’s true the majority of people there had come to support the President, this group of about 80 people made the whole city look bad.

I support their right to be there, and to heckle the country’s first African-American president with a symbol offensive to most African-Americans. It’s all protected by the First Amendment. However, when you scream hateful things at someone while waving a flag you know to be offensive to him, you lose your credibility when you say the flag is not a symbol of hate.

I know I said awful things about Bush, Cheney & company, and I stand by those things because it was about policy. I was willing to give Bush a chance after the Supreme Court anointed him, but he blew it all on two ill-advised wars, one of them an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11.

President Obama has just finished crafting a deal with Iran that will bring them back into the world economy and allow for inspections of their nuclear program. He did it without “boots on the ground” or bombs in the air.

He did it quietly and without fanfare — and without public saber-rattling.

And he was attacked as soon as the deal was announced.

War is big business, and if we stabilize things in the Middle East, there might be no more war there. That would make the Military Industrial Complex unhappy.

And if, as our president wants, we revamp our “justice” system, big jail corporations lose money.

The right wing rules by fear — fear that Muslims are coming for us in our sleep. When I was a child, it was the Communists who were coming for us in our sleep. That’s why we fought in Vietnam, so we wouldn’t have to fight them here. That’s why we fought in Iraq, so we wouldn’t have to fight them here.

Do you see a pattern? Of course. But Fox News viewers won’t see it because they’re swallowing everything the fear-mongers have to say.

This president, although I disagree with him on some issues, has accomplished a great deal in spite of every effort by the Republicans to derail him.

Hate him all you want, but history likely will judge him as one of our best, and Bush will go down as our worst.


We are not the good guys


We tortured people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It wasn’t just “enhanced interrogation techniques,” according to a newly released CIA report.

We used sleep deprivation and we broke bones. We chained people to the floor and sexually humiliated them.

We kept them standing or in stress positions, yelled at them, stripped them, dragged them across floors and beat them. We kept them in secret sites that no one but the CIA knew about.

We did things that we prosecuted the Japanese for after World War II.

We are not the good guys anymore. We are the scary bad guys.

This is not the United States I was raised to believe in. Of course, much of that was a lie, since we secretly meddled in other countries for decades before 9/11. We created Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

When our creations no longer suit our needs, we use whatever means — legal or illegal — to get rid of them. In this case, we tortured human beings.

What’s worse, the torture yielded no results. Information provided by someone who is being tortured is unreliable at best. People who are being tortured will say anything to make it stop. The most reliable and truthful information came from people who were questioned without harsh techniques.

The CIA lied to the White House, Congress and the Justice Department about its tactics.

Someone needs to go to jail for this. In fact, an entire group of people need to rot in jail for a very long time, including the psychologists the CIA hired to help develop the techniques used.

And even though the CIA lied, I think if Congress were doing its job, someone should have uncovered this mess.

We were living under an administration that said waterboarding was OK and that it yielded good information. Of course the people who wanted to torture would take that as a signal to go another step or two further.

We were “rendering” people with no trial to foreign countries and secret CIA prison sites to be interrogated by monsters of our own creation.

I am incredibly disappointed by President Obama’s reaction, which amounted to, “Oops.”

His carefully chosen words about these methods of interrogation being “inconsistent with our values as a nation” were cowardly and inappropriate. He should have been incensed, but he was disappointed.

This report should make all of us sick to our stomachs, but there already are people rushing to defend the CIA and its tactics.

If things like this are done in our name is it any wonder that we treat our own people with disdain?

If people mean nothing to us as a nation, then torture abroad and the murders of innocent, unarmed people at home become commonplace. Lives become meaningless and thus, disposable.

This is not the kind of society I want to live in. We need to work to change it. All of us.

I have to say, I’m not very proud to be an American today. Shame on us.



Reminds me of 1968

Looking at photos of the demonstrations in Chicago reminds me a little of the Democratic National Convention in 1968. During that steamy summer, Chicago exploded as protesters gathered there to show solidarity against the war in Vietnam.

Once again, we the people are pissed off about our money being spent on wars abroad instead of people in need both here and abroad. Many of us see this as a gathering of warmongers. Veterans marched to return their medals and people  by the tens of thousands supported them.

While news outlets were describing the “hundreds” who came out to protests, we see pictures of tens of thousands filling the streets.

We see photos of unruly crowds, just as we did in 1968, but we also see people who are peaceful, who want nothing more than to express their thoughts in a land that boasts freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

I have been to many demonstrations in my time. I wish I could be in Chicago today.

In 1968, we were told we couldn’t leave Vietnam because the Communists would overrun South Vietnam and then all the neighboring countries and then go on to conquer the world, known as the “Domino Theory.” It was “fight ’em there or fight ’em here.” Today that same argument is being used to keep us in Afghanistan for 11 years and counting. Terrorists will come and kill us in our sleep.

Well, the Commies didn’t show up on our shores, and if we stop meddling with the governments of the Middle East, the terrorists will have no reason to come after us.

War is a very profitable endeavor when it’s not your country that’s being shot up or bombed back to the stone age.

The most important difference between our most recent wars and the war in Vietnam is the lack of information Americans today receive about what’s really happening. Correspondents in Afghanistan have to fight to get any stories on the evening news. Reporters are “embedded” rather than allowed to go in search of the truth.

During the Vietnam war, we saw the horrors every night on the news. We watched as American soldiers torched villages where they suspected Vietcong soldiers were hiding. We saw a man executed by a gunshot to the head, we saw children lit afire with napalm. We saw our own gravely wounded soldiers loaded up into helicopters.

We aren’t allowed to see that now, because if we did, we would demand this slaughter in our name be stopped immediately. This war isn’t as unpopular at home as the Vietnam war was because we’re not seeing the destruction being wrought in our name. That’s how NATO wants it, and that’s why we have to stop it.

Average Americans aren’t being asked to contribute anything to the war effort except our sons and daughters, who may be deployed three, four or five times before they are too broken to be deployed again, unless, of course, they die.

Like Vietnam, it isn’t the wealthy whose children are going to fight. During Vietnam, the wealthy could buy spots for their children in the National Guard after they had run out their college deferments. Back then, the Guard didn’t deploy overseas; we had the draft to fill the ranks of the regular military services. But the draft is so unpopular politically we now recruit poor kids out of high school and promise them a college education when they get back — if they get back.

In Vietnam, the majority of draftees were from the working class. The wealthier you were, the better your chances for avoiding the draft, either through college deferments or medical deferments (I’m thinking of Rush Limbaugh’s anal cysts). It’s no coincidence that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the rest of the chicken hawks never served in the military (well, George’s daddy got him into the National Guard, where we all know his record of not showing up).

Meanwhile, military contractors are lining their pockets with billions of our tax dollars. The rich are getting richer while the rest of us are getting screwed.

Is it any wonder Americans are crowding into the streets of Chicago to protest?




Don’t assume …

This image reminds me of my friend, Jerry Donnellan, who left his war medals at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. I asked whether, in his experience, liberals hate soldiers. As a rule, he said, they do not.

Yesterday, as I was doing my regular Wednesday co-host gig with Blake Butler on Local Edge Radio (880 The Revolution), we had a caller who identified himself as conservative. That doesn’t bother me — I’m happy to talk to people who disagree with me as long as we keep the conversation civil.

“I was born in 1969, so I remember the tail end of the Vietnam thing,” he said. “All you liberals spat on the soldiers when they came home.”

I had news for him: We did not. I was born in 1952 and I had a lot of friends who went to that war. Some didn’t come home; most came home much different people than the ones who left.

I mentioned I’m a Christian and he broke in. “A Christian and  a Democrat? Ain’t no such thing!”

Blake cut him off, but I was deeply offended.

I spent the Vietnam war writing to men I didn’t know and sending care packages so they would know someone back home was thinking about them and praying for their safe return.

When I lived in Rockland County, NY, one of my good friends was Jerry Donnellan, who now heads the Veterans’ Services Agency in the county.

“I ‘m good,” he said when I called him today. “I got me a government job. Of course, it was my first government job that led to the need for this government job.”

Jerry came home with three Purple Hearts and minus a leg. He is one of the funniest people I know, and to hear him tell the story of his second Purple Heart made me laugh till I cried. He was shot by a sniper, but a ration can of pineapple chunks saved his life.

“I thought I was gone,” he says. “I felt my chest and there was a warm, sticky liquid. I couldn’t look. But then I looked at my hand and there wasn’t any blood. That sonofabitch  had ruined my pineapple chunks!”

In the end, Jerry took out the sniper. A few months later, he stepped on a land mine and blew off half his leg.

My friend, Jerry Donnellan, a Vietnam Vet, wasn't spat on when he returned home; in fact, a he counts a whole lot of liberals as his friends. He is receiving an honorary doctorate from Dominican College in Rockland County, NY

So, as the liberal old friend of an old Vietnam soldier, I figured I could ask Jerry whether he knew any liberal people who care about veterans.

“There are plenty of conservatives who wave the flag and don’t do anything more,” Jerry said. “My father used to say you have to watch out for someone waving a flag because he had a stick and could be dangerous.”

Jerry and other vets came back from Vietnam and they founded Vietnam Vets against the War.

“We didn’t join the traditional peace groups because there were people among them who thought we all were war criminals,” he said. “But most of us were drafted.”

Jerry once told me he “still had pieces of my mama’s porch under my fingernails when I got there.”

During the Vietnam War, those with connections (George W. Bush and Dan Quayle among them) got into the National Guard and didn’t have to risk their lives on the front lines; they stayed stateside. Today, however, National Guard men and women serve two, three — up to six — deployments. The soldier who opened fire on Afghan civilians last week was in his fourth deployment. After all that, he likely will face the death penalty.

“Can you imagine how much sooner this thing would have ended if there had been a draft?” Jerry asked. “But you don’t see college campuses erupting because their lives aren’t at risk. Back during Vietnam if you were warm and not pregnant, you got drafted.

“But we came back and we formed Vietnam Veterans against the war. … We were saying, ‘We went, we fought your stupid war and now we’re back to tell you it’s wrong. Stop it.'”

People who go to war come back changed, Jerry said.

“Imagine being taken away from your family and sent anywhere for a year, let alone being sent to war,” he said. “Then imagine it happening four or five times. You come home changed each time. It’s a lot to ask.”

My heart is, and always has been, with the men and women who risk their lives to fight the stupid wars our politicians get us into. They are heroes, and I am deeply offended when someone says I don’t support them.

Don’t assume that because I’m liberal that I hate soldiers and don’t believe in the redemptive power of Jesus.  Don’t make assumptions about me, don’t call me names and I’ll show the same respect toward you.



July 4 isn’t for chest-thumping

I celebrated the Fourth by going to a baseball game, which was followed by fireworks. Seemed like a good, all-American evening, and it included a tribute to veterans, which I found quite moving.

During the seventh inning, the Rev. Scott Rogers to0k to the field to talk about the vets who didn’t come back. He named the people from our area who have died on foreign soil, and introduced a flag-folding ceremony.

I always get emotional at flag-folding ceremonies because I’ve seen far too many of them as a newspaper reporter covering the funerals of fallen soldiers. Every time I see the ceremony, I’m reminded of the mother who insisted her son’s casket remain open, even though his face was replaced by a mask because it had been blown away. She kept reaching into the casket to touch his gloved hand. I’m reminded of the devastated young wife trying to comfort her weeping child who just wants his Daddy. I’m reminded of families and friends whose lives will never again be whole because of their loss. I’m reminded of the lost potential of this life cut short on a battlefield halfway around the world.

I know first-hand what it is to lose a child, but I can’t comprehend losing one in a war. I at least got to say goodbye to my son.

As the flag was being folded, a woman near me started chanting “USA!” She stopped pretty quilckly. I’m hoping it was because someone gave her the reality slap she deserved.

This ceremony was to honor the dead, not to chest-thump as though the whole thing was a sports event. Patriotism is about a lot more than chanting simplistic slogans. It’s not about, “America, right or wrong,” nor is it about allowing our freedoms to be swallowed up by a war on terrorism that does little more than kill innocent people and enrich corporations.

Part of our problem in the world is that we’re arrogant; we’re convinced we’re better than anyone else, and we impose our will whether our way is appropriate or not. Those in power — the very wealthy and huge corporations — love war, and their sons and daughters are rarely the ones who are maimed or killed in these conflicts.

The people who serve in our military believe they are doing what’s right for their country. They are honorable and brave, and they deserve our respect, although many come home wounded and emotionally damaged and we don’t give them what they need. They become homeless, and often become addicted to drugs and or alcohol in an attempt to numb the pain. We slash veterans’ programs and figure they should just buck up and get on with their lives after repeated deployments. But when we see someone in uniform, we thank them for their service as though that’s all we need to do.

This nebulous thing they’re fighting for, “freedom,” isn’t about competition and us being Number One. When we say freedom isn’t free, it shouldn’t be about spending innocent lives on the battlefield, but about participating in Democracy. We need to learn about the issues, understand and see through the crap that’s being thrown at us by the media and our politicians, and take our country back.

Democracy is participatory. If we the people are too lazy to vote intelligently, our country loses its greatness. We are at the threshhold of disaster now. It’s time to stop chanting stupid slogans and work to really understand the issues. That’s the price of freedom, and if we don’t pay that price, we will lose our freedoms.

Black tag of courage or a Liberal learns about war

I was a Paramedic in the Air Force in the early 90’s.  Joining the military was one of the better decisions I have made in my almost 50 years and even at the old age of 27, the training I went through gave me a wealth of discipline I previously did not have. There’s a plethora that I completely disagree with in how our military personal are utilized, but I was lucky to be at their disposal before the right wing, corporate quest for empire began to pick up speed in earnest.  Pretending to assist the wounded and pick up dead soldiers on the battlefield is all fun and games until it really happens.

The Air Force Medical Core / Paramedic training was (at that time) conducted at Shepard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. I love Wichita Falls, but that’s another post. We slept in tents, ate MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) out of plastic pouches plucked out of 55 gal. drums of boiling water, rescued the pilots of a long forgotten war from their rusting C-2 Greyhound and learned about triage. The pic to the left was taken during my time at the Med Red (Medical Readiness) training grounds somewhere near or on Shepard Air force Base.

The one and only time I ever argued with a superior officer was in triage class over the black tag. In the military they call the black tag “expectant” and in the civilian world the term “morgue” is used.  The protocol for the black tag soldier was a simple one… pain meds until dead. How could anyone not do all that could be done to treat all the wounded, no matter how badly they were injured, I asked? To the instructor’s credit he was very kind to me as he explained that war is not about helping the few, it’s about helping the many. Maybe I was not the first bleeding heart liberal he ever had in his class. That was probably lesson one for me on my way to seeing what all soldiers probably know, even the person of peace is sometimes called upon to fight and die for it. A person who hates war must sometimes wage war to stop it. Until humans decide to deal with our differences differently, create a world where despots have no place and stop ignoring that our precious freedoms depend on all of us finding our common ground and contributing what we can to that common good… there will always be bloodshed.

I wrote the following letter to the editor of my conservative, East Tennessee town in early October, 2004. It was my first act of publicly putting my thoughts in front of the Republican faithful. I didn’t get lynched and a couple of people even told me, in confidence of course, that they felt the same way.

The Policy is not the Soldier

A Memorial Day flashback to October 2004

The Republican party would have you believe that their policy is the Soldier. They would prefer that no one make the distinction between their personal agenda and the Soldier that dies in Iraq.  As Mr. Bush’s comments clearly stated: that would simply send the wrong message, “mixed messages” to our brave troops.  How indeed could they follow a leader of questionable intent, morals and leadership?

How indeed? The Republican Party’s story is that this is all about freedom, bringing democracy to the middle east and fighting terrorists wherever they may be.  Those of us who don’t believe that story is entirely true are considered by many as un-patriotic and un-supportive of our sons and daughters fighting and dying in Mr. Bush’s war.

Every person that I meet who cannot allow my right to that opinion has cited the same sentiment, that it disrespected the soldier. No! The Soldier and the policy are not the same thing.

As a Gulf war veteran, I respect those who have chosen to protect our country. I do not respect a commander and chief that would spill their blood for profit, power and a personal vendetta while lying about it.

This president seriously underestimated the consequences of his actions; he will not admit his error in judgement and he hoping that Americans will not be able to separate his failed policy and premature actions from the brave men and women he put in harm’s way.

The spin is relentless in keeping the idea going that one cannot disagree with poor decision-making without disrespecting the troops, and sadly, it seems to be working.  I imagine Mr. Bush and his cronies having a good laugh at just how much the American people are willing to swallow.  And after numbing us out with the unprecedented fear this administration generated in the wake of 9/11, the religious right was waiting to take us all in and show us the error of our ways and their path to salvation.  The path of writing discrimination into the constitution, the path of altering the idea of separation of church and state, the path of intolerance and judgement.

The right to disagree, the right to speak out belong to us all for the moment. Even Mr. Bush and his ilk have the right to express themselves under the same principles, but they do not have the right to legislate for their own purposes and enrichment. It is our duty as informed citizens to keep them in check for the day they overtake us the “other” terrorists will be the least of our worries.  that will be the day none of us are free any longer, not even the right-wing, Republican, Moral majority, Christian Coalition, NRA life member.

Happy Memorial Day and Peace Y’all



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