An associate of mine recently asked me to distribute a survey for him about Veterans. Having served in the military and believing that joining the armed forces is a way that some people express their love of country, I agreed to do it, even though i myself have been a pacifist and strongly anti-military since leaving the Navy in 1981. However, i did not realize how strong these feelings were until i decided to take the survey myself. And at the risk of further PO-ing even more gun-toters in Kingman. I want to share my answers with you.
First full disclosure: Like so many other people, i joined the military in a time when i was young and in crisis: in spring of 1981 my apartment burned down while i was listlessly failing my way out of college. You know the story, that "small town kid now homeless in bigger city, lost everything he has" kind of thing, including my glasses. Who do you turn to? You can get friends to feed you and house you, even give you clothes. But when you look to glasses, that generally requires self sufficiency or family support. So i went to my Uncle Sam.
I actually walked into my local armed forces recruitment station barefoot. Lost those too. First they laughed, then they had me take an ASVAB and then they offered me advanced placement in the Navy as a boiler tech. Idiot, that i was, i took it. I had done well in boot camp--2 letters of commendation--and then, a couple of months into service school when facing some emotional trouble conveyed through letters and phone calls with my later-to-be wife back home, i was sent to a counselor who sent me on a weekend retreat.
The program was called CREDO. I don't know what they had in mind. What we got was a series of intense marathon group therapy sessions that climaxed in a "Come to Jesus" sort of thing. The counseler was a PTSD ridden Vietnam vet hero chaplain, Ray Stubbe (he later wrote a book his time in Vietnam). I don't know what his intentions were either, but over the course of the weekend, without actually suggesting in anyway he himself felt that way, he convinced that the whole enterprise of the military was a sham and an abomination of ideals i held important and i was signing on to destroy my soul for worthless propaganda for war profiteers and make misery around the world in a lie of freedom. Not that he discussed the military in this fashion. LCDR Ray Stubbe, was indeed a decorated Viet vet and among other things is the founder of the Khe Sahn Veterans Inc., whom you can find online. He is, after almost 30 years, still a hero to me.
And so when i found he was still alive, i stopped and posted this letter his website to apologize before continuing this column:
"Ray Stubbe was my chaplain in 1981 at GLNTC and a counselor at a CREDO retreat i took while stationed there. While at the retreat, through no intention of his own, though after extensive counseling with LCDR Stubbe, i decided i opposed the military and became a pacifist, leading to my subsequent honorable discharge in Aug. 1981, and a lifetime spent promoting peace and social justice causes. I am now a school teacher and author/artist. I am also still an activist, the liberal kind, have a blog and publish my political writing elsewhere as well. I am writing about my personal choice of pacifism in my liberal political commentary column in the Kingman Daily Miner in Kingman, AZ, a seriously rightwing city. I will be mentioning Ray Stubbe, whom i hold in great esteem, though my anti-war, anti-military sentiment has only increased through the years. I am writing to thank Chaplain Stubbe for the choice he helped me make, let him know about the article, and note that i still cherish the fatigue jacket he once gave me and to this day display it to guests. Thanks again, sir. "
All that said and done, here my answers to the survey. What are yours?
How have veterans helped to make sure that you continue to have American rights and freedoms?
Excepting the military in WWII, the American military has not helped protect or ensure my American rights or freedoms. In fact, they've endangered and degraded them through the violence promoting attitudes they insist pervade our country and the horrendous violence my country has wreaked on mankind. Over the course of American history, there have only been an extremely limited number of engagements where the US armed forces were instructed to work towards a purpose related to protecting or securing the rights or the soil of America. Other than that, the US military has been used as the brute force behind American business interests--terrorizing the rest of the planet while impoverishing Americans. Aside from WWII, name me another war, including the decidedly uncivil one, that wasn't about inflicting our government's will upon another people at a cost of extreme misery and devastation and valuing plutocrats' interests over the lives of the public.
And here is the sad, sad part: Though in our past, Vietnam for example, citizens were once enslaved to do the killing the politicians call for, the draft ended in 1975. Everyone since then who have chosen the military have chosen to be wanton killers, or felt willing to be part of an apparatus whose ultimate purpose is violence and oppression. Everyone, including the stupid homeless kids like me, knows that beyond the rhetoric about pride, nationalism, liberty and freedom, potential murder is part of the package you agree to perform.
I am, today, so ashamed of what i was willing to do back then.
I am also scared because i was not alone. Because to this day that means we have a couple of million folks in this country and abroad who actually support the idea that the murder and destruction of strangers and their strange lands is just another day at work. Further we have extra millions of parasite-type vampires walking our streets who work in industries that profit from this calculated carnage. And then there's the tens of millions who think the whole thing is a jolly fine venture and we should wave flags about it ... as long as somebody else dodges the bullets and slits the throats and has to sleep in the mud to do it and as long as they don't have to watch too much of it on TV.
But the saddest and often the most pathetic is what happens to the veterans, who like myself once allowed professional hucksters to con them into deluding themselves that patriotism erases the stains of murder. See war kills all comers, both those who die and those who survive to have to remember it, to spend the rest of their lives marching its step.
While there are former military who renounce their bloody deeds and their willingness to support such values, the people who proclaim their parts in the American infernal enterprise and then expect we should celebrate them as "veterans" are not doing my country any good at all, including those who expect that their former masochism and sadism should earn them our adulation.
What do you think our country would be like if we didn't have people who served in the military?
We would have fewer wife-beaters, fewer alcoholics, and fewer homeless guys; but most important we'd have fewer red-white-&-blue fashion faux pas on the 4th. No wonder veterans wives' outfits get so outrageous. They have to get gaudy to drown out doubts. And we have to be ridiculously hyperbolic in our patriotism to hide our crimes from ourselves. But as the late great Howard Zinn once wrote, "No flag is big enough to hide the killing of innocent people."
A country where men did not abandon their families to go destroy the families of others? We would have fewer traumatized families trying to figure out how to adjust to the man who came home who wasn't the guy that went away. We would have fewer prosthetic limbs. We would have a government that did not act like it had the force to bully its way around the world because there would be fewer bullies around to back it up.
Again to give all credit due to the repenters, but with fewer veterans we would have fewer arrogant people acting like violence is an acceptable answer, and fewer insisting that they fought for your freedom, but if you hadn't joined the oppression apparatus yourself then your opinion doesn't matter next to a person who went and killed someone somewhere. Or as often happens with former military and even for numerous combat vets, if a person once supported the military and had developed a conscious then they too have no right to an opinion next to someone who went somewhere and killed someone and still insists on being proud of it.
End Part One