Sunday, August 29, 2010

I Might Not Be a Patriot If . . .

Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if. . ." lines were funny. Sadly, these aren't:

I might not be a patriot if I think the Constitution is the greatest work in political history, but don't read it.

I might not be a patriot if I think that every time a president declares war I should salute the flag and send in my sons and daughters without question. (Hint: The Constitution doesn't authorize presidents to declare war.)

I might not be a patriot if I think my church should be the official American church.

I might not be a patriot if I think a person can't be a patriot and a Muslim, too.

I might not be a patriot if I think I owe my loyalty only to elected leaders from my chosen political party.

I might not be a patriot if I think that anyone who protests an American president's actions is unpatriotic.

I might not be a patriot if I think that my needs outweigh those of any other citizen of the world.

I might not be a patriot if I think anyone of any race other than mine is automatically inferior to me.

I might not be a patriot if I won't listen to or can't tolerate others' opinions.

I might not be a patriot if I'd rather accept a corrupt status quo than agitate for change.

I might not be a patriot if I am willing to support uncontrolled growth of ruthless corporate power instead of supporting regulation of that power. (Hint: Corporations aren't people.)

I might not be a patriot if I think that corporate well-being outweighs the well-being of the people.

I might not be a patriot if I support my government right or wrong.

I might not be a patriot if I think that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians are justified as long as it keeps the U.S. at the top of the food (or oil) chain.

I might not be a patriot if I think that Karl Rove's tactics represent the pinnacle of American political thought.

I might not be a patriot if I think that no one has the right to reject my opinions.

I might not be a patriot if I think that ridiculing or belittling those with whom I disagree is a valid method of rejecting their views.

I might not be a patriot if I think that the country should be run by only one political party.

I might not be a patriot if watching news shows that support my views is more important to me than analytical, investigative reporting.

I might not be a patriot if I think that my freedom can be secured at the expense of anyone else's.

I might not be a patriot if I think we have no need for a strong national defense.

I might not be a patriot if I'm willing to sacrifice any of my freedom in exchange for security or safety.


Sunday, August 15, 2010


As a veteran I have been troubled by our nation’s treatment of its military since the beginning of the Iraq war. The continuous rotation of soldiers and marines into combat zones with little or no rest is horrendous and has led to an extremely high incidence of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Anyone forced to endure multiple rotations into combat situations is likely to emerge with some level of PTSD.
One of the most blatant contradictions within the Bush administration was the difference between the flag-waving rhetoric and the treatment of veterans. We saw it in the ugliness of mistreatment at Walter Reed and in the practice of prescribing psychotropic medications for PTSD suffering men and women so that they could be sent back into combat situations.
Department of Veteran Affairs regulations in place during that era made it increasingly harder for our veterans to obtain help in dealing with their PTSD, but the Obama administration has changed regulations to enable treatment.
In the past, veterans had to prove that they served in a specific situation which produced symptoms of PTSD. The paperwork was often arduous and the reaction of those charged with evaluating applicants was frequently demeaning and discouraging. All this kept a great many suffering veterans from seeking or obtaining help.
New regulations will not only eliminate the need to link the presence of symptoms to a documentable incident and the people present, but will also recognize that even those in support roles can be susceptible to the disorder.
The upshot is that one of the many problems faced by our veterans is being addressed. We should all be watching to see whether the changes have a real effect and also whether or not other problems are seriously addressed.
Will this administration stop sending people into multiple combat and other high-stress rotations? Will they end the military slavery created by extending service terms beyond the time agreed to at recruitment? Will veterans be able to obtain services throughout the VA system without humiliation or subjection to services below accepted standards of care? And, ultimately, will this administration that so proudly touts transparency achieve ultimate visibility by re-instating the draft?
The American public remains ignorant and powerless in relation to military policy by virtue of the distance created by a totally volunteer military. A volunteer army removes widespread objection to inappropriate warfare and attracts not only the highly motivated patriot, but those who cannot imagine anything they would rather do than fight and kill.
A draft forces all citizens to evaluate the quality of the war they or their sons and daughters are forced to fight and so requires constant public analysis that could squelch false wars like the one in Iraq.
Yes, we need a military defense, but we also need to use our military correctly and wisely and to honor their service by providing quality care for them.
Score one for the Obama administration, but demand more.

Fat Chance

I recently spent some time with my brother and nephew fishing and, like most fishermen, discussing the ways of the world. We spoke of the way America’s thought was twisted into acceptance of a war against a nation that had nothing to do with 9-11. We spoke of the enormous price we have exacted from the people of Iraq – at least 200,000 Iraqis dead and 2 to 3 million displaced in retribution for the 3,000 Americans who died that day. We spoke of the continuing civilian deaths in Pakistan and Afghanistan where we have yet to extract retribution from those who did perpetrate 9-11. To say nothing of the financial, spiritual and mortal price the American people and military are still paying.
My nephew observed that if we were truly a Christian nation we could not wage war at all, much less inflict such damage on other nations in the name of national retribution. “Nor,” my brother said, “could the Muslims.” They’re right.
Fundamentalists might quote an eye for an eye, but that is not Christian. It’s an Old Testament reference belonging to the descendants of Father Abraham long before Christ. Even if it could apply to Christianity, it called for equal retribution, not unbalanced vengeance. Christ himself called for the abolition of the old laws. (Christ's new commands, (John 13:34f), are [1 Love God and [2 love your neighbor.)
Muslim fundamentalists might point to the Koranic saw advocating death to infidels - no more a valid imprecation today than eye for an eye - but they ignore Mohammed’s letter to the orthodox church in Constantinople advocating peace between Muslims and Christians.
The fact is that both warlike references belong to by-gone days, and the truth is that the irrationality of our attack on Iraq in response to 9-11 provided more fuel for fanatics wanting to embrace Jihad than anything we could have done short of bombing Mecca. We would be far better off if we had practiced the restraint the Pennsylvania Amish showed after the killings at their school. Their refusal to seek vengeance was a Christian lesson for us all from which we could grow both politically and spiritually.
Instead we are caught in a mesh of circular reasoning that leaves no one in the right and everyone in great danger. The saddest fact, as my nephew pointed out, is that both sides are disobeying the basic tenets of their own religions.
Mohammed saw the Christ as a great prophet. Jesus, being first, couldn’t speak to Mohammed’s beliefs, but both preached the same message - peace through loving generosity to others – and both suffered the ultimate degradation of their message into twisted reasons for war.
The only hope for mankind in that crazy scenario is for enough people to join King and Gandhi in the belief that each of us must be living examples of the change we want to see in the world. Either religion truly practiced could do that, but will they?
Fat chance.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Tribute to A Great Lady

I wish I’d known Joan Collins all my life, but I first met her when she organized a meeting to oppose war with Iraq. All this retired school teacher really wanted was to enjoy her grandchildren. But, being Joan, she couldn’t truly enjoy them or feel good about their future if our country attacked the people of Iraq in what she believed was an immoral and unnecessary war.
Her heart ached for this county caught up in the lies about WMDs and the false connection of Saddam Hussein to the events of September 11, 2001. Her heart ached equally for the people of Iraq who would simply be “collateral damage.”
Instead of sitting back and enjoying her well-earned leisure, Joan stood up far taller than her 5’1” and acted. She gathered like-minded people around her to make plans to do something – anything - to communicate to the powers that be that war with Iraq would be a tragic mistake. She did her research and thought things through before speaking or acting. She wrote letters to this newspaper. Some ignored the truths in what she said and responded with ugly personal attacks that were like a crown of thorns to this gentle and loving woman. Even though deeply hurt by this, it was not in her to respond in kind. She kept writing, marching, meeting, and talking in the hope that her carefully researched and thought out opinions would at last be heard and acted upon.
She wanted nothing more than to be heard and to generate civil discourse on a subject that deserved the highest level of scrutiny. The acid responses saddened her deeply, but she fought on.
If my wish had come true and Joan were Queen of the World, her way would have been to invite the world’s leaders, nabobs, peaceniks and war mongers to dinner. After the world’s best ham ‘n beans and peach cobbler, she would gently lead the discussion towards resolving conflict. All would be well. It was a lovely fantasy, but it had at its base the notion that people are interested in civilly discussing issues, thinking them through, and compromising. Sadly, as the attacks she suffered attest, that's the real fantasy.
Joan left us July 31, 2010. We have lost a soft but strong voice that spoke for peace, for the disenfranchised, for our children, for you and for me. Joan was a soft-spoken gentlewoman. She was filled with compassion for anyone in need, and her work was not just in the peace movement. She created programs and projects to help local children. She could always find a way.
Many people’s lives have been improved by her gentle example. The world will be a lesser place without Joan. We have lost a reluctant leader who taught us to stand our ground and not lose the hope that our voices will be heard. May we all honor Joan by being slower to speak and quicker to think and by building rather than tearing down.