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The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

What Veterans Day Leaves Out

A Socially Speaking Commentary from Perry Redd

A Socially Speaking Commentary from Perry Redd

The Other Side of the Tracks

Yesterday was yet another Veterans Day.  The many reminders via mainstream American media floated on every conceivable thoroughfare.  Whether television—public or cable—radio, internet or printed media, honoring America’s fighting men and women was the order of the day.  For reasons untold, I just couldn’t feel it.  So now, I’ll tell.

I watched two local news stories played in succession on the morning news; one was geared toward white viewers and the other toward Blacks.  The white story highlighted a man who survived the fire fight on Iwo Jima.  The bravery and the loss of life was placed before the viewer for mental consumption.  The story geared toward the Black audience highlighted the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buffalo soldiers were Black soldiers serving the United States as members of the US 10th Cavalry Regiment of the Army, formed on September 21, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the “Negro Cavalry” by the Native American tribes they fought; the term eventually became synonymous with all of the Black regiments formed in 1866.

What struck me was that the two stories came off dynamically different.  The Black story highlighted life, where the white story highlighted war—or death.  I can’t say this is a usual occurrence, but I witnessed the mayor of DC standing before the Black Civil War Memorial statue in northwest Washington, DC honoring life, not the battles fought, not the natives killed, but the lives of real people caught in system designed for them to fail.

Later that day, I received a short Facebook message: “thank you for your service.”  In my mind’s eye, I received it with gratitude, but what I noticed is that I was not “proud.”  You see, I served during a time when the United States was infiltrating a foreign government in Central America and overthrowing it, effectively destabilizing a democratically elected government.  It is hard for me to proud of an anti-democratic power play such as that.  I was an instrument in that venture. Who can I tell?

I was a very small tool, but a tool nonetheless, used in the overthrowing of the Sandanista government of Nicaragua by what are known as Contra rebels.  In 1983, I helped train teenage boys—some as young as 12-years old—to fight and kill their own countrymen.  The very close relationship between the contras and the United States is now considered overwhelming and incontrovertible. The U.S. played a very large role in financing, training, arming, and advising the contras well into the 1990’s, and the Contras only became capable of carrying out significant military operations as a result of this support.  Many human beings were killed during that time.

Many argue, “That kept us safe?”  For many reasons, that retort disturbs my soul, because in the throes of such an actions, it imperils the lives of those being de-stabilized.  How can one morally justify that act?  Though many Americans know acts like this have taken place—and are taking place—they still opt for the loyalty blanket, which covers them from any ire or criticism.  Those people act like the McCarthy era is still the order of the day.

Just a matter of record: The US government viewed the leftist Sandinistas as undemocratic, just like they did Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.  The US opposed its ties to Cuba and the Soviet Union—just like Venezuela.  Ronald Reagan, who had just become president in January 1981, accused the Sandinistas of importing Cuban-style socialism (like capitalism was the best thing going) and aiding leftist guerrillas in El Salvador. The Reagan administration continued to view the Sandinistas as undemocratic despite the 1984 Nicaraguan elections being generally declared fair by foreign observers (sounds to me a hell of a lot like Palestine).  Patriotism caused many Americans to swallow this kool-aid, and Nicaraguans have paid the price ever since.

I am not a proponent of blind loyalty.  As a matter of record, it sickens me.  I am of the mind that blind loyalty is cowardly in nature.  I imagine it is about fear; fear of exclusion or fear of marginalization.  Whatever the case, giving way to fear doesn’t play well with me.

Service of country is admirable.  I still believe that men should have minds…their own minds.  Some want others to think for them—not so labor intensive.  There are those who will gladly oblige.

Though the war in Afghanistan has officially ended, there are still American soldiers being killed.  116 US troops have been killed just this year; the war ended last year!  That tells me three things: 1) there are still resources to be gotten from Afghan soil, 2) there are significant numbers of Afghns who don’t want Americans there and 3) the United States is still misleading the American public.  It’s hard to be proud of lying, deceit and destruction.

Veterans Day doesn’t hold the universal meaning for me.    You may characterize me as unpatriotic, but I wouldn’t debate you on it.  Flag-waving and jet fly-overs don’t change a single fact.  My country doesn’t honor me with its benefits, employment, nor medals. War is not profitable to those firing the guns or to those on the business side of a rifle.  Only the profiteers of war, purveyors of war and blind loyalists demand loyalty.  It is up to you to walk blindly in it.

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