The moment I emerge above ground from the South Ferry Station in lower Manhattan I must appear lost. I'm not lost just disoriented, which I am from time to time when I arise from the subterranean bowels of the New York City subway system. The man standing at the corner asks, "Need a cab? "No." I reply. "I need 55 Water Street. " The cabbie points, "Two blocks down--on the right." And off I go. I'm embarrassed to say I've never been to the Vietnam War Memorial in New York or Washington, D.C. for that matter.
I've never much felt like paying homage to these lost souls as it brings up too much pain from my own life with a Colonel father who served in three wars. His Swan Song was Vietnam. Our entire family had to deal with the ramifications of the aftermath of that war and we never fully recovered. My father returned from his tour of Vietnam a different man and the country he'd given his total love and undying devotion to and his family had changed. Our living room became the new battleground.
I no longer saw my father as the mighty war hero from WWII or the savior of the Nazi horror but as a cog in the military war machine of death and destruction being perpetrated on innocent people in some land far, far away that we had no business being in. Back then it was called the communist threat. The Domino Theory was how they justified it. "It we don't stop the communist they will take over the world one country at a time."
My father and I were mostly estranged from the time I was 18 until right before his death, which was 23 years later. We reconciled and made our peace shortly before he died and all these years later I've come to know and understand him and now realize we were both fighting for the same things just from a different perspective.
So visiting these war memorials has never held any fascination or deep burning desire for me but after many years of healing I felt it'd be an honor to stand side-by-side with other like-minded peace activists and Vets as well as active duty military who believe, as I do, these wars of aggression are wrong and must end now.
These illegal wars are destroying our country and the men and women who serve it. Tens of thousands of untold innocent people in the Middle East have been murdered and for what? So the war profiteers, who make billions on death and destruction can continue to profit. This is why these wars are not discussed. They are in fact taboo. Whenever I mention "the wars" to even close friends I am, for the most part, met with silence. Like I've brought up a very impolite and distasteful subject that shouldn't be discussed in polite company. Other times I'm met with out and out hostility and the argument becomes about, well, we're not the only bad guys or I'm called angry and unpatriotic for not supporting our troops. Like I'm supposed to wave the flag, wear a yellow ribbon and shout rah, rah like the so-called patriots who follow blindly without knowledge or understanding of what's going on as if being willfully ignorant were a virtue.
What these people and many others like them do not understand is the people who are the most critical of their government and this country are the one's who care and love this country the most.
At the entrance to the memorial I'm greeted by a cheerful woman handing out or I should say trying to hand out pamphlets to passersby, which no one takes except me as she asks, "Are you aware today is the 11th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan?" To which I reply, "Yes, I am and that's where I'm going."
The headline on the flier reads, "Awakening from the nightmare of war. Afghanistan: 11 years too long, Veterans say bring "em home, Keep "em home!"
And the quote at the bottom of the page reads,
"To begin the process of change, to stop the war, to establish justice, it may be necessary to break the law, to commit acts of civil disobedience, as Southern blacks did, as antiwar protestors did." Howard Zinn (historian/political activist)
Civil disobedience? Justice? Not exactly subjects most Americans are interested in. It seems most would rather discuss what over the hill, has been or wanna be star will be humiliating themselves on "Dancing With the Stars" this season.
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