Just in case you've bought into the "post-racial" era of "Yes, We Can," consider the plight of Zachari Klawonn.
Klawonn is an Army Specialist, the son of an American father and
a Moroccan mother. He is 20 years old.
As told by the New York Times, Klawonn was sitting in his barrack room when he heard a THUD. THUD. THUD. Someone was mule-kicking the door of his door, leaving marks that weeks later -- long after Army investigators had come and gone -- would still be visible.
By the time Army Spec. Zachari Klawonn reached the door, the pounding had stopped. All that was left was a note, twice folded and wedged into the doorframe. "F--- YOU RAGHEAD BURN IN HELL" read the words scrawled in black marker.
But Klawonn had been called worse in the military: Sand monkey. Carpet jockey. Raghead. Zachari bin Laden. Nidal Klawonn. But the fact that someone had tracked him down in the dead of night to deliver this specificmessagesent a chill through his body.
Quoting The Times again: Before he enlisted, the recruiters in his home town of Bradenton, Fla., had told him that the Army desperately needed Muslim soldiers like him to help win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yet ever since, he had been filing complaint after complaint with his
commanders. After he was ordered not to fast and pray. After his Koran was torn up. After other soldiers jeered and threw water bottles at him. After his platoon sergeant warned him to hide his faith to avoid getting a "beating" by fellow troops. But nothing changed.
Then came the November shootings at Fort Hood and the arrest of a Muslim soldier he'd never met: Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, who is charged with killing 13 people and injuring more than 30 in a massacre that stunned the nation. And with it, things only got worse.
Staring at the note in his hands that dark February morning, Klawonn trembled with panic and frustration. His faith, he believed, had made him a marked man in the Army. Now the November rampage had only added to his visibility.
Now rewind to 1950. The Korean War was being fought. Like millions of others, I was drafted and - because I has been a musician and a newspaper reporter in civilian life - I was assigned to a Military Police unit - the 800th Military Police Company stationed at First Army Headquarters on Governor's Island in scenic New York harbor. For reasons that remain mysteries to this day, almost everyone drafted into that unit had a college degree.
But first came basic training, which took us to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. During World War II, Kilmer had played a major role in shipping GIs out to fight in Europe and the Pacific - and I and my fellow conscripts lived in terror of finding ourselves on a slow boat to Korea.
There was, however, an item at Kilmer that was even scarier than the idea of shipping out. That item came in the form of our company's drill sergeant, let's call him Sgt. Duffy. Sgt. Duffy was a compact-looking Regular Army soldier, with the distinctive red nose of a guy who drinks too much.
But his nose wasn't the problem; his mouth was.
"OK, listen up you college Jewboys. Kikes can't be good soldiers, but it's my job to try, so I will. We were also "Christ-killers."
And try he did. He subjected us to weeks of scurrilous religious and ethnic hate speech, even including homespun epithets from the South, which none of us Northeasterners had ever heard.
He called us "Ni**er-lovers," though the major civil rights battles had not yet been fought. He insulted our families by describing us simultaneously as "the money changers who own all the banks" and "the communists who will take over the world and take our money away."
He woke us up at 3 in the morning to send us out in the pouring rain carrying a full backpack and our M-1 rifles, to make us run around and around what seemed an endless parade ground track until we collapsed from exhaustion, and many of us did.
To Duffy's credit, sort of, he stayed out in the rain with his running charges until breakfast time, all the while raging at Jewboys, Kollege-Kikes, n-word-Lovers and f***ots.
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