Monday, May 25, 2009

The hypocrisy of Memorial Day

I watched part of a concert in DC for Memorial Day, with wonderful performers and speeches... but despite the beautiful speeches and the talent, and the sharing of stories, the facts about the reality of veterans, then and now, are horrible. A survey prior to 2000 showed that 23% of the homeless population were veterans, and 33% of the male homeless population were veterans. The government of course had a 'challenge' survey, but this was a government that called torture, or the release of prisoners to third parties (foreign parties) 'rendition,' even to eventual assassination, and used the term collateral damage when speaking of civilian 'unintended' death. Similar to the 'unintended' effects of the Israeli AF dropping a one ton bomb on the house of a Hamas leader and claiming that the deaths of surrounding neighbors and all the residents of the leader's house, including small children, were 'unintended.'

Perhaps the difference between this concert and previous ones is the focusing on seriously and hideously deformed soldiers with their families... The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans mentions the causes for veteran homelessness:

"Homelessness is caused by a number of factors, but generally it can be attributed to health issues, economic issues and lack of affordable housing – or any combination of these.

* In addition to the complex problems associated with all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income, and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment.
* Adding to the difficulties of veterans in crisis is the misconception that the VA takes care of all veterans in need. According to the VA CHALENG Report, in the years since it "began responding to the special needs of homeless veterans, its homeless treatment and assistance network has developed into the nation’s largest provider of homeless services, serving more than 100,000 veterans annually." With up to 400,000 veterans experiencing homelessness at some time during the year, VA programs reach about 25% of those in need ... leaving 300,000 veterans in need of assistance from community service providers.
* While "most homeless people are single, unaffiliated men … most housing money in existing federal homelessness programs is devoted to helping homeless families or homeless women with dependant children," according to "Is Homelessness a Housing Problem?" in Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives published by the Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997."

On Link TV tonight there was a documentary called An Act of Conscience, filmed in 1997 by Robbie Leppzer about the war tax resistance of Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner in Massachusetts. It is a moving film, about a couple, and community, willing to make that last sacrifice for their convictions against war... I am a war resister myself, but this couple paid a heavy price... the IRS have Kehler arrested and the couple have their home confiscated for refusing to pay a 'war tax.'

It is interesting that so much of the history of the US has to do with taxes... 'taxation without representation' was the clarion call of the Revolutionary War, and the Boston Tea Party was also over 'taxed' tea and the Tea Tax Act. Thoreau in 1846 refused to pay the poll tax, and was jailed... and his most famous essay, read and inspiring so many, was his personal response to his imprisonment for breaking this law. He refused to pay the taxes because the taxes were used to support slavery, in the same way that our taxes today and for the past century support all our wars and 'police actions' of aggression against people everywhere.

In the meantime, An Act of Conscience moved me... not only the initial struggle, but the long community protest, which took years, and in which people decided to be refuse to leave their vigil, after the local court signed an injunction. They said, by their actions, what Thoreau had earlier said:

"Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right."

Gandhi was inspired by Thoreau, and wrote about his rebellion of conscience when he was himself jailed; Martin Luther King read both Thoreau and Gandhi, and helped to bring about the current times...

Yet today we have ongoing hypocrisy... We have the Hope President reversing and contradicting himself... no more pictures, no more revelations, and who knows what will happen with Guantánamo.

I remember a poster from the sixties, when we were protesting Vietnam... What if they gave a war, and no one came?

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