The War

Oct. 5th, 2007 12:53 pm
lurkitty: (Pogo)
[personal profile] lurkitty
Like many on my flist, I watched Ken Burns' series, The War. I grew up with stories from my parents about WWII. On my blood father's side, I had an uncle my mom never met who was killed at Pearl Harbor, but not in the attack. He died in a motorcycle accident. My blood father never saw combat, but had served as an airplane mechanic in Hawaii.

I can remember playing with ration tokens in my mother' s button box, and making cake with vinegar, baking soda and apple sauce instead of eggs and oil like they did during the war.

My Dad (my stepdad) served in the Merchant Marines. During every war since 1775, the Merchant Marines, normally a commercial fleet, have been pressed into service ferrying troops and materiel for US forces. The seamen who served during the war were given veteran status by the government recognizing their contribution to the war effort. But not my Dad. He was black, one of 24,000 African Americans who served in the Merchant Marines in all capacities except command. Black sailors were not recognized for their service nor were they declared veterans until 1988. Ken Burns did not address the Merchant Marines.

Notwithstanding, I did find that that Burns documentary was well done. It is far more an anthropology piece than a military history. There are certainly better military histories, but this was a very good depiction of the effect of the war on peoples' lives. The striking thing was the impact of the experience on the people at home. They were called upon from the very first to contribute, to cut back, to save and to ration. The war cut deeply into their everyday lives. They were asked to buy war bonds; to invest in the US knowing that when the boys returned, we would prosper again. Everyone had a part to play. Not only was it considered unpatriotic to speak out against the war, it was unpatriotic to profit from the war. People trusted that everyone was making the same sacrifices across the board. They were in it together.

We are continually exhorted to "fight the war on terror", yet, far from being called upon to contribute, we have been informed from the very start that we are all suspects; subject to detention without trial. We are searched at airports, surveilled, caught on film, our phones tapped without warrant. No one is above suspicion. We find that while our soldiers live in barracks and tent cities, they are paid half that of mercenary "private contractor" forces living in posh hotels. Mercenaries who were recruited from the armies of former dictators like Milosevic and Pinochet are making a profit from the billions of dollars that we owe China. Companies like Halliburton cannot account for millions of dollars they were allocated. Iraqi insurgents are killing our soldiers with guns we supplied them.

Yet when we question these expenses and actions, we are called unpatriotic. When our soldiers, exhausted and wounded from tour after tour after tour, begin to question the logic of staying in a country that does not want our help, their patriotism is questioned by people who have never served a single tour of duty themselves.

We, as a country, have been sold a bill of goods. We have been asked to pay with the blood of our best and mortgage our future and the future of our children to line to pockets of a few conniving scoundrels in the name of false patriotism. I challenge them to watch "The War" and learn what patriotism really is, then repeal the obscene "USA PATRIOT Act", restore our Constitution and begin an orderly withdrawal from the quagmire. Our forefathers are rolling in their graves.


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