Flags of our fathers …

The recent banning of antiwar veterans from Veterans’ Day events in Long Beach, CA and the arrest of others in Boston raises questions about the role veterans play in our society after they return home. Most never don their military uniforms again but some wear them proudly at events such as Veterans’ Day parades. Both of these options are politically acceptable in this country.

However antiwar vets face a different reaction, particularly from those blowhards who never served their country in uniform and never faced the harsh reality of combat. Chickenhawks is a well-deserved title for these guys.

Vets, no matter how valorous and decorated, who protest war and want their voices heard at public events are attacked and called “phony soliders” and “unpatriotic”.

The recent discussions in Long Beach and Boston over whether Veterans’ day events can exclude some veteran groups because of their political views made me pause and think about what Veterans’ Day is all about. It was originally created at the end of WWI as a Armistice Day to celebrate a long-awaited peace. The focus was on the cessation of bloodshed and violence amidst hope for lasting peace. People literally danced in the streets in cities around the world.

Somehow this celebration of peace has morphed into a celebration of war. It has become a triumph of militarism that has taken a 180-degree turn from its original meaning.

In this context the Clint Eastwood film, “Flags of Our Fathers” can be seen as a dissection of how soldiers are used to “sell” war. For those who did not see the film, here is a brief recap: Soldiers storm the beaches of Iwo Jima in WWII, raise the flag as immortalized in the famous photo and then three are brought home to sell War Bonds.

The “heroes” of Iwo Jima are plucked out of combat and brought stateside to be paraded around from city to city and from one fundraising event to another … and another … and another — an endless stream of events where the soldiers are showcased to promote the war and sell bonds to fund the war. The opinions and wishes of the soldiers are disregarded in the endless quest to sell the war.

In the recent Long Beach fracas, one of the Veterans’ Day parade organizers explains the decision to ban antiwar vets groups from the event:

“They do not fit the spirit of the parade, the spirit being one of gratitude for what the veterans have done,” said Martha Thuente, coordinator for the nonprofit Veterans Day Parade Committee.

Between the lines what Ms. Thuente is really saying is that the parade is designed to make people feel good about war — and veterans who speak out against war don’t fit with this (hidden) agenda. So antiwar vets can’t participate because they interfere with the message that the organizers want to convey. Parade goers won’t go away feeling good about war if they are confronted by antiwar veterans.

Therefore Veteran’s Day parades routinely exclude antiwar vets — and feel good about it.

All this nonsense about the parades being non-political is just a smoke-screen for a glorification of war. And since war is inherently political in nature the exclusion of antiwar vets is a political decision.

If you haven’t already seen it I recommend you see “Flags of Our Fathers” and see for yourself how the troops from Iwo Jima are simply part of a PR campaign for war. And make the connection to the way soldiers are showcased in Veterans’ Day parades today to sell yet another war — or perhaps endless war.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Clint Eastwood, Flags of our fathers, freedom of speech, Veteran's day parades, Veterans

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