Last year when I wrote what amounted to a paean to the Veterans For Peace and their Boston Common anti-war activities on Veterans Day 2010 in the entry, A Stroll In The Park On Veterans Day, where I said the following:
“Listen, I have been to many marches and demonstrations for democratic, progressive, socialist and communist causes in my long political life. However, of all those events none, by far, has been more satisfying that to march alongside my fellow ex-soldiers who have “switched” over to the other side and are now part of the struggle against war, the hard, hard struggle against the permanent war machine that this imperial system has embarked upon. From as far back as in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) days I have always felt that ex-soldiers (hell, active soldiers too, if you can get them) have had just a little bit more “street cred” on the war issue than the professors, pacifists and little old ladies in tennis sneakers who have traditionally led the anti-war movements. Maybe those brothers (and in my generation it was mainly only brothers) and now sisters may not quite pose the questions of war and peace the way I do, or the way that I would like them to do, but they are kindred spirits.
Now normally in Boston, and in most places, a Veterans Day parade means a bunch of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or American Legion-types taking time off from drinking at their post bars (“the battle of the barstool”) and donning the old overstuffed uniform and heading out on to Main Street to be waved at, and cheered on, by like-minded, thankful citizens. And of course that happened this time as well. What also happened in Boston this year (and other years but I have not been involved in previous marches) was that the Veterans For Peace (VFP) organized an anti-war march as part of their “Veterans Day” program. Said march to be held at the same place and time as the official one.”
And this year I expected to say roughly the same thing, except now that I have worked with them in some actions here in Boston, down in Washington D.C. in front of the Winter Palace (oops, the White House) in some civil disobedience actions, and in front of the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia in defense of the heroic Army private, Bradley Manning, that copy-cat approach doesn’t seem adequate. And here is why.
For an anti-war war veteran there are two kinds of ways to call oneself a veteran. The obvious one is to have “gone into the service,” as my grandmother (and probably many, too many, other grandmothers as well) used to say. The other is to be a veteran of the kind of anti-war actions described above. And, in the old days (the VVAW days) we used to say that kind of veteran service with a certain knowing snicker. A snicker like it was good to know, know finally, that you were on the side of the angels. And so to put paid to this piece let me finish with a story, a story about how a few god men and women kept on the right side of those angels just recently here in Boston.
Everybody with a pulse knows that there is a populist movement that has swept part of America (and the world) this fall looking for a little social justice and an end to the 1% takes all system we have lived under all our lives, the Occupy movement. An attentive news reader also knows that part of the publicity generated around the movement centers on establishing encampments in cities, large and small, in order to dramatize the pressing needs of the great majority of people. Here in Boston that started on September 31, 2011 with successful occupation of a section of the Rose Kennedy Greenway at Dewey Square near South Station. On October 10th elements within the movement attempted to expand the encampment another block and pitched tents accordingly. This “affrontery” set Boston Mayor Thomas Menino into spasms and he ordered out his Cossacks (a. k. a. cops) to disband the rabble, forthwith. At a General Assembly (the decision-making body that drives the camp and the political perspectives) that evening the overwhelming majority of those present and voting voted to defend the second site. As result in the dead of night (about 2:00 AM) the Mayor’s horde descended on the campsite in full combat regalia to arrest the peaceful assembly waiting to defend the site. Some one hundred and forty people were arrested that early morning.
That is the back story, and is more or less widely known by now. What is less well known is that a contingent of veterans, almost all veterans of previous civil disobediences actions, had determined one more time to defend something. This time not the mythical home and country but “family,” a family of mainly younger people who were not as well- versed in cop madness, or the niceties of the nightstick as these veterans. And so as is called for when an encampment is set up in enemy territory that contingent set up a perimeter on the pathway in front of the camp in the direction from which the attack was expected. And it came. The veterans, some of who were arrested and others who were merely pushed aside, or to the ground, “defended” the camp, honorably . And you now know why anything I expected to say about this years Veterans Day anti-war gathering on November 11th pales in comparison. A few good women and men, indeed. And I say that without a snicker today.
Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. Troops From Afghanistan! Hands Off Iran!-Hands Off The World!