Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Bizarre Doings In Veteran Peace Action (VPA) Land-A Cautionary Tale With Emphasis On The Tail

Bizarre Doings In Veteran Peace Action (VPA) Land-A Cautionary Tale With Emphasis On The Tail

By Sam Eaton, Executive Board, Veterans Peace Action (VPA)  

Perhaps he is out of fashion now, although once long ago when we were looking for answers out of the impasse of capitalism and imperialism we checked him out with a certain admiration, but Karl Marx once said that history while it does not repeat itself it sometimes presents itself in certain historical circumstances first as tragedy and then flips, goes wild, and turns into farce. That is a somewhat appropriate signpost for what has been happening in our beloved Veterans Peace Action chapter here in Augusta of late. As I have noted in a couple of recent postings under my cyber-signature, Lenny Lawlor, the times are out of sorts. There are some bizarre turns of events which have occurred of late which I alluded to in those posts. Of course even putting the proposition in such a light has the wily and careful readers of  VPA chomping at the bit to find out what the hell is going on. Not about our important political tasks ahead in this Year II of the reign of one Donald J. Trump when the war clouds are more ominous than they have been in the past several years. No, indeed, but about the all-important, all-pressing organizational questions which are burning issues that even the most callous and marginal members live and die to explore ad infinitum.         

That brings up my signpost remark about the fate of history in the raw. This organizational business, mainly about who, and who is not, a member of VPA and why, or why not, and the desperately urgent question seething in the chapter causing a hue and cry to go out throughout the land about paying, certain specific exceptions noted, VPA chapter dues. The whole thing reminded me of a faint echo of the famous disputes in 1903 in the Russian Social-Democratic Party between what became the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks about who was and who was not a true member of that organization. We all know through the dress rehearsal Revolution of 1905 and the real thing in February-October 1917 that little difference turned into something like a tragedy. Our little organizational brouhaha of late takes its proper place as farce.

Here is the way the thing is playing out (playing out is the correct term since the issues are far from resolved and in some aspects may not be short of court action but that is the wave of the future and need not detain us in presenting obliquely to the curious what the hell is going on).       
Suggestion: While we are in the nomination process-The need for an Inquisitor-General (I-G) for the Smedley Butler Brigade-A FABLE

By Sam Eaton

Okay, okay I know that we are in the tail-end of the nomination process and that hopefully we will have ample “real” veteran   candidates for the various officers. (That “real” in quotation marks to emphasize that by VPA by-laws every candidate must be a veteran in good standing of VPA complete with a real DD214 showing they are in fact veterans.) One would assume that that verification process would be the task of the sitting Executive Committee and that they would use due diligence in this matter. As well as other delicate matters like who is a “real” member of National VPA or local and/or both and insure that every living and breathing VPA current member or membership aspirant, except those skimmers who can show hardship or other extenuating circumstances, has paid his or her local dues.

What I am proposing though since such tasks are of the utmost importance given the demonstrated incapacity of ordinary mortal members of any executive committee, is that in addition to, and separate from, the traditional Executive Committee positions we institute the office of Inquisitor-General. Okay, you don’t like that title since it smacks of the old-time Inquisition in Spain and throughout medieval Europe under the auspices (nice word, right) of the Holy Mother Apostolic Roman Catholic Church (and maybe the Eastern Church as well but I don’t know about that). How about this instead since all “real” veterans will be familiar with the term-Inspector-General which also has the virtue of using the same letters.     

Yeah, I also know what I am proposing is properly addressed to the amendment process. You know bring your motion to a General Meeting and… oh hell, let me just quote the relevant part of the process:

“Individual members may also initiate By-Law changes by submitting a written proposal to the Coordinator for distribution with a notice and agenda for the next General Meeting. Notice of amendment to the By-Laws, in writing, shall be presented for discussion to the monthly General Meeting before the meeting in which the amendment is to be voted on. Amendments must be approved by two-thirds (2/3) of the members present at the monthly General Meeting in which they are voted on.”  

Maybe I will do that but what I am on a tear about today is while we are in the nominating process mood I want to make some propaganda for due consideration for this position if not now for in the future. Such a position as I-G (you decide which I-G term you prefer so I will just use I-G) is desperately needed in these troubled times since the local, hell maybe National too, needs somebody who will ferret out the truth no matter what. No matter what the facts are since, and I hope I am not telling tales out of school, this chapter, VPA is rift with what do they call it, oh yeah, alternate facts. I won’t go into each and every detail but if you can believe this some of our VPA members do not belong to National. Yes, I know the chapter by-laws and long precedent has permitted such egregious and organization-threating practice which a persevering I-G will deal with in short order after a short bout of auto-de-fe loosens up a few tongues.

Worse, worse than your previously innocent nightmares is that “hard” fact that an infinite number of potential members, and not a few current members, have bitterly complained that they were threatened denial of VPA membership because they didn’t fork up the measly thirty bucks to get on the team. This wide-spread abuse of power has been swept under the carpet from what I can gather from my usually reliable sources. A hue and cry should go out through the land unless and until a trusty I-G can work magic and slip them onto the rolls.            

Worst of all though and the strongest reason we need an I-G is the wide-spread indifference, dare I say cover up, by previous Executive Committees and maybe the current one too in checking the DD214s of each and every member who claims to be a veteran. I don’t want to insinuate anything but I have heard cases where Executive Committee members after superficially checking out a DD214 have just let the person get in our organization.  Why haven’t they dotted every “t” or crossed every “I” or is it the other way around on examining each form maybe use a little technology, maybe carbon-dating if that is still done. Jesus, can you believe that malfeasance.

I have also heard, and this is just rumor so take it for what it is worth, that money, filthy lucre has changed hands, hundreds of dollars, maybe more, from guys without “real” DD214s to get in so they can claim to their non-veteran buddies, girlfriends, wives, employers and who knows who else they are veterans on the cheap. Not exactly ‘stolen valor” but close.  Scandalous. 

I am here to tell you that vetting process is utterly superficial. An I-G would have that situation squared away in a couple of weeks after letting every member of the organization, high or low, take a few peeps at each and every DD214 to see what shenanigans have been going on. (Veterans anyway I am not sure on supporters but will take a friendly amendment on that if there is a groundswell of support. In any case not every stray member of the local Left after all every supplicant has a right to a little privacy no matter what they are hiding.)      

Of course the I-G position since it would be almost full-time given the endemic corruption abroad in the chapter would be excused, despite the looming war clouds hovering in the near future and a thousand other pressing social issues that need every person we can put into the breech, from actually having to go out and spread the words of peace. I know this I-G idea is all music for the future but now is the time to begin to sanitize this out-off- hand local chapter. Clear out the driftwood. Come on now can’t a man have a FABULOUS dream.  

Once Again –Sam Eaton

Of course everybody knows that my “suggestion” for creating an Inquisitor-General (or Inspector-General your choice although the more I think about the matter the more I like the former) was a spoof, a parody, a fable, hell if you want a cautionary tale. You know, and most of you have been at this peace and social justice business as reflected in our demographics for as long a time as I have, that you cannot go through these long and sometimes lonely struggles without a sense of humor, without some levity to take away the dark nights. However no spoof, parody, fable, what the hell cautionary tale is created from scratch. Without something in mind. At least my staid old lawyer’s “nothing but the facts, Jack” mind does not have enough imagination to do something out of the pure clothe. But sometimes bizarre things happen, as have happened recently in our chapter, maybe reflecting the age of Trump alternate fact, “if you repeat something enough it will stick” mentality seeping into our chapter, that cry out for comment. Hence the Inquisitor -General spoof.

Frankly even if I was serious I cannot think of one single Smedley who is mean enough, is full-time zealous enough, is driven by the quest for alternative facts again that allegedly over-rated truth enough to qualify for the job. Or who I would trust enough either to do the scorched-earth policy outlined in the spoof.  Moreover our little chapter is in not in need of such an extraordinary overlord figure since over the past period we have been building a collective leadership to carry the heavy work of peace and social justice in front of us forward. That being done even with all our little quirks, all our listening to a different drummer which makes the local what it is as a leading chapter in VPA. So count me as a real time theoretical “no” on creating that silly position.  

But enough of that because, as my addition to the headline notes, this is a shout-out to the divine, intrepid, heart-in-the-right-place long-time important VPA supporter Alice Carson for setting me straight on something that I left as an open-ended question in my “suggestion.”  She noted via a reference to Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov that beyond Spain, beyond the Holy Mother Apostolic Roman Catholic Church the Russian Orthodox Church too had it Grand-Inquisitor. The model I had in mind was not taken from Dostoevsky though but from a film called Goya’s Ghost where Brother Lorenzo Casamares, played by evilly and chillingly handsome Javier Bardem, does the Spanish Inquisition’s dirty work in the midst of the French Revolution. He was no stranger to a little auto-de-fe to loosen a few tongues. Of course in the time-honored traditions of such bureaucrats when the tide turned and France occupied Spain he flipped sides as easily as changing his socks once he saw what the new national landscape looked like. And paid the price when the tide turned again. I didn’t expect this to turn to a literary discussion but are there any other religious organizations I am not aware that had Inquisitors-General.           

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