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A Military Spouse’s Perspective on Racism and Armed Violence in the United States

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/06/22/military-spouses-perspective-racism-and-armed-violence-united-states

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There been a war among factions as long as this country existed. In my lifetime it heated up in 1968, with the rise of the Tea Party, and with Trumpism, to name a few times. Underneath it all is the constant din of hate media that drives all too many in to the dark places of their minds at the expense of their own best interests. Truth, as we know, is the first casualty of war. Both-siderism is too prevalent in media today, so many remain in a state of constant confusion. In their angst they hang on to the glory of a past holding onto ideas and flags that ended up in the mud. Progress is anathema to them as they are kept fearful of change. It must be horrible to live life like that. Best shot we got at change is with their children.

In the mid 1970s my family had moved off the farm to live in FT McMurray Alberta. I missed the farm and took my Summer holidays there when I went to live at my Uncles over the summer and work those summer months. In any case he had leased a small woodlot from another farmer about 18 miles from his own place and 2 cousins and myself along with 2 of my uncles went to work on it.

At the end of the day my day uncles decided to stop in a local tavern for a couple of beer in a small village and we three kids left waiting in the truck. We got bored and one cousin had the bright idea of shooting some pool while we waited. When we got back our uncles were gone.That one particular Uncle had quite a temper and while he was not the violent sort, he did not tolerate any nonsense from kids.

We tried phoning my aunt a few times but soon ran out of coins and could not get through as they were on a party line where the phone number shared with a neighbor and that neighbor had 5 teenage girls always on it. In any case we decide to walk the 18 miles. We get about 6 miles in and after my cousin had suggested a short cut were hopelessly lost and it was a very dark chilly night. We came to a farmers yard and knocked on the door intended to call our Aunt again.

We were greeted by an old Ukrainian lady who immediately told us to come inside and get out of the cold. Even as my older cousin was telling the tale she was insisting we boys had to have something to eat and was already bustling around the kitchen over our claims that we not hungry , muttering “Growing boys are always hungry”. She put out this plate of blueberry filled perogies to start which had been made beforehand and said that they had no phone but her husband was sleeping and she would wake him up and he would drive to their daughters to use theirs. She has bacon frying , she has perogies on the boil, she slices up fresh home baked bread and puts out milk. She is making a green salad all the while worrying over how hungry and cold we were.

She goes to wake her husband and he comes stomping down glaring at us three for having interrupted his sleep. As the food put on the table and she explains in Ukrainian he goes stomping out to get ready. We start to eat (i was in fact starved) and she leaves the room to get her husbands jacket and some pen and paper. The Husband walks back in, sees she is gone and goes over to the stove grabbing up a slice of fresh bread, layering bacon on it and wolfing it down. He looks my way and puts his finger to his lip in a Sssh motion, grins and rolls his eyes as he nodded towards the next room where his wife was.

He could not speak much English but I grinned as the message was very clear. His wife comes back in with his stuff.He puts back on his gruff act. My elder cousin rises up to go with him, she kisses her husband on the cheek and they drive off to their daughters to use the phone. An hour later my aunt shows to pick us up.

That is the kindness people used to offer strangers as a matter of course.

Then there this. A 14 year old boy is lost in a neighborhood and goes to a house to knock and ask directions to a local school. He is greeted by a woman who starts screaming at him as to why he knocks on her door and demands to know why he breaks in. He tries to explain that he merely needs directions but she will not hear of it. She yells at her husband who comes down with a loaded gun. The boy runs and the Husband fires a shot at him which fortunately missed. The boy goes to hide in a woods where he starts to cry in fear.

~https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09hbavwhB_I

This was all recorded on the homeowners security system and the Police later confirmed the boys account as to what happened.

What are people turning into ? What do we become as people when we never see that human kindness that I experienced from that elderly Ukrainian couple? Some might say that that old man and woman only helped us because we were white kids, but the memory of the womans face of concern and compassion lives on in me and I am certain in my heart that had we been three first nations children she would have offered that same kindness. She would have only saw children.

Why do societies now embrace hatred and violence over kindness and compassion?

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I realized we were going to have a problem with our “military” policing America when the 7th inning stretch at baseball games turned into a moment of silence and appreciation for our armed services replete with flyovers and the pledge of allegiance -

“Take-me-out-to-the-ballgame” has been replaced with our never-ending fight for “hearts and minds.”

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Smart kid.

Yes. The questions are better than the answers.

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Dismantling the military industrial media infotainment complex (MIMIC), which includes the militarization of professional sports, is the first step required to work toward solving the resource (income, wealth) inequality problem, seeing how MIMIC is the biggest corporate welfare program the world has ever seen. Until the 40 year trajectory of increased resource inequality is reversed there is no hope for any meaningful progress on issues of race.

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Courageously honest work from Andrea Mazzarino. My favorite taste:

For some veterans, when the home front starts to look like a war zone and fears rise that the Trump administration will use force against peaceful citizens, it feels like a new red line has been crossed. As Affraz Mohammed told me, “When the veterans of these wars come home, they won’t understand what’s going on. They are not used to a hostile environment at home. They want to come home. They turn the light switch off when they go home. What’s going to happen when they’ve got to turn it on again?”

The figure in my life who comes closest to a mentor was a Navy medic attached to the USMC, back in the days of above-ground nuclear tests in the desert. My Dad was also Navy, just that much too late to get in on WWII. My aimless youthful wanderings after high-school swung out as far and wildly as hanging with the US Army in K-town (Kaiserslauten, Germany). What do all these details matter to anyone? My people come from grunts and sailors. Many US Americans have that kind of family background. We’ve bumped into some really smart ones and some really dumb ones – the smart/dumb demographic amongst soldiers and sailors is no different than in society as a whole, to absolutely nobody’s surprise.

It’s been a very long time since I visited that commissary context (lesson one: don’t ever eat at the commissary, if you value your gut-biome at all). I recall wide-ranging freedom of thought from the folks there at that time. And it’s a venerable infantry tradition to creatively gripe. I hope it’s still that way, at least in some barracks, and aboard some warships.