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April 2004, Volume 11 Nr. 9, Issue 130
  
Boots on the Statehouse Steps

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

In November 2004 our son Flang turned 18 years of age.  It was not surprising that within a few days after his birthday he received a phone call from the United States Marine Corps recruiter.  In Vermont, the head of state-wide recruiting has been known to make an annual commitment in reaching all possible prospects.  The conversation was an interesting one with the recruiter asking whether our son had considered what he was going to do after high school, and whether he considered going to college.  The recruiter suggested that college is expensive and the Marine Corps had programs that set aside money for college upon discharge from the service.  The recruiter had to repeat himself a couple of times.  Our son told the recruiter that he was hard of hearing and didn't have his hearing aids on.  "You wear hearing aids?", the recruiter asked.  "Yes", Flang said.  The conversation ended with the recruiter saying that the Marine Corps did not have any programs for him.  So much for the Marine Corps (and other services) being an equal opportunity employer.  

Why is it legal to bar corporate employers who discriminate in hiring from entering our schools, but allow the military recruiters to come in and do exactly that?  In Vermont and many other states, it is illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities.  Not only does the Marine Corps do that to disabled people, they do that to people on the basis of sexual orientation.  In other words, if you are homosexual, you need not apply for a job in the military, unless you "don't tell".  If the military starts to run out of canon fodder, the occasions for looking the other way increase.  "Don't ask!"  

In a U.S. Newswire article published on March 24, 2004, entitled, "As the War Continues, Gay Discharges Plummet to Lowest Level Since 1995; Report Details Experiences", Steve Ralls of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, writes,

As the United States military continues to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan, discharges of lesbian and gay military personnel plummeted 17 percent in FY2003, according to a new report from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).

March 20, 2004

This issue of Metaphoria, however, is not about discrimination in the military.  It is about the events that took place in Montpelier VT and the rest of the world on March 20, 2004, on the first anniversary of the latest military actions in Iraq.  Our son, Flang, who is disabled not just in hearing, but in mobility asked to be part of the demonstrations taking place all over the world on March 20.  On the day of the event, he was hesitant about going.  He reasoned that the atmosphere in the United States was so poisoned that he feared being bodily injured by counter protesters or the authorities.  We can read all we want about how unique United States society is in the world in allowing freedom of speech, expression and dissent.  We can listen to our teachers tells us how wonderful protected free speech is.  Yet, the actions of authorities over the past few years regarding demonstrators and demonstrations during an era of "If you're not with us your against us" war mongering, send an unmistakable opposite message: you are now unsafe to speak your mind in the "land of the free". In other words, "Don't!".  And, if you do, you must do so with the permission of the State.  You must do so only in designated "free speech zones".  We concluded, that at least in Vermont, many people remained highly respectful of dissenting voices, still believing in the Bill of Rights.

Flang, JeanneE and I went to Montpelier.  The event was a solemn, silent procession, that continuously wound its way from City Hall to the Statehouse.  Over the half mile route marchers  carried shoes, each pair representing U.S. and Iraqis killed.  The only sound heard was the beating of a single drum.  I wore my Veterans For Peace overseas cap while pushing our son in his wheelchair.  When we reached the bottom of the long series of steps leading up to the capitol, Flang pulled himself up off the wheel chair and using the railing lifted himself up the many steps to the final resting place for his pair of shoes.  Upon placing the shoes on the capitol steps, the name of a United States casualty was read by members of Veterans For Peace, some of whom were combat veterans.  In the very long litany of names, every 10th name an Iraqi name followed by, "...and 180 unrecognized Iraqis".

At the end of the readings, there were hundreds of pairs of shoes on the capitol steps, each representing one of the 570 plus U.S. casualties.  I wondered how many of those pairs of shoes had received phone calls from military recruiters?  I wondered how many pairs came from the feet of gay and lesbian people?  I thought about how little it now seemed to matter to the military whether the dead were gay or lesbian.  I was repelled at the thought of the remains of our youth being flown into Dover Air Force base under cover of darkness so reporters could not count the dead and the people could not see the tragedy and consequences of an unnecessary war.  I thought about the thousands of injured U.S. soldiers who are effectively kept at bay, knowledge of their injuries suppressed, battlefield news sanitized, public scrutiny curtailed.  As of April,  2004, reports suggest that over 18,000 have been evacuated from Iraq for medical reasons.  One marvels and is simultaneously repulsed by this administration's cover up of its  myriad of failed policies, lies and death.

2004 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski 2004 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

I  cannot help thinking about how often the United States goes to battle with so-called third-world nations, bombing them with the most sophisticated arsenals ever known in human history.  I found it less than ironic that the casualty roll call since "shock and awe began" contains a high percentage of names that are Latino.  I thought about recycled uranium spread over the nation of Iraq which originated as waste in the nuclear power reactors all over the United States.  What a brilliant and horrific solution to the nuclear waste accumulation problem.  I thought about the many lies and deception of this administration that contributes to a religious zest for a world with war without end, Amen.  I was saddened as I realized how obvious the pattern of the empire now is, a pattern recognized everywhere around the world, but here in a nation so easily manipulated by mass marketing techniques.  

The Unpress

While our family is lucky to live in relatively progressive Vermont, the event in Montpelier received little coverage from the press.  Never mind that the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus has an office in Montpelier and its headquartered in the next town to the north.  One would be hard pressed to find accurate national coverage of the March 20 anti-war events where hundreds of thousands came out in the United States, and millions across the globe.  It is hard for me to believe that the absence of coverage by the local media was a mere oversight, or editorial decision based upon an absence of facilities.

When we came home and I started posting reports and photographs of some of the hundreds of anti-war events held throughout the country by Veterans For Peace on their  website (HERE).  I realized what power there is in the gathering of people.  While assembled, one can sense the power of the people who united can never be defeated.  James F. Moore of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society in a piece entitled, "The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Heads" writes,

There is an emerging second superpower, but it is not a nation.  Instead, it is a new form of international player, constituted by the "will of the people" in a global social movement.  The beautiful but deeply agitated face of this second superpower is the worldwide peace campaign, but the body of the movement is made up of millions of people concerned with a broad agenda that includes social development, environmentalism, health, and human rights. (Mar 31, 2003)

While James F. Moore may have helped popularize the term "second superpower", the phrase originally appeared in an article by Patrick Tyler in the New York Times dated February 17, 2003, two days after many millions of people throughout the world  and a million people in New York City alone, demonstrated against the impending reignition of hostilities with Iraq.  Tyler wrote, "...the huge anti-war demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion."  A little over a year later, the second superpower has dislodged Jose Maria Aznar as head of Spain.  This fallen domino now precariously leans against Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, Australia's John Howard, the U.K.'s Tony Blair, and,  ever-increasingly, George W. Bush.  It's disheartening that John Kerry is but another domino.

Boots Not Alone

The hundreds of pairs of boots on the Vermont State capitol steps were not alone.  They are but the latest manifestation of a new antiwar phenomenon.  Called "Arlington West, and  begun on December 14, 2003 by the Veterans For Peace Chapter 54 Santa Barbara, California, where 455 in memoriam candles in red cups were placed on a sandy beach.  The candles,

"...glowed a blood red while the light projected upward from the cups caused the white crosses to glow in a flickering, living light. Photojournalists on hand commented that it upstaged the Parade of Lights (boats decked out in Christmas lights) and we had literally  thousands of spectators during the two hours the candles burned.

  • On January 3, 2004, the Austin, TX VFP Chapter 66 erects their version of The Wall for the Iraq War at a peace rally.

  • On January 21, 2004, San Diego Veterans For Peace places 500 crosses, candles, crescents, and, stars of David, and other memorials on a beach near the pier.

  • On January 22, 2004, Chicago IL remembered the war dead with 500 pairs of empty boots.

  • On February 15, 2004 Baton Rouge LA held a Vigil For The Dead, to honor all the troops that have died, and for all the Iraqis that have died in Iraq.

  • On February 17, 2004, the Santa Monica CA Veterans For Peace set up 540 crosses on the beach.

  • On March 6, 2004, the Fort Myers FL, VFP set up 550 crosses on the beach.

And, all over the country it continues.  The Arlington West events can be found on the Veterans For Peace website (HERE)

Boots Are Made For...

The corporate media, true to its "freedom of the press" form and right-to-publish-anything that press ownership conveys, continued its spin.  In "An Anti-war Rallies 'Round the World" piece on CBSNEWS.COM reported that "Communists, anti-war activists and ordinary citizens took part in marches across India, some burning effigies of Bush and Blair."  CBSNEWS.COM thus branded every Indian that is antiwar or a communist as unordinary.  Of the demonstrations in Italy, CBSNEWS.COM reported "... anti-war activists jammed the streets of central Rome, many of them decked out in rainbow-colored peace flags and chanting 'assassins.' There was no crowd estimate from police."  Of course they would not print that a million  people marched in the city of Rome alone.  Nowhere in the media, did I see the theme of the U.S. mobilization, "Support the Troops.  Bring them Home."  

Our family attended the event in Montpelier along with hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters across the country because we want no more boots placed on the capitol steps, no more candles on beaches, no more crosses, crescents, stars of David, or other symbols of the unnecessarily departed placed in the sand. 

Sydney Blumenthal, a columnist for Salon.com in an interview on April 2, 2004 stated that the rules for the media are clear.  If you say anything against the Bush administration you are "an enemy of the State".  Blumenthal offered evidence including the black-tie affair at the annual press dinner of Radio and Television News Correspondents Association where George W. Bush made funny faces while showing a slide show and joked about not finding WMDs under furniture saying, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere."  The press in attendance roared with laughter.  Given the daily carnage precipitated by an unnecessary war perhaps the Resident would find it funny if those boots that were gathered on the Montpelier capitol steps were migrated to the White House lawn while a chorus of Raging Grannies and other activists sing the lyrics from a song by Nancy Sinatra,

You keep lying, when you oughta be truthin'
and you keep losin' when you oughta not bet.
You keep samin' when you oughta be changin'.
Now what's right is right, but you ain't been right yet.

These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

Given your sense of humor Mr. Resident, don't you find this Hilarious?  Don't you think it funny that your failed policies and corrupted administration finds itself ever-increasingly between Iraq and a hard place?  I don't.  I find it tragic.

2004 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

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