Last year some neo-Confederates used the holiday to honor a defender of the southern slavocracy in Arizona. Said they to the old-timey East Valley Tribune in 2012: "We seek to restore the honor for the soldiers who fought in this army. They put everything on the line for a cause they believed in and they died for it..." So controversy abounds, naturally.
Meanwhile, in the county jail, Arpaio has plastered American flag stickers on the cells, leading some inmates to deface them, resulting in bread and water diets as punishment. He's also reminding prisoners that they're in the greatest and most-incarcerating nation on Earth by playing the national anthem and "God Bless America" every day. Apparently Arpaio's jail can test the patriotism of even the proudest flag fanatic. And, in what must rank as the most bizarre tribute to the troops, Channel 10 reports on plans to recognize the troops by housing "all inmate-veterans together, in honor of their service." Cue the F-16 fly-by. Brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?
And that segues nicely into the recent controversy in Phoenix. The city outsourced control and planning of their yearly parade to a private nonprofit called Honoring Arizona’s Veterans -- which promptly banned the anti-war group, Veterans for Peace from participating. Apparently HAV disapproved of V4P's message. As well they should. After all, everyone knows these veterans parades are really about the national religion of war, the deifying the armed services and the glorification of militarism and patriotic masculinity. And Veterans for Peace are for, well, peace.
Hence whatever parade you watch you can be certain to see the American Legion among their numbers. The Legion was founded in 1919 during the height of the Red Scare, aiming to "uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America; to maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a one hundred per cent Americanism."
Thus they naturally went right to work breaking up radical meetings and labor gathering, attacking immigrants, and basically violating the constitutional rights of anyone suspected of having anti-war or "anti-American" (read: leftist or labor union) sympathies. Indeed, in 1919 Arizona Governor Campbell urged the Legion to rid the state of the troublesome radical unionists of the IWW, who he deemed "human vermin." In 1948, the Arizona branch of the Legion sent representatives to a Los Angeles conference aimed at forming "inter-state un-American activities committees."
But I seem to remember that each soldier swears an oath to uphold the constitution. And yet somehow the serial-violators of the American Legion get the green light to join the parade despite its vile history. So considering all that, it seems to me that Veterans for Peace would do far better protesting the parade than participating in it. Do they really want to put their stamp of approval on this jingoistic spectacle? After all, in being excluded they are in good company.
Consider this simple thought experiment. Private Chelsea Manning sits in jail today for revealing to the world the nightmare of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including its high civilian toll. Among the revelations in the files she delivered to Wikileaks was the shocking video of Apache helicopter pilots gunning down journalists and civilians. Without a doubt, those Apache pilots would be welcomed to participate in HAV's exclusive parade, while Manning and Vets for Peace are denied. Revealing war crimes gets you banned, but participating in them? Feel free to join right in!
|Because 9/11 happened in Tempe?|
So I have a suggestion for Veterans for Peace. Since you're not welcome in the parade in Phoenix, you may consider coming down to Tempe. Why? Well check this out.
Tempe is going insane for veterans on Monday. Not only are they having their own pointless parade down Mill Avenue, but they're sending their local aspiring brownshirts, the Tempe Police Explorers, door to door to place lawn flags in everyone's yards. Check out the flyer below that appeared last Thursday on doors throughout the neighborhoods surrounding downtown Tempe.
Additionally, there's no word on whether these are recycled flags from Tempe's yearly 9/11 tribute at Tempe Beach Park (cuz, ya know, nothing says "support the troops" like a bunch of flags hemmed in between an artificial lake and public bathrooms) or if the city went ahead and purchased a thousand new flags.
In 1954, Veterans Day usurped Armistice Day, the now ancient -- almost old-timey feeling -- holiday invoking the memory of the so-called "war to end all wars," and our alleged determination to learn the lessons of the past. After the sometimes hot/sometimes not Cold War and more than ten years of the War of Terror, Armistice Day almost seems like it's a quaint relic from another world. Not fit for our modern times. So it should be no surprise then that those who oppose militarism, war, jingoism, mass murder and imperialism would find themselves excluded from Veterans Day parades and celebrations.
So, Veterans for Peace, quit trying to join that celebration of death and warfare in Phoenix. Pack your signs into the spacious trunks of your bumper-stickered Priuses and drive over to Tempe. Stand on the corner of Mill and University on Monday morning and declare your opposition. Accept your well-earned place, along with Chelsea Manning, outside the parade. Then maybe help the neighbors take care of all those flags. And maybe bring a lighter.