Sunday, June 29, 2014

July 4th Myopia

Through the eyes of this grandfather and military veteran of the U.S. war against the people of Viet Nam, the celebration of July 4th is myopic and hypocritical.  

If you are a rich, light skinned male who has staked a claim in a land stolen from indigenous people and built on the backs of dark skinned people, then wave the flag, explode the fire works.  All others, step to the back of the bus.

There are those who say, “that was a long time ago, forget it”.  I remind them that 1776 was a long time ago, yet every year this very selective piece of history is glorified.

On this July 4th I suggest that you read the Declaration of Independence (including the part that refers to indigenous people as “the merciless Indian savages”) through the eyes of a female, or a person with dark skin, or from the perspective of a resident of one of the many countries that the U.S. has invaded and plundered – including this one.  If you want to remember the past, then remember all of it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This poem was read at the Chicago Memorial Day Ceremony


With their backs board straight,
and their hand to their head,
the draped box passes by.

With their uniforms crisp,
and their eyes steely fixed,
the draped box passes by.

Gone are the "who-yahs"and the high fives
and the beers, and the babes and the bitchin’,
as the draped box passes by.

“Kill the bastards – they killed ours.
They’re all bad.”
“We go there to help them.  For freedom!  Democracy!”
“We serve our country!
“It’s NOT about money or markets or oil!
We’re defending our freedom and our soil!
“There’s no other way!  Sometimes we must!
Send in the few . . . the proud . . . . . the . . . “
the young ? . . . . the pawns?
The draped box passes by. 

“They can’t speak our language.
They don’t know our customs.
They’re HYMIES, and JAPS, and CHINKS,
and GOOKS, and HAJJIS, and RAG HEADS. 
They’re evil.   They’re terrorists!”
They are “THEM”.   They are “THOSE”.   They are “THEY”.
So it’s OK - - -   to kill them.
There’s no other way,
That’s what the box makers say.

We have courts – but not for “THEM”.
We don’t torture people – but “THEY” are not.
We are CIVIL  - with our approved assassination lists,
We are HUMAINE with our surgical drone strikes.
They” are not.

We have our flag.  We sing our songs.
We love our country.   “U-S-A      U-S-A
We’re # 1.   We’re # 1!”
They” are not.
Don’t bother your beautiful brain.
Don’t think . . . . avoid the pain.
As the draped box passes by.

Who makes the box in which soldiers lay?
This well crafted box for the remains to stay.
Is it more than a box to carry the dead?
Is the box mental and fixed in our head,
By those who profit from wars and destruction
Because they know we’ll follow instruction.

Some of the box makers are out in the light,
They’re proud of the fact they cause us to fight.
But most of the makers work in the stealth,
Applying their trade and amassing huge wealth.

From Presidents to talking heads and others less known -
 - - Create fear, make a box, keep the masses alone - - .
“We know what we’re doing, we’ll save the day,”
“Stay in the box and just do as . . . WE say.”

The boxes are made as they always have been,
By those with the power to develop the spin.
Their words are repeated - -
Down is up . . . up is down
Killing is good . . . they are not
Down is up . . . up is down
Soon the box closes . . . without a sound.

Violence and power are global pollution.
Dialogue and education are the solution.
Talk to those you know . . .  and to the “they”.
(very slowly)  Read and share . . . . and show the way . . . . . . .

With their backs board straight,
and their hands to their heads . . . . . .
With their uniforms crisp,
and their eyes steely fixed . . . . . ,
Gone are the “who-yahs” and the high fives,
What’s left are the whys . . . . ,
As the draped box passes by.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl Message

As I watched the opening pageantry of the Super Bowl with my grandfatherly eyes I was astonished to see the focus on the military - the reading of the Declaration of Independence with the ever-present visuals of military uniforms and weapons, the flyover, the association of military and patriotism.   With all the wonderful people in this country doing great things in education, science, the arts, and many other areas, I began to wonder – what group directed the focus?, what was the message?, how much time and money did they spend in the development of the message?, who paid for the development and the airtime?

Weapons are the number one export product of the U.S.   The U. S. allocates more of our tax dollars to the military solution to conflict than any other area of our national budget.  The Senate is considering SB 1881 that will make us the pawn of Israel and take us to war with Iran.  Is war the Super Bowl message?

I’m reminded of the words of Martin Luther King – “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

MLK and Our Greatest National Resource - 1/20/2014

January 20th,, Martin Luther King Day, is the only national holiday that commemorates the peace and justice work of a U. S. citizen.
I’m a Viet Nam veteran and for me, Martin Luther King‘s most powerful speech was on April 4th of 1967.   “Beyond Vietnam” directed attention to the triplets of war – militarism, materialism, and racism.  All of these lead to moral and financial poverty.
When I was in Vietnam I saw many children.  Every time I look at a child I see our greatest national resource.  It pains my heart to see our children’s future being depleted by our government’s fixation on the military solution to conflict - invasions, occupations, death and destruction.  Every dollar spent on “defense” and war (the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will eventually cost us $3 trillionis a dollar that could have been used to bring our over 16 million children out of poverty.  
 On this national holiday read “Beyond Vietnam”.   Contemplate the words of this brave and magnificent man.  Think about what you can do to bring peace and justice into the U.S.A. and protect our greatest national resource. 

Arnold Stieber