Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: Politicians Pledge Allegiance To War $$

When Mainers elect a "progressive" candidate like Democrat Pingree or, more recently, independent candidate and former governor Angus King, the newly-elected are immediately appointed to the Armed Services Committee of their branch of Congress.

When constituents call, write, and otherwise demand that Congress bring the war dollars home to fund human needs, the politicians say that sounds like a good idea. That is right before or after they climb into black limos and are whisked through the gates of Bath Iron Works, where General Dynamics builds nuclear-equipped Aegis destroyer ships. Never mind that it's one of the most lousy job generating programs where we could invest tax dollars in terms of number of jobs generated. And never mind the karma.

Pingree told me her first year in office that she knew all about "The Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending," the definitive study out of UMass about how to really invest in order to generate the greatest number of clean, sustainable jobs. She also told me Congress needed to pass an energy bill in order to shift funding from weapons manufacturing into green jobs. 

Pingree has since voted ought to pass on multiple "defense" funding bills coming through the House Armed Service Committee. Then, she voted no when the bills came to the floor and her advisors thought that voters might be paying attention. There are plenty of yes votes in the House, so she can afford to vote no -- there's no chance the bill won't pass. She's done her part, and the campaign contributions from the corporations will keep on flowing.

My husband said he has a mental image of the famous Iwo Jima flag raising, with politicians scrambling up on one another to reach the top and raise the flag the highest.

But it isn't only on Memorial Day that the woman who ran for office as an organic vegetable farmer lavishes praise on the military, claiming "we have them to thank for being able to enjoy this beautiful day." (Pingree seems to have stopped just short of adding, Freedom isn't free.)

You can also see her glorifying militarism here, and here under the headline "Bath Iron Works lauds Pingree's efforts to defeat funding cut for destroyer program." On July 19, 2012 the Bangor Daily News reported:
"This was a last-minute attempt to sneak in and cut funding for a DDG-51 and that could have had some pretty dire consequences for Bath Iron Works,” Pingree said in the release. “But these ships are the workhorses for the Navy, they are a key part of our military strategy and BIW is getting them to the Navy on time and on budget. I think in the end we convinced my colleagues that it didn’t make sense from a strategic or a fiscal point of view to cut this ship."
Here is the tale of the three most recent veterans from my family. 
Source: Nagasaki Journal,
My maternal grandfather, who was drafted into WWII as a father of two young children and sent into Nagasaki following the atomic bombing of civilians there, never spoke of it. He refused all his GI benefits but it didn't stop him from building a house and starting a tire business -- not bad for a migrant farm worker fleeing Dust Bowl Oklahoma.

source: Socialism and/or Barbarism blog
My paternal grandfather volunteered for WWI just after graduating from high school. He had his leg blown up just before the armistice, was gassed, and suffered ill health as a result his whole life. It didn't stop him from running the family ice business, serving in the Maine legislature, and fathering a son. 

source: "Remembering the Korean War
When my dad was a high school football star who was drinking the Koolaid about fighting communism in Korea, his father told him there is no such thing as a good war, and you should not believe them when they tell you this one is. The wounded vet persuaded his son go to college instead of joining the Army. But as soon as his dad died my dad joined up anyway. He was amazed at the level of suffering and poverty and exploitation he saw in Seoul as the occupation settled in, and he made sure to pass along his father's wisdom to my brothers and sisters and me. As we have passed it along to our children.

So every Memorial Day I go down to the family cemetery and remove the flags that the VFW puts on my ancestors' graves. I plant flowers instead, and I give the flags to an artist friend who puts them to use un-glorifying war.

This year and last, the cemetery workers goofed and put the flag on my brother's grave rather than on my grandfather's. They probably confused the two men because they shared the same first name.

Or maybe it's like the Obama administration's drone killing policy in Yemen and Pakistan, where any male of a certain age is deemed a militant.

What kind of person doesn't wave the flag and glorify militarism on Memorial Day?

A thinking person.

Special thanks to my husband Mark Roman, who avoided the draft during the Vietnam War, and who helped me plant flowers on my family's graves for this Memorial Day.

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