Obviously, what is good to one mindset is absurd to another… and vice versa. Yet, methinks I am moving on the better path in this incarnation, so please bear with me. For seven years I have stood weekly with other activists in peaceful protest. We focus on the military empire our nation has become and the phony wars and occupations. Over the years, many incidents and anecdotal events have occurred during these one hour demonstrations. Yet, yesterday seemed to contain the most interesting and fascinating ones of all. Let me share them with you:
I chose to move our weekly one hour demo to the entrance of our local library. We stand, with our signs in hand, allowing as many as possible to read them and offer comment. Most of our neighbors, unfortunately, just scurry by us. When someone stops to engage us in conversation or even debate, I for one look forward to that. My cohort John does not, as he is 83 and just likes to “do his thing” in peace. Yesterday, strange and interesting things occurred. The first was when a car pulled up, and a woman instructed her daughter of 11 or 12 to, “Go ahead and do it”. Do what, I wondered as the young girl approached. “I would like to shake your hand for what you are doing out here,” and she held out her hand. I shook it and thanked her. Then her Mom had her do the same to John, to my son Paul and my friend George, who both joined us this afternoon. “Go ahead, shake all their hands and thank them all,” her mom shouted. I walked over to her and we conversed. She told me how proud she was that “people from this community actually are doing something!” She promised that she would be back to join us in the future. Tears ran down my eyes when I remembered that young girl holding out her hand in friendship.
A few minutes after the aforementioned incident, a lady walked up to my son, who was holding the sign that read “Honor Our troops and Bring them Home Now!” She thanked us for being there and took out some photos. They were photos of her two sons who were in the Army. One son was presently in Afghanistan, and the other just returned from a tour in Iraq. “They have no business sending those kids to those places! We need to get the heck out of all those countries and worry about our own country, which is going to pot!” As she walked to her car she once again thanked us for “caring enough to do this”.
Towards the end of the one hour demo, a man, most likely early 50s, quietly walked up to my sign that read “Save Our Cities: Cut Military Spending 25%… End All Occupations… Bring Our Troops Home!” He studied my sign for awhile. He then softly asked me, “Have you been in the military?” I said no, but I had a few friends from my neighborhood that got killed in Vietnam. George quickly added that he was in the Air Force after the Vietnam War ended, and he too had friends who never came back, except in caskets. The man, once again very softly said, “Well, I served 20 years in the Army, completing my service as a battalion commander. You have to understand that the president gets information that none of us receives. He is privy to facts that we do not know. So, as we do in the military, you need to follow those who lead you, and never question their decisions, or you will have chaos.” I responded with a question to him: Even if we believe or know that our leader is wrong, should we still follow blindly? He used the same argument about how they know information that we do not have, so we must trust them. I offered him the analogy of Germany circa 1930s. Would he, if he were a German citizen and felt that the Nazis and Hitler were wrong in their treatment of the Jews and in invading countries, still follow his leader? He did not even pause, “Yes, if he were elected by the majority of Germans, then I would follow his lead.” At that point I should have just let this guy go on his way. Yet, I needed to delve into what he believed was the reason we are in so many countries with our military forces? “We have to be in all those places throughout the world, don’t you understand that? Because if we do not maintain our supply of oil, this nation will crumble at its core, and we will have insurrection! We are a capitalistic country and we need to have the flow of oil, plain and simple. That is what it is all about.” Foolishly, yet with the journalist’s blood running through me, I pursued one more avenue with him. Let us say, I offered, that you are half Libyan, meaning that your mom is from Libya. Now, let us say that she gets a call from Libya one night informing her that her entire family was killed in a US bombing raid on a village. All of them, dead! Would you have any outrage, or any protest to what our government did? He did not even pause, “Even if it was my son who was killed there, I would not! Sometimes things happen for the greater good, and it hurts but that is how it is.” He then asked me who I was going to vote for.
Absurd behavior that nullifies the good behavior of others is not limited to exchanges like the above one. If one tunes into the presidential debates or for that matter our president’s address to the nation, we find similar absurdities. The former is the “black comedy” of all farce. We have millionaire candidates who preach wealth as the cornerstone of our cultural values, while also, with the exception of Ron Paul, preach that “might makes right” and “American exceptionalism”. They imply that the rich will save us from economic devastation if only we grant them easier access to it. They imply that a free market (now we include Ron Paul in this as well) which is loosely regulated, will create a synergy of wealth for us all. Basically, as my activist partner John states so sarcastically; “Greed IS good!” Of course, the “Three Stooges” on that podium want even more military spending, as if the 56 cents of every tax dollar each of us forks over to Uncle Sam is not enough. These clowns want more aircraft carriers and more missiles and other WMD for our already overkill arsenal. Then, we have the other side of this dirty coin, Mr. Obama and his party. These jokers come off like kinder and gentler stooges for the same Fat Cat handlers of the Military Industrial Empire. Mr. Obama could not, and would not mention in his address to the nation that we are bankrupting our economy with this military spending and these bases and foreign occupations. How can he? He, like his Republican counterparts and that man from our demonstration, is “part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
Philip A. Farruggio is son and grandson of Brooklyn, NYC longshoremen. He is a free lance columnist (usually found on the fine Dandelion Salad site), an environmental products sales rep and an activist. Since 2010, Philip is a spokesperson for the 25% Solution Movement to Save Our Cities by cutting military spending 25%. Philip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.