Archives for category: Honor

And So It Starts…

A.V. Walters–

This past weekend, in nearby Traverse City, a local off-duty police officer showed up to an anti-racist rally, in a pick-up truck decorated with what is commonly called the Confederate flag. He pulled into a no-parking zone, stepped out of his vehicle and proceeded to down a beer (openly, in a public place) while heckling the protesters.

Naturally, complaints were filed and the Police Department initiated an investigation. It wasn’t his first flag incident. The officer, an eighteen-year member of the force, resigned. The investigation continues. I read the story and did some of my own research.

 

Last night, as I came out of the grocery store, I passed a large man standing next to his pick-up truck, also adorned with a “Confederate” flag. A man was engaged in a quiet conversation with him; I caught the drift.

“It’s a symbol of racial hatred,” the smaller man was saying.

“No it’s not!” The flag-bearer puffed out his chest and then loudly proclaimed, “It’s about my heritage.” Shoppers averted their eyes and scurried off to their vehicles.

I put my groceries in the car and returned to join in the discussion, “I agree with this gentleman,” I said calmly, nodding in the man’s direction, “It is about racial hatred.”

“No,” the flag-bearer bellowed, “It’s about my proud heritage.”

“Then you’ve got the wrong flag.” I responded. The other man confronting him turned to me and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”

The “son-of-the-south” turned to me in a way that was only slightly menacing. “No, this is the right flag, alright. My ancestors died for this flag.” I wondered if I was going to get myself assaulted, for this.

“No, I don’t think so.” I answered.

“You calling me a liar?” (Often the refuge of a man short on facts.)

“I think that you are misinformed. Did any of your ancestors fight under Robert E. Lee?”

He looked a little stunned. “I doubt that, we’re from Texas.”

“Then you’ve got the wrong flag. That flag,” I said, pointing at his truck, “Was never the flag of the Confederacy.”

“Huh? Well, sure it was. It’s the Confederate flag.” A few people stopped to listen.

“No it’s not. That flag was the battle flag—sort of the regimental colors—for troops fighting under Robert E. Lee. It wasn’t the flag of the Confederacy. There were a number of different flags adopted by the Confederacy during the war, but that flag wasn’t one of them.”

He looked confused. “But… my people died for that flag.”

“I’m not questioning your heritage, but you’ve got your flags wrong. The flag you’re displaying didn’t become popular until the 1950s, when racists started to use it to oppose the Civil Rights movement and the Brown vs. Board of Education case that integrated the schools. That flag,” and again I pointed, “Was never the flag of the Confederacy and was used specifically to show racial hatred and intolerance.”

“Well, I don’t know anything about those other flags.” Now, he wouldn’t even look at me.

“I can’t help you, there. But, the one you’re flying is a symbol of racial hate and intolerance, not the flag of the Confederacy.” Some of the people around us were nodding, almost imperceptibly.

The other gentleman in the conversation added, “That’s what I was trying to tell him.”

The flag-bearer wouldn’t look at any of us. He turned and stalked away. The small crowd began to disperse without a word. My co-conspirator and I looked at each other, and nodded, before going our separate ways.

 

And that is the danger of having a bigoted bully as President. It emboldens ignorance and hatred. It normalizes bad behavior in ways that make violence and social unrest more and more likely. If we want to live in a civilized society, the rest of us need to step up and stop it, nip it in the bud, whenever we see it. This is going to be an exhausting presidential term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Add Your Voice–

A.V. Walters–

The deadline for comments to the FCC regarding net neutrality is July 15. The head of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, has indicated that he’ll give more weight to those comments that are unique and personal. This is not a “click” opportunity. For those of us who feel that net neutrality is critical to free speech–now is the time to add your voice. (Do it while we still can!) You can email your comments to Docket Number:14-28 Protecting an Open Internet at the FCC (OpenInternet@fcc.gov) Or you can call at 888-225-5322. You don’t need to write a lengthy tome, but we all need to express the importance of Net Neutrality. If we hand the keys of the internet over to the corporate interests that would like to make it a toll road, we can kiss our free speech goodbye. This is way more important than cute cat videos. Write and tell them why a free and open internet is important to you. Here’s my two bits:

 

There is an inner kernel to the internet–maybe it’s the core of what’s wonderful about it. It isn’t photo swapping on facebook. It isn’t shopping on Amazon, or downloading movies. These are pedestrian and commercial uses. The important stuff is the inner core, the “small d” democratic use–like what I’m doing right now.

Over the past few decades, there has been unprecedented consolidation in the media. Maybe even because of the internet, newspapers have failed or merged. Increasingly, we are left with fewer and fewer real voices. If one’s position isn’t that championed by major media (who are increasingly co-opted by corporate interests) there are few forums for free speech. The internet is that free speech forum. Keeping it neutral guarantees that there will continue to be an avenue of opposition and dissent. In this country we cherish our freedoms. Unfortunately, too few of us actually exercise them. Those who do become the fulcrum of democracy. Given an opportunity to be heard, they are our collective conscience and are often the inspiration for the rest of us to wake up and act. Without that speech opportunity, we are lost. Without it, there will be no true marketplace of ideas, there will only be those voices that have corporate or government support. We cannot let the ideas that drive the nation be reduced to the occasional tweet. In a world where our politicians and process are for sale to the highest bidder, we need to preserve citizen speech.

Net neutrality guarantees us an outlet of democratic access. If the internet is a toll road, if there are prepaid “fast lanes,” the rest will fall to disrepair. The internet lets us meet, online, to discuss the issues that are central to our today. Net neutrality ensures that those voices can be found, and heard. Out there, in the din of corporate and commercial messages, is the real soul of our nation–the blogger who protests government or corporate tyranny–the witness whose photo goes viral and forces us all to look in the mirror at oppression–the artist whose work isn’t pretty but graphically makes us look in our hearts to see whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution. True free speech isn’t pretty or popular. It’s not likely to garner corporate sponsorship or the internet fast lane.

Even more worrisome is that, in the hands of a corporate fast lane, there is no incentive to protect true speech. Their interests are to sell, to entertain, to market. Despite frightening recent court rulings that corporations have rights, we all know that the driving force in the world of business is money. There is no business interest in the small conscientious voices among us. Indeed, the voices we most have to protect frequently challenge government or corporate authority. Ideas like equality and fairness do not have price tags associated with them, yet they are the most valuable currency this country has. That’s why we need net neutrality.

We all learned this as children. Basic fairness and etiquette don’t give the advantage to the dollar. Net neutrality is a simple proposition, and one that’s difficult to argue against–first come, first served.

Remembrance

A.V. Walters

Growing up in Canada, we called it Remembrance Day. It was the day you bought pin-on poppies from brittle old men, and wore them to recite In Flanders Fields, which all school children memorized for the occasion. It’s a Canadian thing. We got the day off school, of course, but it was a guilty pleasure. Some of our friends spent the day in cemeteries or at war memorials honoring those lost in “The Big Wars.”

It honored the peace brought on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and, at least initially, it honored the losses and hopes specific to the Great War. That was before the wars had sequels and we started to number them. I say hopes, because with the conclusion of the Great War, the hope was that this treaty would create a truly great and lasting peace. What were they thinking?

This day was once remembered in the United States as Armistice Day. That, being too war-specific, was later changed to Veteran’s Day. No poppies, though. In America we’ve bifurcated the war-remembering business into two main days, Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day—separating the flag-waving into a day for the living and a day for the dead. The dead are low-maintenance. Their day is always a Monday, for the convenience of the three-day-weekend. I wish it had retained its solemnity, but all too often it’s just considered the kick-off weekend for the summer season. (Much as the venerable Labor Day has become the summer finale.) Little offends me more than retail sales associated with these important days of reflection. That’s faux patriotism; go ahead, wrap your dollars in the Stars and Stripes, but you cannot hide poor tastes and judgment. My deepest apologies to the war-dead. In reality, this is a culture that turns the page all too quickly. Only the immediate families hang on to the sacrifices and losses of those who gave to their country in full measure.

Veteran’s Day is a tougher question, these days. That’s because it’s difficult to muster the appropriate level of honor to those we currently shortchange in terms of medical care and benefits. Veterans are not low maintenance. Our politicians, though, want to have their cake and keep it, too. They speak in glowing and patriotic terms of sacrifice, lay wreathes on graves, even as they fail to fund their empty promises for veteran’s benefits. Tell the veterans of our current, under-the-rug wars, that we honor them.

I think we should honor the soldiers, living and dead, for their service. Honor the sacrifice, not the war. “War,” we’ve learned, is declared by old men with layered intentions. Economic, political, profiteering or just plain immature—most wars could and should have been avoided. We can’t afford them, financially, environmentally, economically and morally. We’ve had more than our fair share of stupid wars. We shouldn’t be honoring them. But nothing in the stupidity of leaders subtracts from the legitimate sacrifices of soldiers. While we’re at it, I include in those deserving of honor, those who didn’t serve on moral grounds–thinking men whose thoughtful pact with the living didn’t include killing. They pay, too, either in prison terms, public service, or exile.

Usually on days of reflection I fly the flag. Yes, me, the liberal, I fly our flag. I’m tired of the extreme right commandeering Old Glory for their sole use. It’s everyone’s flag, to fly (sometimes to fly upside down in extreme protest of this country’s direction or even to burn, if necessary.) I call it taking back the flag. On Earth Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, Labor Day and Veteran’s Day, I fly our flag. It came as a shock to Elmer, my old landlord. We didn’t share politics, but when he saw my flag and queried me about it, he put up his own (much bigger) flag. The guy is a veteran, but until our conversation, he hadn’t given the concept of patriotism much thought. I fly our flag as a reminder of our responsibilities and to spur our duty to make the future better.

This day, no flag. I gave my flag away to a neighbor girl when I left Two Rock. She asked me why I fly the flag and I told her. I hoped that, like the words of Flanders Fields which meant little to me as a kid, those good reasons for flying the flag would resonate for her as she grew older and was better able to reflect on their meaning. Next year, I’ll get myself a new flag. Maybe even bigger than my old one!

I now recognize that Imperialism rings, even in the innocent enough words of Flanders Fields, and it’s why I urge all to take these as days of reflection, with honor. Question, always question!

 

 

 In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

 

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.