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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Only pawns in their game

Demonstrators opposed to the Iraq war march across the Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C.(J. David Ake / Associated Press)Mar 17,2007I didn't go to any of the marches against the "Iraq" "war" over the weekend. I marched twice when I was a member of a veterans group that advocates peace, and decided, to coin a phrase, that I ain't marchin' anymore. I don't like the crowds, and I don't like being on public display. It felt like the image I had of professors and former government officials in China's Cultural revolution, who were paraded through the streets wearing dunce hats and signs saying "Running dog of Capitalism" and "Imperialist lackey."

Another reason for not marching anymore is that I find the Henry David Thoreau observation in The Village to be consistent with my own experience: "Wherever a man goes, men will pursue him and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate oddfellow society."

Marine Corporal Cloy Richards, second left, whose mother Tina Richards made national headlines after she had a confrontation with Rep. David Obey (D-WI) questioning Obey's effort on stopping the war in Iraq, marches along with other anti-war activists towards the Pentagon.(Alex Wong / Getty Images)Mar 17, 2007But I admire people that do march, for the most part. It's not easy, and I suspect that many, if not most, people have attitudes about marching similar to mine. The marches are effective ways of organizing people, and let the "authorities" know that their schemes are not going unchallenged.

Counter protesters gesture towards the anti-war marchers.(Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)Mar 17, 2007When looking at news reports about the march in Washington, D.C., stupid capital of the universe, last Saturday, I came across photos of counter- demonstrators, who seemed to be veterans. Angry veterans. Veterans who, for some reason, believe that any doubt or opposition to any "American" military action anywhere is treason. Veterans like the "Swift boat veterans for truth," who waged a huge disinformation campaign against John Kerry in the 2004 election.

Join the elite - Madison VA parking lot, 2006 (John Hamilton / While we still have time)I come across this type of veteran often, because I get my health care at the VA (what used to be called the Veterans Administration, now known as the Department of Veterans Affairs). They tend to be members of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and the American Legion. There are also smaller organizations with similar interests and advocacies for veterans, such as VietNow and Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans. One thing they have in common is the belief that there are great numbers of "American" prisoners of war still held in "Vietnam," and that the "government" is covering this supposed scandal up for political purposes.

One of the myths that should be dispelled before going any farther on this subject is to note that somewhere between six to nine out of 10 military personnel don't serve in combat in a war zone, and most never serve in a war zone at all. One can assume, without any hard evidence, that the ratio, sometimes known as "tooth to tail," is similar in veterans organizations. In my own experience of what I see at the VA, the ratio is likely higher. There are very few loudmouth braggarts among VA patients, but the loudest are people I wouldn't want to be anywhere near in a combat situation. They seem to find each other at the VA, and every so often one can pass a bragging fest. Most people avoid them like the plague.

American soldier - Madison VA parking lot, 2006 (John Hamilton / While we still have time)Not being tenured in an endowed chair at a university, I don't have vast resources for doing exhaustive research, so I have to rely on "casual empiricism" - personal experience. It would be a study worthy of an endowed chair, though, to research the prevalence, experience, beliefs, attitudes, influence, activities, and behavior of what I call "professional veterans." People who literally wear their identities on their sleeves. It also would be worth knowing how many of the "Freepers" are veterans, and how many are actual combat veterans. I suspect it is about one in ten thousand, if there are ten thousand "Freepers." Fakery is running rampant in the "U.S." today.

Demonstrators who support the war, heckle anti-war marchers as they walk from the National Mall to the Pentagon.(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press) Mar 17, 2007On Saturday a group of motorcycle riding, black leather wearing, presumed veterans converged on Washington to counter- demonstrate, yell, point fingers, and in general be manly and war approving. In the new costume of patriotism, masculinity, and lost connection with the earth, or something, the biking veterans stand up for what they think is an identity that has meaning. There are desperate oddfellow societies, and then there are desperate oddfellow societies.

I could go on and on about how they are just suckers for the corporate elite, who look upon them with revulsion and cynical laughter. Henry Kissinger referred to soldiers this way: “Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” But Bob Dylan said it best in "Only a pawn in their game" - To kill with no pain, like a dog on a chain, he ain't got no name, but it ain't him to blame - he's only a pawn in their game.

Professional veterans, Freepers, angry biking veterans, fake veterans, Swift boat veterans - they don't amount to much in numbers, and aren't much of a factor, but they exist, and as we move toward true civilization they should not be ignored. They will be a good benchmark for how far we have advanced. For instance, if the country starts looking like "Mad Max," we will know that we have failed miserably. If it starts looking like, hmm, I don't know, a Tibetan monastery, maybe we can say we've succeeded. Or maybe like Native tribes before the conquest. I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.

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