Growing up, I knew my father had gone to war when he was 19 years old. I knew that he was an Air Force pilot and that he’d been stationed in the China, India, Burma theater. But, that’s all I knew, because he didn’t talk about it. Once, I heard him talking with a friend about how they were glad they’d had daughters so they would never have to go to war. Something about that overheard conversation coupled with my father’s silence on the subject of war stuck with me. Early on, I decided that I didn’t want anything to do with war.
During the Viet Nam war, my boyfriend, a musician, got drafted. We’d done everything possible to get him out and spent endless nights pacing and crying and feeling helpless as we watched the coffins coming home on the nightly news. On the day of his induction physical, we had all but given up hope. He reported, took the physical, saw the psychiatrist and finally, they told him to shower and change. He was in the Army. He got into the shower and started to cry. When he got out of the shower he sat, naked, on a bench in the locker room, sobbing. Someone of rank found him there, grabbed him by his long curly locks which had yet to be shorn, and took him back to the psychiatrist. He was deemed psychologically unfit for war. He got out. My girlfriend’s fiancé came home in a coffin. Later, I moved to Canada and worked with groups bringing AWOL soldiers across the border. I heard their stories and saw the impact of war on young men who were being called cowards by their country. They became my heroes.
When my daughter was born, I remember thinking, “Thank God. She’ll never have to go to war.” Now, I have twin grandsons, and as I watch the expansion of wars fought for profit and expansionist policies, I am more committed than ever to fighting for an end to all war.
I will be there on October 7 for my grandsons and in honor of my father whose silence told me more about war than all the history books.
Dr. Margaret Flowers:
Sunday, October 7, I will be there at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New York City. As a member of Veterans Peace Team, I will stand in solidarity with all who have experienced war and are left to suffer the permanent scars of it. As a physician, I will stand in memory of all who were killed in war or who later committed suicide in order to stop the nightmares of war. And as a mother of two young men, I will stand in hope that together human beings will recognize that we are all one and will stop sending one people to kill another people. I will also be there to make a statement against the restriction of public space and the slow erosion of our civil rights and privatization of public institutions. I will be there to contribute what I can to create a world of peace, justice and shared community.
Endless wars to expand the American empire and provide transnational corporations with cheap resources and cheap labor while hollowing out the economy at home are a disaster for the nation and the Earth. The most powerful military in the world needs to be shrunk down to size rather than continue to suck up resources needed to re-start the economy, hire more teachers and pay them adequately, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, put in place a new energy economy; and on the world stage to end poverty, provide needed drugs to the ill and educate the world. It is time to put an end to war and work diplomatically and cooperatively with the world community.
The October 7 protest stands as a symbol of shrinking public space that undermines our right to assemble to redress grievances and to free speech that is critical of the government. Arbitrary limits on access to public war memorials is especially offensive to those who suffer war’s wounds. And to have these capricious limits enforced by the militarized NYPD, which has routinely violated the right to protest–at a time when there is plenty to protest–is a slap in the face to all Americans. On October 7 will the militarized NYPD attack veterans or will they recognize we are on the right side of history, the right side of the Constitution and join us in protesting the destruction of the ideals America strives for?