protests vs rallies

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In 1968, when I was stationed at the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, enlisted men were restricted to base for several weeks for our own protection.  No, it was not terrorism, foreign or domestic, that kept us isolated.  The Vietnam War protests had spilled out onto the streets of Philadelphia.  It was ugly and inflammatory.  But, we lived in ugly times.  JFK, RFK and MLK, Jr. had been murdered, conspiracy theories abounded, everyone was pointing fingers.

I had friends who supported the anti-war sentiment and participated in the civil rights movement, good men and women who were passionate about their cause.  As a hayseed farm boy who was apolitical, I listened to those friends and tried to make sense of their arguments, but, in the end analysis as a G.I., my life belonged to the government where differing opinions were frowned upon.

But, what I do remember were the rational conversations regarding government and politics.  Yes, sometimes heated and sometimes spilling out onto the streets, what drove them was passion for their cause.  Many fellow G.I.s , who faced the consequences of a war initiated and prolonged by a greedy munitions-industrial base in the United States, were involved in the fierce debate.

We should not dare compare the 1960s and its internal turmoil with today’s visceral hatred that spews from Presidential rallies.  The scenes from those rallies are pictures of unfettered wrath and undisciplined behavior.  They show America at its worst as the world sees growling faces and pointing fingers.  This is not how America debates its differences.  Consider the peaceful marches in the deep South led by MLK, Jr. and the young peaceniks marching for an end to Vietnam.  They were dedicated to the cause, they were vocal, and they finally prevailed.  But, they were not hateful displays of immaturity and screaming faces.

Change can be forced by one viewpoint upon the other with one of the parties being a consummate loser.  I win, you lose.  Or change can be a win-win situation when both sides agree to compromise, to be civil, and to conduct a rational discourse.

I also remember accounts of an era, just preceding my birth in 1947, of a leader who took it upon himself to incite the hateful, discriminatory rhetoric of the people and conduct one of the most despicable, inhumane eras in human history.  We can do better than that, can we not?

VoteVets.org

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VoteVets.org has submitted a letter of intent to the government of Washington, D.C. to host a 5K run around the National Mall on Veteran’s Day of 2019.  Whether it happens or not remains to be seen as things that happen in our nation’s capital are subject to daily change depending on the temperament of the Administration sitting in the White House.  Details are forthcoming, but the Hill reports the non-profit organization is organizing this event to counter the military parade still envisioned by President Trump for sometime in 2019 after abandoning plans for a Veteran’s Day, 2018, parade at a possible cost of $92 million.

It will be planned as a 5K event for each of the 5 deferments citizen Trump received during the Vietnam War era, four student deferments and one medical deferment for bone spurs.  The organizers intend to raise money for homeless vets citing that the needs for veteran services far exceed the need for military and personal aggrandizement of the current political regime.

VoteVets.org is a progressive political organization dedicated to ensuring veterans have the resources they need to complete their missions abroad, and are taken care of when they return home.  With a membership of 220,000 the group was co-founded in 2006 by Jon Soltz and Jeremy Broussard initially for United States Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with a goal of putting in Congress war veterans who are critical of the war in Iraq.  Its current focus is to educate the American public on war and military issues and hold politicians accountable.

Homeless vets numbered about 40,000 in January of 2016.   They are increasingly younger; however, the majority are in an older age group, 51 and over, having served in the Vietnam War era.  During the next 10 to 15 years the number of homeless vets over the age of 55 is expected to increase dramatically.