Veteran’s Day

November 11, 2008

Veteran’s Day – this is a National Holiday that is replete with symbolism and photo ops. We will see many pictures of politicians laying wreaths at monuments and gravesites. But, if you look closely enough you will see the eyes of some of the participants, some empty and staring back into their memories, others tearing up as they look away. Those are the living veterans. Those are the men and women we should be honoring with more than just a ceremony at a graveyard. We don’t treat our living veterans very well until they are buried. That’s the sad truth.

Consider the history of how we have treated veterans coming home from wars in the past. Congress refused to pay Revolutionary War veterans their salaries and later their pensions. In 1932 veterans marched on Washington D.C. to collect on a bonus they had been promised and they were beaten and imprisoned on orders from President Hoover. Vietnam veterans came home to a Country that couldn’t separate their opposition to the War from the men who were forced to fight in it.

Consider the situation of veterans now. Last year approximately 25% of all homeless people in America were veterans. On any given night one-third of the people sleeping in a doorway, a box or an alley are veterans. Men and women coming home from Iraq are treated in hospitals without proper staffing and equipment. Walter Reed Hospital near Washington D.C., the premier Veteran’s Hospital was housing patients in rooms with walls collapsing from mold with rodents and cockroaches scampering across the floors.

It’s not enough to honor the men and women who served our Country after they have died. We should be honoring them while they are alive. Today, we should thank every veteran we see and shake their hand. We should take the time to write or e-mail our representatives in Congress and tell them we want to make sure that every V.A. Hospital is fully staffed and responsive to every veteran. We need to eliminate the bureaucracy that delays and prevents treatment. We need to fully fund education and housing for all veterans.

Combat veterans understand that the dead take care of themselves and that we need to take care of the living.

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The Times They Are A Changin’

November 5, 2008

Last night was such a beautiful affirmation of our country. Set in Grant Park, the place where, in 1968, the division and injustice of America was underscored, stood a real African-American who had just been elected the 44th President of the United States. Instead of a battle-zone with the lines of police and young people separated by flying rocks, bottles and tear-gas, there was a single, joyous crowd of over 500,000 people of every age, race and culture – a crowd so diverse that it could only happen in America.

Electing Barack Obama hasn’t changed anything (yet), but it has come to symbolize change and the unchangeable, the future and the past. It was a return to the past promise of an ideal of equality but left incomplete – “an uncashed check written in 1776” as Dr. Martin Luther King put it. It was a return to the past and future of promise as Barack Obama became the first to cash that check for all of us.

Last night was a return to the future because it not only re-affirmed national character, it also reaffirmed our future. The election results from last night were a sea change – a total repudiation of the politics of division and the empty promises of conservatives. We return to a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The true character of the American people, which had been obscured by the politics of fear and division, was rejected. Let me give you one example from my own State of Michigan.

Michigan citizens have suffered for years under a Supreme Court considered the worst in the Country. Elected with the massive monies provided secretly by corporations and funneled through the Chamber of Commerce, four judges, led by Chief Justice Clifford Taylor, repeatedly ruled against individuals in favor of their corporate sponsors; overturning jury verdicts, legal precedents and creating new laws [when Federalist judges do this they call it being a “Strict Constructionist”]. For the first time in Michigan history, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (The “Sleeping Judge”) has been thrown out of office by the people he had victimized. Like voters in the national election, Michigan voters rejected the politics of fear and division. The new political road is one of unity and hope.

It’s good to be an American this morning.

History is being made all over the Country, by younger Americans, by a new America. Times are changing and like the old Bob Dylan song:

“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land,
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand.
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.
Your old road is rapidly aging.
Please get out of the new one, if you can’t lend a hand,
For the times they are a changing.”