DeTours

Winter and the Imbolc Moon (wolf moon)

Thursday gratefuls: Mark, brother Mark. Diane’s gift. Kate, struggling. VRCC. The snow. Biden at work. Trump gone. Coffee. Easy Entrees. Safeway pickup. The full Imbolc Moon, especially yesterday evening when it hung so beautifully in the east. Snow falling off Lodgepole Pine branches.

 

Kate on the porch on Pontiac Street, 2015

 

Kate. Still struggling. It’s been tough for her since she came home from the hospital. Feeling icky. Nausea. Shortness of breath. General malaise. Lot of time in bed. Don’t know what to make of it. Neither does she. Hard night last night.

I’m better rested, but not by much. Still ragged. Getting workouts in, napping, cooking. Not a lot else.

Been thinking for awhile about an article Diane (cousin) sent me about a group in Hawai’i that takes folks on a radical version of tourist tours, DeTours. They talk about corporate, historic, and military insults to the Islands. It was begun by a group I respect, The American Friends Service Committee.

I worked closely with them in Muncie, Indiana and early in my time in Minneapolis/St. Paul since they aided draft resistors, especially conscientious objectors. The Quaker’s are a peace church and have long been conscientious objectors to war, slavery, other human against human indecencies. I agree with their politics.

It got personal for me, though, since Joe and Seoah and Murdoch have recently made Hawai’i and Hickam AFB their home. These tours cite U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in particular:

“The military’s role in Hawaii isn’t solely to serve as a base of operations, but as a place to project power all across the globe. During the 1960s, military activities in Hawaii could be felt in Vietnam; today, they are felt in Afghanistan. “The wars that emanate from Hawaii, that are commanded from here, the techniques and technologies that are tested and perfected here, how is that harming folks in other parts of the world? That’s an aspect of the responsibility that we bear.””

This is where Major Joe works. Right now focusing on the Philipines, but later back to Singapore.

Since Joe decided to join the Air Force, I’ve had to reexamine my attitudes and beliefs about the military. It’s difficult. I love him and support him in what he’s chosen to do. His motivation is that of a classic warrior: protect the people I love and the country in which they live. A motivation I find honorable.

Since my days as an anti-war protester, I’ve had many glib responses to the military. Of the join the army, see foreign lands, meet exotic people, and kill them variety. Or, They don’t call it murder if you kill in the thousands and with banners flying. That sort of thing.

Even before Joe went into the Air Force, I’d begun to reexamine some of my beliefs, in particular those about folks who serve in the military. We had been, I realized, unfairly critical of American soldiers who served in the Vietnam War. Calling them baby killers. Accusing them of war crimes.

Yes, there were war crimes and, yes, babies were killed as in all wars. And those things are horrendous, wrong. But these men who fought were in a chain of command, at the very bottom. They neither made policy nor, at least for many, chose to be there. The draft. Poverty. Few jobs.

Robert McNamara. LBJ. The Wolfowitz’s, Pompeo’s, Rumsfeld’s and Cheney’s of their time. These were the policy makers, the pursuers of evil dreams. Note that none of these are military officers.

Let’s shorten this conversation by stipulating that I came to understand the military’s role as executors of policy, not makers of it. In that role the US tradition is that the military only acts under civilian command. And, in that tradition, it does not get to choose its battles.

Yes, many military folks are right winger, nationalist types, but there are also many Joseph’s. Men and women whose desire to protect, to defend led them not to the police or medicine, but to the ancient role of warrior.

We need them. The world is not a democracy. It is an anarchic blend of nations with whom we are sometimes friends, sometimes enemies, and sometimes neutrals. Just because we love peace, and I do, we cannot imagine that others will share that conviction.

I opposed the Vietnam War. Not war. It was a colonialist adventure, under-girded by McCarthy era beliefs about communism and communists, and prosecuted by men who saw the U.S. as a champion of liberty.

Back to Hawai’i and the military. Yes, military bases are now and have been throughout history problematic. They bring together large masses of young men whose behavior during their time off duty can be reprehensible. Subic Bay in the Phillipines and our base in Okinawa are recent examples.

They pollute with chemicals related to munitions and even to something as benign in purpose as fire fighting. They take land and destroy some of it, like Pu’ula, a fine aquatic culture bay made into Pear Harbor.

And, of course, to the folks at DeTours the most problematic is their purpose. To use military means to defend the country and project power around the globe.

So. Without nuance the military bases in Hawai’i are an objective problem. And, the military should do all it can to address problems with its neighbors, the very people they are there to protect.

But. I flashed back to a lecture in Contemporary Civilization, C.C. as we called it, during my freshman year at Wabash. Well-honed enough to draw former students back as fans it featured the town versus gown difficulties in the middle ages. They sometimes erupted into violence.

Then I recalled my experience on the West Bank in Minneapolis. There were constant struggles between the residents of the West Bank and St. Mary’s Hospital, Augsburg College, and the University of Minnesota. These institutions, large and opaque to the residents who lived on this small urban island, often made decisions about destroying housing, changing streets and parking, that enraged them.

During those same years I participated in anti-corporate work with similar motivations. General Mills, in the Stevens Square Neighborhood, Control Data in the Eliot Park Neighborhood, and Sandoz (yes, that Sandoz) in the takeover of the Northrup King Seed company made corporate decisions that they imagined in the best interest of the effected neighborhoods and businesses. We didn’t agree. We managed to eject General Mills and Control Data, but lost the battle over Northrup King Seeds.

If you are a pacifist to begin with, as the American Friends Service folks are for the most part, and you’re in a place with an institution as large and faceless as a military base, an institution dedicated to a purpose you find abhorrent, well…

I’m saying here, I get it. If I were in my 20’s or 30’s, I could be a tour guide for DeTours.

But, I’m not. I turn 74 next month. I now see the military as a tool for the safety of our democracy. Must wars be fought ethically? Sure. Will they be? Sometimes. Will the maintenance of a military as large as ours create trouble where it places its bases? Inevitably.

Nobody should let base command off the hook for pollution, crime driven by military personnel, decisions about the land around the bases. But. As on the West Bank there were hospitals and colleges and universities, there will be locations where the military needs to store its supplies, train its service members, and, yes, project power into distant corners of the world. That the needs of this huge and often clumsy institution will come into conflict with even the people they’re meant to serve is ironic, of course, but not surprising.

Old age has brought a sense of nuance and complexity I lacked in my 20’s and 30’s. I stand, as perhaps you can tell, firmly in both camps. One foot inside the base and one out. Gray, a lotta gray in the world as we age.

What? It was always there? Oh, I know. Just…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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