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Peace Soldiers Cross America For Veterans Rights - Part 2
Two Occupy veterans, Stephen Michael Clift (Army) and James Cartmill, (Navy), radicalized and humanized by their military service and their Occupy experience, began a self-described 'epic' 'Trans-national mission to wage peace,' Code Name: March Across America, a quest to end veterans' homelessness by preventing and healing the spiritual wounds vets incur from their war experience and military service, and to carry a Veterans For Peace dove flag signed by many veterans to their model and guide, the heroic and revered veterans' advocate, Scott Camil, on his 67th birthday, May 19th. They traveled though seven towns along the California Coast, and their mission is progressing nicely. Check it out.
On Tues, Nov. 19, 2013, Stephen Michael Clift (Army) and James Cartmill (Navy), Occupy Veterans San Francisco, launched a March Across America, a “Trans-national mission to wage peace,” testing the Obama administration's promise to end veteran homelessness by 2015.
Their Veterans For Peace Dove flag rippled along winding mountain passes, green hills, and sandy flats, as they hitched and bussed the California Coast south through San Jose, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Salinas, King City, and San Luis Obispo reaching Guadalupe on 12/15/13.
Turning East from San Diego across the South to Gainesville, Florida, they'll deliver to their war resistance and social justice symbol, Vietnam Veteran Scott Camil, the Peace Flag signed by vets along the road.
Fighters transformed by violence and war, their drive to heal a deadly sociopolitical dysfunction impels these counterculture Global Justice activists to march the roads energizing vets.
GREEN VETS IS WHAT WE IS, BABY!
In his essay, 'Re-Greening Veterans: An approach to Post-deployment Life and the Radicalization of US Armed Forces Veterans,' Mike writes:
“It is time for the men and women who have returned home from the military to think about the role they played by supporting US militarism, and the opportunities to heal themselves from the 'damage' they may have done or suffered.”
Believing a revolution starts with a small group defying corruption, 'Pirate' Mike and James Cartmill, 'Liberty One,' challenge vets to 'Re-Green' America away from corporate spiritual and ethical grotesqueries to a healthier human heart and environment.
“There is never peace, anywhere, with the US government running amok from the sands of the Middle East to the cities of our own nation, with violent police crack downs on peaceful anti-war demonstrations and movements, with unending racism and poverty, the only peace we can hope to achieve is within ourselves, and we can turn this inner peace into outward expressions of love and beauty, and POLITICAL POWER,” through Direction Action and community organizing.
These Peace soldiers determine to replace America's obsolete ethos --- competition, wealth accumulation, and an imperialistic rage to control --- with cooperation, sharing, and acceptance.
SAN FRANCISCO'S GLOBAL REACH
As 'Wall Street West' occupiers, living in the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank's shadow at 101 Market, Mike and James observed corporate psychopathic fixation on money-hoarding and dominance over People.
Global elite multinational corporatists force the Capital poison pill down Nations' throats, inflicting suffering on the international 99%, the Poor and homeless.
Steadily siphoning-off dollars, multinational corporations render the U.S. a 'Nation In Distress,' symbolized by the upside down American flag the Occupy Veterans also carry.
They march to protest corporatists' utilizing Fear-mongering and War to squeeze the American psyche in their iron grip.
Mike observes, "The baseline citizen of our country is essentially a frightened wage slave. Their entire existence is based on fear."
U.S. eagerness to do the Global Elites' bidding, maintaining the world's most powerful military and weaponized police state, brands it the planet's most dysfunctional Nation.
For a steady diet of troops, the U.S. Military hunts teenagers. Through stealthy, clever enticements --- money, education, travel --- army recruiters target the youngest, poorest Americans without schooling or employment options.
As Mike dramatizes his narrative, on graduation, he was a 17-year-old skinny kid, looking 12. “Pay rent, or move out,” says Dad.
A 23-year-old slides up in a Camaro. ”Ever think about joining the Army, Kid?”
“I dunno, Mister.”
“'We'll give you three grand to sign up. You see the world, Dude. Maybe go to Japan or South America. Ride around in an Army tank.'
“Next thing, you're sitting in his car, and he's reaching in the cooler.”
James' reaction to separating and reconciling parents bouncing him from town to town was fighting in school. At 17, he was 'persuaded' to join the Navy --- another pathetic attempt to discipline a boy.
“THE MOST HORRIBLE CULT IS THE CULT OF WAR”
Basic training, Mike reports, replaces through shock the civilian brain with a soldier's brain, conditioned to maim and slaughter fellow humans on command. Recruits commit atrocities horrifying to their deleted civilian Selves.
On this march, they screened the Fran Strine film, 'Battlefield Of the Mind.' Mike appears in the film describing homeless vets with PTSD.
“What I've been seeing on the streets – more and more young men … can't live with their pre-service self because that sergeant, that private, is such a dominant force in their personalities now they cannot get the civilian to forgive the soldier.”
Whether they survive their deployment intact, sustain physical damage (traumatic brain injury) or emotional scars (post-traumatic stress disorder ) --- or die, they are dumped unceremoniously 'home.'
The Military does not de-program soldiers from the cult of violence and war, so they suicide and continue killing. Thousands, unable to survive culture shock, become jobless and homeless.
In The United States Of Money, where the highest value is Capital, anyone poor and homeless, including the veteran who 'gave his life for his country,' immediately loses status. On U.S. city streets like San Francisco, tousled heads poke from sleeping bags on cold concrete with nowhere else to go, criminalized with tickets for 'quality of life' infractions.
In the American capitalist cast system, the marginally poor and middle class, as in San Luis Obispo and King City, cloak themselves in snobbery, tricked by the corporate elite into believing even a little money bestows superiority.
Commercial centers form business improvement districts (BIDs) in cities like San Francisco and San Luis Obispo, hiring Security to harass and roust Poor and homeless veterans.
They are modeling a New World, replacing a culture of hoarding by cooperatively sharing food with homeless people 'down by the river' in Santa Cruz.
They visit dignified veterans' memorials and support services that help rebuild shattered lives.
They teach direct action strategies, encouraging disempowered homeless vets and homeless people to mobilize together in peaceful dissent against the injustices of 'A Nation In Distress.' They hope, thereby, to re-instill self-assertion and self-worth and heal veterans' war-engendered depression and paralysis.
Mike blogged that America's pioneering adventurism "has been sublimated into … video games...yeah, I got a high...score On the GAME. Oh I lost money on the GAME..."
Cross-country, they are modeling Army survival skills to neutralize apathy and fear and re-infuse the pioneering, risk-taking spirit into American life.
THE MARCH SO FAR
SAN JOSE – DEFENSE OUTPOST
San Francisco supporters drove them to San Jose where Silicon Valley high tech coexists with a beautiful new Veterans Memorial.
About 50 white flags in neat rows are set in a riverside park in the Civic Center bounded by “a glass wall on the street side with frosted images and screens of men and women soldiers from all the different adventures, accompanied by excerpts from letters written to the home front, ranging from captured pilots to medics' letters to their buddy's parents. This author was moderately overcome by emotion...
“...it seemed singularly ironic given the memorials' location in the middle of a defense industry outpost.” Jon Xavier of the Silicon Valley BizBlog writes: “Oracle and Hewlett Packard both have a lucrative relationship with the Department of Defense, earning $69 and $40 million ... respectively.”
From San Jose, they crossed the mountains to coastal Santa Cruz, which opened a Vet Memorial on December 4. Townsfolk, however, displayed classism and apathy toward dozens of homeless vets camped by the river suffering “all the usual crap at the hands of the police.”
Observing Occupiers Mike and James use peaceful 'Mindfuck' to resist and defuse irritating cop harassment is 'instructional.' Writes Mike, “Those who have the pleasure to wait to meet us should know we're a two-man political wrecking crew. Liberty is big on filming the coppers.” The rest is verbal.
MONTEREY – ROOMMATE ISSUES
Along 101, they followed a South-eastward coastal cut from Santa Cruz to pretty Monterrey.
Mike woke to squirrels playing overhead.
They took time to strategize and “negotiate” (wrangle). Imagine being stuck with one person on a VERY LONG TRIP.
SALINAS – FLAT TERRAIN WITH 'COUGHING FREIGHT TRAINS'
From Monterey inland to Salinas, they backtracked East and hopped a bus along 101, heading South.
They identified numbed out, conditioned folks they called 'car people,' "aspiring working class” – “more apathetic to two guys waving a giant peace flag and spangeing the median than any other town so far."
They found a one-flagpole memorial.
“Polite, nonthreatening locals, zero police hassle,” for camping in the park, waving a flag, and megaphoning messages to mostly homeless Vietnam vets.
Though the horror of their World War II servicemen slaughtered in the Bataan Death march probably produced the wonderful veteran church programs there, dissent against the military machine seemed “suppressed through peace.”
They had computer access, took showers, then left.
101 South to King City was an apathetic nightmare forecast of San Luis Obispo drivers shunning hitchhikers.
“Our signs and our flag, indeed, our very beings, were ignored, and it built up into a sense of frustration with the civilian population. Is it any wonder that 22 veterans killed themselves today?
"People are AFRAID of vets because of this climate of fear.”
They bussed 101 South to San Luis Obispo.
SAN LUIS OBISPO – PRETTIEST TOWN WE MARCHED THROUGH
Set in a stunning mountain landscape, SLOtown itself is a tidy California suburban replicant, “with little inclination to support veterans.” Business district regulations keep it polished, fast-food joint and riff-raff free. Skateboarders get a $700 fine; marijuana-smokers, $300 bucks.
Here, repression and denial of dissent burst into open hostility. James took offense at disgusted flip-offs from CalPoly students driving “Jag petro beasts.” Their “tech-retired neo-lib parents” sported flags and Obama stickers on their Mercedes. Graduation guarantees an Army career. High Tech Park seeks military contracts.
From San Luis Obispo, they followed 101 South to Santa Maria, then West toward the Coast to Guadalupe's sandy ocean-front National park.
GUADALUPE - IMMIGRANT-FARMWORKER 99% LOVE AND KINDNESS
Little kids ran around the Christmas parade. “Out here, the parents give the children the money to hand out to the beggars.”
After SLOtown's entitled attitude hurled at homeless vets hauling a Peace flag, Mike and James basked in this non-elitist, sharing atmosphere.
“inspirational day, passing out flyers, all the businesses let me post them in the windows...”
Locals joke that Dominos lasted 6 months. “...its all fresh food and free range meat, no traffic jams...everything Frisco isn't.
“I despair at our CITIES, but our strength as a people, ONE PEOPLE OF ALL RACES is in our small towns.
Atop a thin flagpole rising from a small cemetery, a striped red flag waved in a sea blue sky. Its base plaque honored Guadalupe's veterans, including 300 Vietnam volunteers, “for unselfish service and sacrifices.”
Mike praised Catholic Beatitude House's regular vigils and civil disobedience at Vandenburg Air Force Base nearby. In 2012, alongside Daniel Ellsburg and Father Louis Vitale, townspeople protested the nuclear-capable Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test-launch.
Stay tuned and discover whether they eventually enjoy San Diego beach R and R, staring appreciatively at bikinis.
Quotes are from Mike's website.
You can follow their trip on the Occupy Veterans San Francisco website where James and Mike speak about their adventures together on video:
James, an accomplished photographer and videographer, also has several websites full of photos and videos at:
#ICM3 Website - http://independentcitizenmedia.weebly.com
#OSFTV Ustream - http://www.ustream.tv/channel/occupysftv
#OSFTV YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/user/OccupySFTV
Livestream Archive #OSF 2011 - http://www.livestream.com/occupyliberty