"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Military Hippie Divide

Awhile back I blogged about how military public servants and "activists" should be more similar.  One takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution and to demonstrate courage, while the other exercises those Constitutional rights, and uses the most basic machinery of a democracy to strengthen our liberty here at home, and often does so with great courage, in the sad face of batons and pepper spray and worse.

There should be an affinity between the two groups.  Instead, there is distrust and caricature.  One group is part of "the system" and the other is a band of unemployed America-hating "dirty long-haired hippies."  Some military folks even celebrate citizens being beaten and pepper sprayed while exercising their First Amendment rights, and even joke about employing munitions on them.  I think the image of the hippie spitting on the returning Vietnam veteran has done great harm, but I think the problem is much more than that.  I think the "hippies" are right, those who they pay to protect their freedom, and who swore before God to do so, are in large part failing.  We are seeing many failures across the spectrum of our nation, but these failures are much more important in systems that wage the tools of violence.  I think these voices of concern are democracy's feedback session to those of us who raised our hands and took the oath.

Prior to this past weekend, I had never been to an "activist" meeting, or a protest or anything of that nature.  I keep putting the word "activist" in quotes, because I don't really like the term, as it sets some Americans apart for simply being good Americans by exercising their rights and attempting to guide the government they pay for.  Regardless of the semantics, I traveled to Austin, Texas to be a part of the Peaceful Streets Project's Police Accountability Summit and to share some technologies that Americans can use to protect themselves against those number of police officers who lie, and who ignore their oaths to the Constitution by violating the rights of the citizens who pay them.

It was an interesting experience.  The event was impressive and more than two hundred people showed up.  There were several great speakers, and the folks who put the event on were truly amazing.  I witnessed some great organizational and people skills, and some truly great communication.  The crowd was very diverse.  There were libertarians, Occupy folks, conservatives, liberals, anarchists, whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, the well to do, the standard middle class, the poor and the homeless.  I met many great Americans, and I met just a couple of individuals who I would classify as conspiracy theorist and perhaps a bit "out there."  I was very pleased, and relieved, that violence was not even hinted at, by any in their discussion of the problems and possible solutions.  I actually felt like I had a real connection that traced back to the days of Martin Luther King and the many nameless who moved the ball forward for liberty in this nation.  That was a nice feeling.

I had some of my media-reinforced stereotypes shattered.  Case in point, when I met two folks who looked and sounded like "rednecks" who might be found in a duck blind cursing activists.  I found out that the two gentleman were representatives from Occupy Austin, and I found myself wondering what real difference there might be between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement.  These were just impressions.

What was more interesting to me, was that there were some who were clearly suspicious of your humble blogger, because of my chosen occupation.  That was interesting.  I don't typically experience that in my day to day experience.  I don't blame them, of course, when they are a group that exercises their rights and are vocal and who, in their supervision and ownership of their government, often gets pepper sprayed, unlawfully arrested, herded into "free speech zones," and disparaged by those wearing a variety of uniforms.  I can understand their mistrust.

But it makes me sad, because Americans on the street and their public servants in uniform, should share an affinity and a common bond.  Whatever our personal politics, we should be able to agree on the basics, that we are a free nation of citizens who enjoy inviolable rights.  Despite the diversity in beliefs at this "activist" event, that was a rock solid anchor point that all there shared.  While I certainly didn't agree with the politics or philosophies of many at the event, we all agreed on the basics that make America a success and stronger for our diverse opinions.  In fact, the event was organized to cover those basics.  It wasn't about personal politics or viewpoints from the left and the right, it concentrated on the very essential core of what it means to be an American living in a free nation.

I was very proud to be a part of this event.  It was a real American experience, and it put a human touch on the freedoms that I, as a military officer, do in fact, and without question, fight for.  I hope my brothers-in-arms will one day soon get the opportunity to similarly experience this America we swear to support and defend, with our lives if necessary.