Tag Archives: War

Racial Tensions Explode in CA

Racial clashes have sprung up in Northern California, and without the expected suspects:

At least four high-profile attacks involving blacks and Asians have occurred since January in San Francisco and Oakland, including the beating death of Tian Sheng Yu, 59, last month. Two 18-year-old men have been charged with the murder.

Rongshi Chen, 64, was assaulted last fall in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley by a pair of men Chen could only identify as “young and black”. They kicked his ribs, broke his collarbone and made off with $200, credit cards and Chen’s identification. No one caught the attackers.

When I lived in Berkeley a while back, I moved in to a sublet where my roommates were predominantly Asian. Growing up a good liberal in Seattle, I didn’t have any stereotypes and was very open to them. In return, I got treated like a second-class citizen with all of them giving me stares and ignoring me. The landlord even refused to take my rent money and wouldn’t answer my requests to see my mail. He evicted me with a bunch of made-up claims, saying that I had failed to pay rent and literally threatening me with violence if I didn’t leave.

Once I got out of that scary situation, I told the police. They said they’d keep tabs on it but said I didn’t have enough for an arrest or anything like that.

I think stories like  mine and the one above go to show that racism is a recurring facet of human society, not caused by whites in the south, reclusive Asians or angry blacks but what I believe is our shared tribal nature with primates.

What Does a Veteran Want Today?

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. My work has kept me very busy, to say the least. Still, I’ve been here reading and enjoying what my fellow contributors are posting.

But today seemed like a good time to contribute a post of my own. It’s Veteran’s Day (originally Armistice Day). It’s the one and only day set aside to remember the veterans of the wars that America has fought. For most of us this is a weekend of department store sales, war movies on A&E and a 3 day weekend if our employers observe the national holiday tomorrow. But for some of us, it is a day that brings back memories, some as recent as yesterday and some from decades long gone. And this post is for those men and women.

Why do we care about Veteran’s Day? Most of time we end up marching in the parades that celebrate our day, which seems somewhat backwards to us. I’ll try to tell you a bit about who we think we are and what we want. Bear in mind this isn’t some collective that I’m speaking for, just my thoughts, based on my experiences and the hundreds of other veterans I know.

We think that today should be a day that we set aside politics and remember the men and women that have served in the military in wartime. We are men and women who have gone in harm’s way, been at risk of death and injury, and lived in extreme, austere conditions. Most Americans will never understand what it means, in this day and age of an all volunteer military, to serve in the military, let alone in combat. And that’s good.

Today, we want you to set aside your politics. Stop using us as tools in your political battles, just for today.

Sadly, the extremes of the political landscape in our country have gotten worse, not better. On the one side we have a resurgence of soldier = baby killer and soldier = victim rhetoric. On the other, we have soldiers as martyrs to a glorious cause. I’m a former soldier and a veteran of both the Cold War and the first Gulf War, and we are none of those things. We are not victims, brutalized by war and turned into unthinking, callous killers. Nor are we martyrs in the holy war against whomever the current enemy is.

We veterans of America’s wars are men and women who have, for reasons we know, but often cannot clearly convey to anyone else, chosen to serve in the military during time of war. We put our lives on the line, dealt with sacrifices nearly incomprehensible to the average American living today, and managed to do so with honor intact. We are Americans, just like the rest of you. I am neither hero nor villain, nor are my comrades. We are humans, with all the complexities and frailties of any other person.

I don’t think what I did was special or somehow made me a hero, and so it embarrasses me when you say thank you for my military service. But it also touches me deeply when someone goes out of their way to do so. Regardless of what you think of the rightness or wrongness of the conflicts, it is good to know that my personal experiences and service are viewed with value and respect. I have had people from every political landscape in this country talk to me about Veterans on this day over the years without putting their political views on the line as well.

And that is all that we ask.

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