2012 Convention

It has been about a week since the Iraq Veterans Against the War national convention came to a close and what a week it has been.  Sorting through everything that was talked about, finding ways of dealing with members that seem to be set in their way, at least to some of us newer members, and finishing up paperwork in support of expanding the member idea base have made for a long week.  Being able to meet and converse with some of the other prominent groups around the country that made it out to the convention was an outstanding opportunity. The Poverty Initiative, National Nurses United, and United Workers all had representatives there to tell a little about their stories and show that we are not fighting alone or against a single target but rather at the roots, we are all fighting the same problem.  Opening the lines of communication and allowing for these groups to work hand in hand will open doors that alone our organizations would not be able to find.

This convention was the first that I have been able to attend and from the sound of all the conversations it was a good one to start with.  From the conversations that I was a part of this year went without a hitch, only minor hiccups, and the weekend progressed better than it had ever before.  This is even in light of some major projected changes to the organization.  Losing staff, changing almost the entire board of directors, a by-law amendment, proposing a process to change the name, and overall looking at the model of organizing to see if there is a way to optimize persons in their direct locations.

From the active members that were able to attend there was a fairly good showing from around the nation.  Chicago, Colorado, the Bay area, and Texas had an outstanding showing, not to mention other members from across the US.  CivSol showed that they are down to do whatever is needed to help us in any actions we need and a big shout out needs to go to Anna and Sergio.  Both members of CivSol made the convention happen for us.  Now down to my opinions and observations of the events that took place.

The proposed process that would allow for the name to be looked at, not necessarily changing the name but looking at the possible pros and cons of a name change, went fairly well.  A straw poll was taken and the majority of the member body voted to move forward with the process.  There were only 4 blocks and two of those blocks came from either a prospective board member or a current member of the staff who is currently involved with the committee that was underwriting this process coming into the convention.  These two members were the spokespersons for, and possibly influenced negatively other members who are either new or look up these veterans of the organization.  That being said I am not discounting that other veteran members did not have any influence on the body but rather the flow was not stopped and the forward momentum could be continued.

Although hurricane Sandy had taken its toll across the eastern seaboard, one staff member could not make it to the start of the convention, this member was also one of two blocks on the vote for the new overarching scope and direction of the VVM, which was covered on the day that was missed.  The block was based on, from my understanding, on the use of a single term, militarism.

There were also workshops that took place throughout the weekend.  Three that stick out as ones to be mentions are the fundraising workshop where Amadee covered how to create a budget on a local chapter level and ways of funding chapters.  Things from throwing a house party and inviting current or possible donors to finding new donors in the community were all covered.  The Warrior Writers workshop which I was unable to attend but heard that the work coming out of the sessions were amazing and the use of tools like this can allow for healing and sustained self care.  And lastly was the Popular Education workshop put on by the Poverty Initiative.  This was one of the most informative and mind opening workshops that I have had a chance to be at.  The discussion was able to flow at the lowest level in groups of two or three where each member of the group was encouraged to discuss how the topic was observed in their life experience.  after the experiences were shared the larger group would then weed through them and see if a root cause could be found.  This was explained to be how organic individuals were / are  developed.  The opening of minds to see the root causes of the problems takes more time than that of traditional schooling but the results are much greater and worth nurturing.

As the weekend was coming to a close people were starting to get tired and emotions were running high and hot in some cases.  And as such there were a few people that decided to take some time to themselves, which is not a bad thing in any case, but may have put more of a burden on others than was really needed.  As the shifts in the organization started happening there were members that now were finding themselves jobless and feeling alone or without a cause.  These feelings are not good ones to have but trying to deal with them alone can become troublesome.  Even someone who I consider a good friend tried to deal with this alone and refused to talk at the time.  Even in light of these issues there were other members who took the changes in an optimistic frame of mind.  There were three other members who iI had not had a chance to meet until this weekend and all three members gained much respect.  The way that these members held themselves and worked with every other member to make the weekend go almost as well as hopped helped to create the greatest community that I have been able to become a part of.

All in all the convention was one that I am glad I was able to attend.  I am looking forward to next year as well as the other two possible training that are currently planned throughout next year.  I appreciate everyone who came together to make this convention possible and was able to move through the barriers presented.

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Solidarity with Afghanistan

In any given situation, if we chose to judge a group of people because they look differently than we do, then we are wrong; the culture is wrong.

I am a veteran of the Global War on Terror and served in support of both OIF and OEF, as such I have come to question the actions that the military has taken in nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq.  Having the opportunity to speak with people from Afghanistan and knowing Suraia personally, has allowed me to understand to a greater extent how my actions and the actions of the current UN forces are having in oppressing the people of these nations.  I am an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and I call into question the expansionist ideals and militarist mindsets that are driving the U.S., and consequently the UN, to oppress people of other nations while not focusing on the problems at home.  Peace starts at home in our local communities, not in a distant land forcing others to struggle to survive.  I stand in solidarity with Suraia Sahar, Laila Rashide, as well as Afghan Peace Volunteers.

Luke Daniel
U.S. Navy 2004-2008
OIF / OEF

A poem from APV to IVAW (11/4/12):

Sleepless nights
Wondering if tomorrow will be like today
Futureless,
driving a dirge without music

Lost
On an upside down weighing scale
As if the world were
somewhere else

Even promising young hearts
choose the one doomed road
out of the hundred other
more imaginative ways.

But warm hands from friends
offer a shift
out of stubborn uncertainty,
suggesting that not all men are corrupt.

The changes in your lives,
your decisions to leave the frenzy,
and to tell and to cry,
are revolutionary.

How can we not hope
that the human family will awake
because each of you
worked to preserve love.

This time, I decided to piece together the sentiments of the APVs in the verses below.
Thank you for gathering together in solidarity.

Love and thanks,
Hakim and the Afghan Peace Volunteers

Link to a fellow Afghanistan veterans Statement: Afghan Women

The original story that brought this to light: Remembrance Day protest an insult to Canada’s war dead

The follow-up statement by Suraia and Laila.

UniversiTea with the Humanists Doing Good in Colorado

I had the chance to speak at one of the local humanists events a few months ago.  Below are the topics covered and just a few of the highlights from the conversations that followed.

Military

  • Working with military and veterans
    • There is a difference between military and civilians when it comes to a work environment.
    • Military, from my observations, have a different way and different culture that is ok when it comes to working with others.  Military will expect those around them to know the job they are assigned to do and how to do that job.  We are also trained to understand that we may have to do the job of those above or below us.  Understanding and being able to do the job above yours is what got me into trouble in my current employment.
    • Busy work is despised when it comes to simply filling time.  spending hours cleaning, stripping paint, painting, preparing for war, and so on has build a distaste for needless tasks like re-mopping an area that was just mopped.  In these cases we will tend to work much slower and use that power to show a kind of disrespect toward whomever tasks us with that task.
    • It was brought up that most of what we talked about could be compared to shared experience.  Not only a shared experience type of setting but also the upbringing of each other.  One member stated that his upbringing has played into his discipline in taking care of others.
    • Talking about transiting from one chapter to another, substance abuse is the topic, there has to be some sort of training that will indoctrinate the person as to how to act around others and not become selfish.
  • Differences between civilian and military
    • There are certain things that military have gone through that act as a kind of glue.  When you talk to a vet or active duty member, you know that they have spent time being beaten down and then built back up on the same basic principles.  every member of the armed forces goes through boot camp and that is one thing that most civilians will never understand.
    • For that reason, most military can fight with one another and the next day carry on like there was never an issue.
    • There is an unspoken understanding between veterans and military personnel that should something happen then they will not be left behind or forgotten about.  This will play heavily when talking about a large workload or partying.
    • We talked about one experience that a fellow veteran had where a friend was left at the airport and he had to drive to get him.  He was later accused of drug use because of the drive and lack of sleep that hindered his next day’s performance.
  • Differences between moral or ethical standards
    • What is moral in the civilian world is very different when in a closed system such as the military.  There are many different actions that can and will be taken in the military that would be looked at as unethical or immoral in a civilian stance.
      • Wire brush experience
    • Shared a story about one of my shipmates that chose to never shower or wash his clothing.  The process that we used to change this behavior was to throw him into the shower and attack him what wire brushes.
      • This behavior was allowed and even endorsed by the chain of command.  Dealing with things at the lowest level meant that we were to deal with the issue ourselves and correct that deficiency using any means necessary.
    • The use of ostracism was one of the main tools that we used to correct issues that we were unable to solve otherwise.  One of the most utilized and overlooked of all tools that we were trained in.
    • The cycle perpetuates itself.  crossing the equator or passing through the arctic circle are huge hazing accomplishments.

Transition: Civ to Sol, Sol to Civ

    • The transition going from a civilian to a soldier is one that each member will go through.  Boot camp is something that each of us completes before being called a soldier.
    • Boot camp = breakdown of the civilian and then the rebuilding of the soldier
    • No transition from active to civilian.  When you get out you sign the DD214 and then walk out with just what you are wearing.  All gear is returned and that is the close of that chapter.  There is no training, military feels that it is a waste of time as they do not receive any benefit from the time spent.
  • Organizations for veterans
    • There are many different organizations for veterans.  There are two major problems with the way that they are set up.  Much money is spent on advertising leaving a lack of funding for the actual program.  Or on the flip side, there is no money spent on advertising and an excess of funding at the end of the year.
    • VETS CAFE
    • IVAW
    • Wounded Warriors
    • America’s Wounded
    • Welcome Home Montrose
    • VA Rehab center
    • VA hospital
    • Veterans Court (in the works for mesa county)
    • Voc rehab through VA
  • Reasons for ways of thinking
    • Everything we have already talked about
    • The culture is aggressive and the members are trained to think and act in a certin way that will allow others to learn the ways either by choice or through actions taken against them.
    • Trained to not show weakness.
    • Hazing
    • Physical abuse
    • Mental abuse
    • Ostracism
  • Post 9/11 compared to pre 9/11 veterans
    • PTSD
    • No Gulf War Syndrome
    • TBI
    • Civilian murders
    • First war fought in the streets (urban)
    • MTS

Environmental

  • Community gardening
    • Guy works over 12 plots in Denver (land that is not his but gained the approval to use), he is able to produce enough food for 33 employees and still sell $400 a week at the stand.
  • Guerrilla gardening
    • Using others land to grow food
    • Repurpose land usage to grow food
    • Grow food not lawns
  • Burn scars and the effect they are now having on the communities near Colorado Springs
    • Landowners near Co Springs are needing help with the burn scars.  The city is not willing to help the landowners pay to have mulch laid on the property.  They are laying mulch on the forest.  1600 an acre.  The burn scars have allowed the rain water to create mud flows that have washed out many of the private roads in the area.

I would like to hear the opinions of those in the group about the local police force as well as if anyone feels the nation is heading toward a society that is accustomed to dealing with violence in the community and if that is justification to allow officers to act with current levels of force.

2012 Elections, Colorado makes History!

If the projections stay true to what they are looking like then Colorado will be the first state in the United States to legalize marijuana.  This will be groundbreaking in helping to spread education throughout the remaining states as well as shed a flood light on how wrong the “war on drugs” really is.  Obama also is projected to win the election.  This will mark the second general election that Colorado has voted blue and helped to bring change to our country.