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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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.

Global Warming?

The causes and consequences of global warming have been talked about and debated for some time now.  There are many people who don’t think that global warming is a real trend and that it is just something that some scientists got together and thought up.  It is an interesting tie that most who feel this way do believe in Immaculate Conception, at least in the American government.  From a science standpoint, there are many trends and observations that lead one to think that global warming is actually occurring and that there is some influence to this from humans.  Acidification of the oceans and other waterways, acid rain, an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, trends of warmer weather, increased forest fires, longer and dryer droughts, receding glaciers and the melting of artic ice sheets, and a larger amount of transpiration.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have a direct relation to the amount of carbon dioxide in any given waterway as the gases in the atmosphere will always try to obtain equilibrium between the water and air.  As the amount of CO2 has increased with a decrease of CO2 sponges such as vast land covered by forests, the waterways and oceans are now soaking up the excess CO2 in an attempt to reach equilibrium.  This increase in carbon dioxide in the water is creating a more acidic ocean, dropping the pH levels.

This excess in CO2 as well as other gases, like sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, has led to the normally clean rain waters to now become slightly acidic.  Nitric acid and sulfuric acid are the resulting compounds that are now precipitating from the once almost pure waters in the sky.  All of these gases are greenhouse gases and have the ability to capture energy from the sun in the form of heat.  This increase in captured heat is also slowly raising the temperature of the planet.  As the temperatures rise across the globe, there are now more forest fires and droughts.  In South America, NASA was able to track fires over many years and show that as the temperatures rise there is a direct correlation between those temperatures and the amount of fires during a given year.  In Colorado, there have seen studies that show, although this year has been wetter than normal, the amount of transpiration is greater, meaning that although we are receiving more water to the ground, we are also losing more water to the atmosphere.  Thus soils are drier and there is an increased chance of damage from drought.

Afghanistan Veterans Against the War retreat

Today is the second day of the AVAW retreat. Made it to Denver last night and am excited to meet some new people and make our way through planning the new direction that the organization is heading. Follow the blog and I will be updating it soon.

Update:

The retreat went great, and we were able to come together and hash out a vast majority of the goals of the newly formed AVAW group.   Walking away from Saturday we had the main goals set forth to draft a name change statement to be given to the board of directors at the national convention in Baltimore later next month. Veterans who served in Afghanistan on the ground as well as support came from each side of the country to meet, most for the first time, each other and a member of Afghans for Peace based out Canada.

Sunday we met at the organizers house to share breakfast and a Skype call to Afghanistan to speak with the Afghanistan Peace Volunteers.  After the call we closed the weekend by spending a few hours sharing our stories and listening to each other in the safe space that we had created.  Sharing stories of the carnage seen overseas at the hands of Americans as well as reflection that this day was the 11th anniversary of the first bombs dropped on Afghanistan.  After lunch and some time around the fire we decided it was time to head back to the real world and try to continue the healing we had started over the weekend.  We packed up and started our 4 hour drive home.

All in all we were able to accomplish a great feet and meet some new friends all the while helping each other to realize that we are not alone.

WHORES Signs

Today we gathered together at a local park to make some signs.  About seven of us meet up and started making signs that will be used during the equality march in Denver, Colorado on October 6th.  Each of us a member of Women Helping Others Resist Exploitation and Sexism, both male and female, WHORES strive to create a world of equality for all genders.

A little about the WHORES, they are a group of people that shared a common interest and that thought sparked an cause that has grown from just a handful of women to what is now a group of over 140 people.  There are members from all walks of life and any event that is carried out by WHORES is sure to be all ages friendly.  From a local business owner to a retired philosophy instructor to a mother of 4 who works two jobs there are all types included in the group.  There has even been the occasional 5 year old that carries a sign that says “Girl Power.”

The first outing that I was part of with the group was on Mayday 2012.  They had a booth set up near the may pole and were handing out literature about the current war on women.  During the Mayday celebration I was able to meet many great people and get some firsthand experience as to how the media can slant any story to what they want the general public to see.  I digress; we will save that conversation for another day.  The WHORES table was great and they were even able to get up in front of the mob of people and share some of their stories.

The equality rally in Denver, Colorado on October 6th is set to be a kind of show in force here in Colorado that there are people who do have a voice and will come together in solidarity to use their voices.  They walk together and shout that they are in control of their bodies and that no man should have or try and take control for something that is not theirs nor have any experience with.  But these wars on women’s issues are not the only topics that will be covered at the march.  It is an equality march, meaning that every person who attends at least leans toward creating and treating each gender as an equal.  This is not to segregate any of the LGBTQ supporters.  No matter what your gender, all should be treated as an equal.  This means anything from stopping legislation on reproductive health to removing the stigma that a father cannot be a stay at home parent, or that in a case such as that the child will somehow turnout differently than if the mother was the one staying home.

Back to the sign making, we created signs that read:  Make Love, Not War on Women, Keep Your Laws Off my Body, I Can Say Vagina, Sexism is a Social Disease, and My Choice My Right.  I am looking forward to seeing the turn out for the march and see how much support we have on these issues here in Colorado.  We are all free and should be treated as such.  We are all equal.

Grand Junction Stands in Solidarity with Bradley Manning and OWS

Today we stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and Bradley Manning on the one year anniversary of the start of the revolution.  We gathered on the grounds of city hall and helped to spread the word about the abuse, both civil and ethical, of Bradley Manning and help tell his story.  Although we are not as grand as the metropolitan area that bring in numbers like 20,000, those of us that gathered and held signs were greeted with warm regards by those that passed by.  Even the Police Chief Camper stopped to show his support, and ask us to move out of the parking spots.  But he was sincere in understanding why we were out today.  There were people of all ages from 78 years old to a 3 year old holding signs that ranged from “Google NDAA” to stats that showed how the national budget was broken down and the monies spent on the “war on peace.”  Occupy Grand Junction showed its force in a non-violent way today and made yet another step toward showing people that even in a small city there is change that is able to be seen.

People of all ages stood in solidarity today.

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Occupy Grand Junction, Solidarity not Charity, Women Helping Others Resist Exploitation and Sexism (WHORES),  and 9/11 Truth all stand in solidarity in support of the Constitution of the United states of America and the revolution that is ever growing.