Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day, Militarism, and New Orleans

Veterans Day is a good occasion to think about how militarism has affected New Orleans. While thousands of New Orleanians are overseas in the military, breaking up families locally and breeding resentment internationally, violence continues to plague our streets, taking the life of a seven-year-old girl this Sunday.

During Hurricane Katrina, we received militarization instead of relief, with then-Governor Blanco declaring that she was sending in troops, adding, "They have M-16s, and they're locked and loaded...These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so if necessary, and I expect they will." While people were still stranded on rooftops, the first city function to restart was a jail, run by Angola warden Burl Cain.

As historian and WWII veteran Howard Zinn has said, "Veterans Day...used to be Armistice Day, because at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I came to an end...Now, Veterans Day, instead of an occasion for denouncing war, has become an occasion for bringing out the flags, the uniforms, the martial music, the patriotic speeches...Those who name holidays, playing on our genuine feeling for veterans, have turned a day that celebrated the end of a horror into a day to honor militarism."

Tonight, the New Orleans chapters of Military Families Speak Out and Pax Christi have organized a Veteran's Day Forum, Coping with the Aftermath of War, at 7:00pm at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 5212 South Claiborne, by Jefferson. The event features a screening of the award-winning documentary “Leave No Soldier," a brief talk by Gilda W. Reed, Ph.D. and an audience discussion about veterans’ health care issues.

Another grassroots effort to fight violence in our communities happens this weekend. Hip-Hop for Hope seeks to highlight conscious music and bring people together to benefit youth programs. This year's event benefits the Roots of Music, 2-Cent Entertainment’s “Change We Can Create” Summer Camp and other youth programs. Hip-Hop for Hope has raised over $19,000 in the past three years for various educational programs in New Orleans. This year's event is this Saturday, November 14, at Tipitina’s Uptown.

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