I have always been interested in the Middle East. Although a government major with a political science track, I took a class pertaining to the Middle East every semester. What exactly piqued my interest about this incredible region?
First off, as a junior at Boston College High School, our country endured the tragedy of 9-11. The people responsible: al Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States. I needed to know how people could be so full of hatred towards the United States that they would be willing to take so many innocent lives (plus their own lives). I needed to know if all Saudis and Egyptians felt this way; I needed to know ∞
Like the line in “Southie is my Hometown”, many South Bostonians (myself included) are “hot under the collar” about the ignoble decision to exclude The Veterans for Peace from marching in The Saint Patrick’s Day/Evacuation Day parade. Ultimately, this day is about celebrating our veterans who sacrificed so much so that we may live in peace! It is disgraceful and dishonorable that these veterans–because of their advocation of peace–are banned from the parade. It makes one wonder why The Veterans for Peace are reproached by the parade’s architects?
These folks did not fight to propagate a militaristic culture in our country–a country that is always on war-footing or heavily involved in conflicts that are injurious to our national interest. Last decade’s foreign policy (The Bush Doctrine) has led to a decline in our power and influence in international affairs (I will not delve into the costly Iraq debacle and how it empowered our greatest enemies–maybe next time).
Why do we fight wars? It is so that we may live in a world where there is peace with justice. Sometimes there is peace, but justice is absent, and that may be cause for war. So we fight for both peace and justice. The motivating factor of our veterans and our current men and woman in uniform is to bring about peace and justice for the American People.
They do not wish to be on permanent war-footing. And the bane of this country since World War II has been the creation of the military-industrial complex that thrives in our nationalistic culture (unfortunately, our Saint Patrick’s Day Parade has become an example of that militaristic culture). Their must always be an enemy–a bogey-man. First it was the Soviet Union and communism; now it is al Qaeda and Islamic Fundamentalism.
We do have real enemies in the world. However, the military-industrial complex creates an irrational fear in the American People so that the arms manufacturers continue to get most of our tax dollars. In 2013, 57% of the president’s proposed discretionary spending went to defense. The United States is responsible for almost half of the world’s military spending at 48%.
We are on a permanent war footing, so that the CEO’s of companies like Boeing can continue to take most of our tax dollars in order to remain uber-rich. How is that not the redistribution of wealth that hawkish-conservatives hypocritically accuse Progressives of?
The Veterans for Peace bring a much-needed argument to the table, and they do so by innocuously calling for peace. But the powers that be that are victims of military-industrial propaganda–or perhaps, even more dangerously, they are sincerely nationalistic–unjustly ban The Veterans for Peace from our parade.
As aforementioned, 57% of proposed discretionary spending goes to the military whilst our education system continues to suffer, whilst our infrastructure falls apart, whilst the middle-class continues to disappear.
The biggest threat to our nation–to our superpower status–is the continuous neglect of our educational system and the middle-class–not al Qaeda, not Islamic fundamentalism.
We reached superpower status by investing in America’s infrastructure, by making college affordable through the promulgation of legislation like the GI Bill, which led to the formation of a strong middle-class protected by strong unions.
“Those who do not know history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them.” Our national policies are a mirror reflection of the policies of the Romans in the last years of this great empire’s existence. In their death throws, most tax dollars were allocated to military defense spending, which led to an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. Rich Roman families fled and created their own independent fiefdoms to avoid taxation (call it an early form of tax sheltering).
America and our leaders do not seem to be students of history. If we were, we would already know what the result of our policies will be the collapse of our great American superpower status–a mirror image of the collapse of Rome.
We have a lot to learn from these Veterans for Peace. They are true patriots warning us of our eminent demise if we continue to financially ignore our domestic problems in order to redistribute the wealth to the wealthiest 1%.
Leaving them out of the parade is shameful. It is an attempt to propagate the military-industrial complex that the powers that be in South Boston subscribe to.
In 1957, The General Court (The MA state legislature), still made up mostly of WASP’s, decided that although they had lost their grip on City Hall, there was still a way to continue to wield power and influence in Boston. The legislature promulgated the BRA. It allowed the state to exercise power over urban development and gave these legislators carte blanche to apply eminent domain anywhere they saw fit.
The Anglo-led legislature exercised their new found power to destroy the West End. The West End was the most important neighborhood in Boston. The West End represented all that an inner-city neighborhood should be–a working-class neighborhood full of diversity. The ethnicities represented in this most-American of urban neighborhoods included African-Americans, Armenians, Greeks, Irish, Lebanese, Italians, Jews, Lithuanians, Poles, Russians, Syrians, Ukrainians and many other Eastern and Southern Europeans. The West End was a neighborhood that other neighborhoods could emulate–a neighborhood that truly represented the American belief in a melting pot society.
With the destruction of the West End, Boston became a segregated city with each neighborhood populated mostly by people of the same ethnicity. This unfortunately led to de facto segregation in Boston public schools. After the Supreme Court’s Brown decision, Boston was court ordered to desegregate their public school system. The families of the poorest white neighborhood, South Boston (consisting of the Old Colony Housing Projects, which, at that point, had the highest population of poor white people in the country) and the poorest black neighborhoods (places like Upham’s Corner and Dudley Square) had to send their children to schools in places that these families would not dare wander into under normal circumstances. In this bleak time in our city, a black person would never make it down Broadway in Southie without being harassed at best–beaten violently at worst. A white person from Southie walking down Blue Hill Ave. in Roxbury would most likely endure the same fate.
The period of forced busing in Boston is shameful, embarrassing, and by far the bleakest period in our city’s history: Rocks being thrown at children in buses; riots; stabbings. If it were only possible to erase this anomalous period in Boston’s history. Is this not the capital city of the state that first outlawed that most diabolical of institutions–the sin of slavery? Is Boston not the city where ordinary New England men fought the British regulars in order that a country based on the ideas of freedom and equality might exist? Is not The Commonwealth of Massachusetts the only state that guarantees education as a right? Boston: the home of the first public school system; the home of the abolitionist movement where white men were prepared to take arms against wicked slave catchers (it is said that the abolitionist movement started on Beacon Hill). Boston: the home of the only founding father–John Adams–to become president that did not own slaves and abhorred slavery as a sin. And then there was his son John Quincy Adams who represented the Africans who were bound for slavery in the Caribbean until they took over the ship and landed in America. This son of Boston (although some would call him a son of Braintree or Quincy; however, he lived and practiced law in Boston for years) argued in front of the Supreme Court and won the case, and won these men their rightfully deserved freedom. He spent his post-presidential congressional career railing against the iniquities of slavery much to the consternation of many of his fellow legislators. He proudly earned the hatred of his Southern colleagues.
Boston is the intellectual capital of the world. We are proud of–dare I say it–our liberal traditions. And the nadir of Boston history is the reaction of many Bostonians to busing. How can we not feel ashamed about this darkest period in our history?
On closer analysis, one can easily reach the the supposition that poor blacks and poor whites were the victims of a divide and conquer strategy. First the BRA destroyed the most diverse neighborhood in Boston, which lead to a segregated Boston. In this segregated Boston, we grew weary of each other. We did not experience each other’s cultures. Rather than living up to the American ideal of a melting pot society, we lived in a multi-cultural society (an example of a multi-cultural society is Canada where there are distinct francophone areas and a anglophone areas). Boston, for the first time in history, was not living according to American values. And for people who love the City of Boston and its history, this is discouraging because Boston has always been the paragon city of living according to our American ideals.
What would have happened if all Bostonians–black, white, Hispanic, Asian, gay–worked together for a more progressive, inclusive, diverse Boston? Although I am proud of this city and the tremendous strides we have made, it is possible that we could be lightyears ahead of where we are now if it were not for busing and its ramifications.
However, one cannot help but be optimistic. Working class white people, black people, Hispanics, and gays from South Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, and the South End formed an unstoppable voting coalition to elect a truly progressive mayor–Mayor Walsh.
The election of Walsh is a cathartic experience for Boston. We are no longer divided by race; we are united as neighbors who are striving to once again make Boston that shining city on a hill. The color of our skin divides us superficially, while our progressive beliefs unite us spiritually. We are Bostonians, and therefore we are family.