Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Well-trained but inane: When our Iraq vets melt back into society

Right now I am down here in San Jose, California -- yet another hot American tourist Mecca. But seriously, folks, there really are lots of interesting things to see in San Jose -- including The Cinebar, an authentic hole-in-the-wall neighborhood drinking establishment located at 69 East San Fernando Street.

First opened in 1929 and named in honor of the now-defunct New Almaden cinnabar mine, the place started out as your typical working-class urban dive bar -- comparable to something out of a Hammett novel or Bogart flick. Then back in the early 1960s it became a haven for radical progressives -- professors from the local university, grape-strike organizers, new wave artists, prototype hippies, former Beatniks, victims of Joe McCarthy purges, and latent Joan Baez wannabes. Odd ducks for 1963.

In other words, The Cinebar is a venerable landmark (with cheap well drinks).

So I stopped by to see if the Cinebar was still there -- and it was. Although these days it is a bit redecorated with movie-themed wall murals, big-screen TVs playing early Sean Penn movies and a pool table -- but it's still there.

And while I was checking the place out, I got to talking with a Vietnam vet at the bar who had learned all kinds of technical skills while in the Navy back then. And my conversation with him also got me to thinking about America's veterans today.

When I was over in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, the main thing that I learned was, "Love the troops, hate the mission". All the soldiers I met there were brave, well-trained and outstanding people, a cut above. They all worked as a team and they did their work well. Impressive men and women. Best employees in the world. I'd hire any Iraq veteran in a minute if I were a boss.

Sure, the U.S. military killed people. They still do. Lots of people. Millions of people would be alive today if the American military hadn't done their jobs so well. "Hate the mission." But still. Whatever the evil reasons or sick motivations are that drive American war-profiteers, they have also (probably accidentally) managed to create one of the best work forces in the world -- and they still keep grinding these well-trained and highly-skilled employees out at great rate.

And then what happens? All these well-trained and hard-working men and women come back home to America and melt back into society here -- like butter melting into mashed potatoes. And then, like butter on mashed potatoes, their amazing job skills just get eaten up, digested and then flushed down the toilet.

I'm not saying that we should put trained killing machines into more positions of authority here in America. But I am saying that U.S. veterans have a lot to offer, that there are millions of them back home here now, and that America's so-called "jobless recovery" should have started with benefiting them -- not corporatists and banksters. And I'm also saying that our major priority right now, now that our economy is pretty much screwed, should be to take advantage of all these highly-trained workers and, duh, PUT THEM TO WORK.

PS: Speaking of missions, I also toured Mission Santa Clara yesterday. It's completely impressive, what Fr. Junipero Serra accomplished back in 1776. And if he can walk all over California while building lasting, meaningful and beautiful stuff way back then, then so can we now. Screw gasoline-combusted engines. Everyone remembers Fr. Serra. No one remembers that you just bought a new Ford.

PPS: My son Joe is currently producing a new film entitled "Seeking Solace," directed by Holly Chadwick "Seeking Solace" tells the story of a returning Iraq veteran who lives on Whidbey Island out on Puget Sound and who is suffering from PTSD. She then meets a Vietnam veteran with the same experiences and problems as her. And then they help each other work things out.

"Since service men and women are fighting on our behalf, the mental health of our soldiers should be everyone’s responsibility,” Chadwick said. “As a civilian, doing this movie is how I support our troops.” And I supported the movie by loaning Joe my flak jacket for some of the flash-back scenes. And folks in Washington DC can also support our troops by giving them jobs -- instead of just orchestrating massive giveaways to banksters, oligarchs and bag-men.

PPPS: The dictionary definition of the word "inane" is "lacking significance". Isn't it time that we stopped making our returning troops "inane" and started making them more significant than the ungrateful minions on Wall Street who just take our money and run?