http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=646 ''Am I proud to have served my country? Hardly'' Printed on Monday, September 02, 2002 @ 20:38:02 EDT ( ) By Krystal Kyer YellowTimes.org Guest Columnist (United States) (YellowTimes.org) â€“ In 1992, at the tender age of seventeen, I signed up for the Navy after I finished high school. At sixteen, ABC News had inundated me with incandescent scud missiles streaking the night sky over Baghdad - an image akin to 4th of July celebratory fireworks. I believed in the modern, sterile, bloodless war. It was a war to protect the freedom and democracy of the people of Kuwait, and hence the rest of the free world, or so I was told. I believed. I even wrote a poem about my duty to serve my country. And so I served. Upon completing boot camp, I was given the National Defense Service Medal. It was awarded to all active duty military personnel who served during the Desert Storm war, which didn't end two months after we invaded Iraq, by the way. It hasn't ended yet. Nearly four years I served, and in that time, questions were corralled in my head - tethered like camels, if you will, to a pole. But after I got out, those camels broke free. I went to one of the more progressive public colleges, and got a degree, two actually. I learned about war, capitalism, and corporate media's interests. I began to write. Finally, the camels jumped out of the corral in my head and began spitting everywhere. They were angry. My questioning was no longer confined to my partner, friends, my classmates and myself. September 11, for me, was the straw that broke one camel's back and sent the rest stampeding. I went public with my views, like I am doing today, and I won't stop. I turned off the TV for the last time. I've heard and seen enough of what corporations have to offer us - what they want us to hear and think. It was time to stop listening to the lies and start paying attention to the real world, not the artificial, false world of TV land. I became critical. Overly critical? Impossible. My motto is Marx's - "ruthless criticism of everything existing." If we are going to make the world a little better, then we should leave no stone unturned (a favorite phrase of Bush Jr., who is perhaps the opposite of Marx). We must examine things, even things that appear good to us, because the way things are for you and me might be great, but what about someone else who isn't the same as us? Once I stopped believing everything my parents, teachers, shipmates, and TV were telling me, my eyes and ears quickly recognized the twisting of words into lies. I know now that Bush Sr.'s war in Iraq a decade ago was about control of oil - the fuel of our 20th century economy. I know how that fact masquerades itself behind powerful, unquestionable words like national defense. After all, anyone opposing national defense must be either mentally ill, a terrorist, or a traitor. Now I commonly refer to my medal as the Oil Defense Service Medal. (Yes, I kept it.) As the anniversary of America's tragic day fast approaches, I contemplate how I will commemorate and honor the innocent victims of September 11, 2001, although I knew none of them. I hear Bush is calling it Patriot Day. I wonder what this means for those of us not seeking the escalation of violence through war as a solution to terrorism. Are we unpatriotic? Are we supporting terrorists, like Ashcroft claims? That's for each of us to decide, the public need not be told what is and isn't patriotic. We can think for ourselves. Of course, the media and White House probably disagree with us. We need to show them otherwise. After much thought, I've found my own way to pay tribute to all the victims of terrorism: On September 11, I will awaken at dawn. I will retrieve all my variously colored medals from their little box in my dresser drawer. I'll put my robe on, go into my daughter's room and tell her I love her. I will unlock the deadbolt (my homeland security), and proceed out the front door, remove the lid to the trashcan, and throw my medals in the garbage, where they belong. I will reject war, once and for all, since war is just state-sanctioned terrorism on a mass scale. I have no qualms about performing this solemn ceremony. Materially, I will destroy my last bits of military souvenirs. Mentally, I will remember those lost to all forms of terror, and I will walk a path of peace. I've already rejected what I've been taught about what is patriotic, what is our (their) national interest, and how I should behave in times of war. Now is the time to take positive action to reduce the level of violence, if for no one else, then for the countless unnamed families around the world who have lost loved ones to violence; for the 2 billion children who are growing up in a culture of violence and hate fueled by U.S. corporate interests and their disregard for life. What action could show more respect, honor and love for the millions of victims of violence than to break the cycle of violence that we call war and national defense by living non-violently? What action could show more disrespect, ignorance, and fear than advocating war as solution to terrorism and a route to peace? An eye for an eye is the president's motto. U.S. violence in Afghanistan, by most reports, has murdered more civilians there than died from the September 11 attacks here. Yet that's not enough. Now we must stop the "imminent threat" that Iraq poses to us, again. Somehow, I don't think that elevating the U.S. attacks on Iraq to full-scale war is about national security. The justifications are irrelevant. What matters is that more innocent people will die. I am a veteran, and I oppose violence in all forms. I'm not proud to have served my country (or more precisely corporate America), I'm embarrassed. Embarrassed and ashamed. But I've learned from my mistakes. Others have too. My hope is that we come together on September 11 to remember our losses, to reject a culture of violence and militarism, and to create a lasting movement for justice and peace for all. [Krystal Kyer, 27, is a member of the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace (OMJP), a grassroots anti-war organization. She has a master's degree in environmental studies, is a freelance writer, and lives in the United States.] Krystal Kyer encourages your comments: [email protected] YellowTimes.org is an international publication. YellowTimes.org encourages its material to be reproduced, reprinted, or broadcast provided that any such reproduction must identify the original source, http://www.YellowTimes.org. Internet web links to http://www.YellowTimes.org are appreciated. Would you like to receive select YellowTimes.org articles via e-mail? If so, you will receive an e-mail every two days from YellowTimes.org with the latest articles published on the YellowTimes.org website. 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