A Humbum Veteran’s Perspective

Cops be thievin!  Warning, if you invoke your right to remain silent you are obstructing justice, and apparently in the city of Richmond if you refuse to talk to the police it gives them the right to steal all your shit.  We were outnumbered and surrounded when the pigs marched on us, but we bravely held our ground.  Eight individuals stood together in an act of civil disobedience that night, in the spirit of Thoreau we could no longer tolerate the unjust actions of a government that has turned against its own people.

We all had our own reasons for standing our ground but for me I was tired of walking away, tired of being harassed and run off every time I laid my head down for a wink of sleep.  For four years I fought on the front lines of a war I never supported and never quite understood.  For fifteen months I patrolled northern Baghdad.  We were sent there to increase Halliburton’s profit margin but we were fighting to bring sanity to a country that had known only madness for generations, to give hope to people who knew only suffering.  Our presence was unwanted but we had no say in the matter so we did what we could to help and protect the civilians who had become caught in the crossfire. But that’s a story for another day, this is the story of a country that tosses out used up soldiers like yesterdays trash.

The transition from military life to the civilian world can be harsh, especially when the economy’s been raped by almost every bank and the gamblers on Wall Street.  Suffering from a traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, a body broken from the hardships of war, and with no job skills that aren’t combat related, it’s rather hard for a returning veteran to get even the most basic work.  The Veteran’s Administration has become so overburdened that it takes at least a year to a year and a half before they make a determination on a disability case.  Like many veterans I’m stuck in purgatory, unable to find work I’m forced to live on the streets and try to survive till some faceless bureaucrat decides my fate.  It’s not an easy life and it’s further complicated by Richmond’s decision to wage a war on homeless people.  I’ve been living in a car and on the ground, trying to find warmth wherever I can in the midst of a cold and bitter winter.  Every step of the way I’ve been hounded by the police, some of them have been sympathetic to my plight but the majority of them harass me and hurl veiled threats in my face.  It takes every ounce of self control in my body to contain the rage these scumfucks inspire in me.  Deep inside me there lies a beast which the Army trained and conditioned to destroy every foe in its path. It’s fangs are long and it howls ravenously as it tries to break through the bars of the cage I keep it contained in.  Every time a cop rudely awakens me and tries to run me off it roars with rage and curses me for my cowardice. That fiery lion within my soul would much rather go down in a brutal battle than once again slink off into the shadows like a cowed beast.

I finally found some measure of sanctuary amongst a group of people who organised a resistance.  In Monroe Park the battle lines had been drawn and I was glad to join them on the front lines in solidarity.  Finally I had found a place where I was treated like an equal, where I wasn’t looked down on like gutter trash.  It’s ironic how so many wealthy “patriotic” Americans will say they support the troops till they’re blue in the face but when a homeless veteran passes them on the streets and says hello they’re quick to look the other way and pretend you don’t exist.  Those who are quick to raise the war banner and send the youth off to their deaths hate nothing more than having to face those who have been mentally and psychologically scarred from fighting on their behalf.  Yet it’s the anarchists and activists who loudly voice their dissent of the war who welcomed me in and treated me as an equal without a second thought.  For a long time I’ve felt like a ghost passing unseen through the world and finally someone had guided me back into the land of the living.  I had been pacing Death’s trail and the only solace I had was that She would find me soon and free me from this world of suffering.  Staying in the camp renewed my hope and refreshed my spirit.  In the camp I found kindred spirits, a diverse group of individuals who brought a smile to my lips and nourished my brain with engaging conversation.  They also gave me a new mission, a much needed raison d’etre.  In Iraq I had fought to give a people who had long been oppressed a chance to finally have their voices heard, now I will pick up the role of warrior again to fight on behalf of those who have long been oppressed and passed over in my own homeland.

For me the camp was the end of the road, a tribe was assembling and a village was growing where all the displaced people of the city were welcomed with open arms.  This was a place where I could draw a line in the sand, a place where I could  proudly take a stand in defence of something I believed in with every bit of my heart.  Of course in the eyes of the powers that be this could not stand.  They could not bear the presence of an organised resistance on behalf of the poor and the landless.  The last thing the city wanted was a rallying point to give hope to those it was striving to sweep under the rug.  They went to great lengths to make sure the people of the city turned a blind eye to what’s been happening to the homeless, they wanted to force us to the unseen corners of the city in the hopes that we would wither away into nothingness and be forgotten.

It was no surprise to me when a messenger came to us in the middle of that fateful night with a warning of the forces rallying against us.  Like Paul Revere riding alone through the night to warn of the coming redcoats he had rushed to us from a homeless camp that had just been busted up by the police to warn us that they were coming for us next.  We didn’t have much time to rally a defence, within ten minutes police cars were pulling up all around the park and a plane was circling in the sky.  Within twenty minutes at least a hundred cops had us surrounded and demanded that we retreat from the park so they could bulldoze our camp and destroy the symbol of hope that we had created.  This, however, was where eight of us had decided to make our stand.  We each had our own reasons, but we each knew what we were doing was right.  Like the great Kiowa warriors who staked themselves to the ground so they couldn’t retreat we chose our spots and refused to flee as our enemies overtook us.  As the police advanced on us the beast inside me raged, it wanted to lash out, to go down in a blaze of glory.  The only thing that kept it in check was the thought of spending the rest of my life in a cage.  I made it quite clear that I wasn’t leaving the park and three police officers grabbed me, handcuffed me, and put me in the back of a paddywagon.

When they arrested me I was wearing my cavalry stetson and my Army field jacket.  They despised me for proudly wearing my stetson with its shiny sergeants rank in defiance of them.  The stetson has had many different meanings for many different people throughout the years.  For the cavalry it is a symbol of a tradition hundreds of years old, of bravely leading the charge against the enemy, even in the face of overwhelming odds.  For the American Indians it was a symbol of invasion, displacement, oppression, and genocide.  Hundreds of thousands of soldiers have fallen in battle wearing it, sometimes fighting fascism and tyranny, sometimes spreading imperialist exploitation and destroying indigenous cultures.  I seek to attach a new meaning to this symbol, a symbol of a new cavalry, a cavalry of the First Earth Battalion that will lead the charge in the streets to fight to defend the oppressed and the powerless wherever they are exploited.  The police stole my stetson that night, they took it as a trophy of their victory on that night.  But that was merely one battle and the war is far from over, though they have tried to steal that symbol from us the stetson shall soon be worn again as a symbol of defiance wherever tyranny may rear its ugly head.

Sgt. Fargason

Whiskey Troop, First Earth Battalion

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