Sunday, May 27, 2007

Remembering the American veterans is a family affair for me

I didn't have to buy an American Flag on Sept. 11, 2001, although some neighbors treated me like I wasn't an American because they didn't like my Arab ethnicity. And I don't have to commemorate the Memorial Day Weekend at the graveside of a stranger, brave as they may have been serving in our military.

In fact, I often get letters attacking me from so-called "patriotic Americans" who challenge my own patriotism because I question the Iraq War and criticize the failed leadership of our non-serving Commander-in-CHief, President George W. Bush.

Of course, my response is always the same. I served. Did you? Very few of the critics respond, the Sean Hannity's and Glenn Becks of the world who are hypocrites supporting the ar as long as someone else's son or daughter serves. They never di, of course.

I visit the graveside of my father, George John Hanania, and his brother, my uncle, Mousa John Hanania. They're buried not to far from where the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington is buried, along with many other Arab American patriots who are slandered by the growing racist hatred in America that passes itself off as "patriotism." Hatred is NEVER patriotic, just an excuse to cover up the fact that many Americans NEVER served in the U.S. Military and distract you from their failed patriotism by attacking others.

I have the flag the U.S. 5th Army gave my mom when my dad died. Dad served in the 5th Army during World War II. Four and 1/2 years. He was proud to serve because not only was he doing his duty as an American born in Jerusalem, Palestine who immigrated to this country in 1926, but because the war he fought was a Just War, unlike the criminal atrocity our soldiers have been forced to fight in Iraq to satisfy the selfish political agenda of Bush and the criminal conspiracy called the Bush Administration. Towards the end of the war, dad was assigned to the O.S.S. which later became the CIA, although he didn't stay in the service as a Lifer. He served proudly and then went on with his life to face the vicious anti-Arab hatred that dominates this country not just after Sept. 11, 2001 but for decades before.

Uncle Moses also served in the U.S. Navy during that great war of justice and righteousness, to free Europe not because we expected them to be greatful, but because as a free nation we cherished freedom and sought it for everyone. My dad worked at Sinclair for years and later at the Northern Trust Bank where racism and discrimination chased him out of his job before he could benefit from employment pensions. My uncle worked for years at the Rolling Green Country Club in Arlington Heights.

America is a country of hypocrisy and racism. We pretend that we are so great and then undermine our greatness by embracing hatred. We cheer on the racist journalists and commentators in the bigoted and biased American news media as they bash people on the basis of race and religion, and pretend it has to do with "terrorism." And they pretend as if they are the true patriots, although you have to wonder why they never served. (There doesn't have to be a war in order for someone to enlist in the military and serve.)

I served during the end of the Vietnam War. I might have been able to get a draft deferment in 1972, but chose to enlist in the U.S. Air Force, serving in a medical unit at an F-111 base, fighting the Vietnam War. Fortunately, I didn't have to go to the frontline, but I was ready to, was trained to and was prepared to do what had to be done even though I didn't support that war either.

So as most Americans "celebrate" Memorial Day weekend by heaping praise on our fighting men and women, how about remembering that most of those Americans have not served and that most of their children have not served either. In fact, very few of the U.S. Congress has served, very few of the American media demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, Hannity and the greatest bigot of them all Glenn Beck, never served -- why not go serve, morons! Why not put your principles where your mouth is? Cowards! And, most of their children will not serve either.

I could respect Bush more if his two daughters enlisted in the military and served in some capacity in Iraq. Why not?

It's never that way. The burden of serving falls on those who don't use it as a badge of patriotism, but do it because they have come to love true freedom and democracy more than the so-called patriots of today who yell and scream and hate those ho challenge the war. Patriotism is not about putting a flag out in front of your house -- for years, most of my neighbors never put a flag out on Flag Day or Memorial Day, although my family did because we have a tradition of military service that most other so-called Americans don't and never will.

Patriotism is not about shouting a defense of the Iraq War and screaming down the critics like me who challenge the war as immoral, unprincipled and even a violation of international law.

Patriotism is when you defend your name without hiding behind the cheapness of politics, and you do it because you are a real American who respects all Americans, not those of a certain color, nationality or religion. (I am always amazed at the Irish American writers who attack me complaining that I am a "hyphen American," who then turn around and celebrate all kinds of Irish holidays and events. They're not hyphenated Americans? Puhlease!)

This Memorial Day weekend, I will remember what a true patriot is and remind myself that despite the ugliness out there in the American heartland of hatred and vicious racism, that this country is built on a principle of morality that one day real patriots will be able to restore.

A somber Memorial Day
-- Ray Hanania

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