I have had a few discussions with people who insisted that I had to shut up about various political issues, because they were veterans, and they fought for my freedom, and that I couldn't possibly understand what it means because I'm not a veteran. A quick chat with friends and family who are veterans, themselves, gave me great perspective on this -- the consensus was "Those guys are idiots, and they give veterans a bad name... (not my own words)."
When you think of the wars that America has been involved in over the years, it's hard to pinpoint any period where America's freedom was actually threatened by anyone outside of America. Even World War 2 is a difficult subject to delve into to get any kind of instance where "America almost lost it's freedom". Sure, there was a lot of sacrifice. But arguably, the landings at Normandy had more to do with French freedom than our own. We really sacrificed a lot of our blood, guts, sweat, and tears for our French, Belgian, English, Italian, and other people enslaved by Fascism. But I think it's fair to say that America was never in any position to be invaded, not by Nazi Germany, nor by Japan. In fact, within months of the Infamy of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were up against the wall, and in no position to take away any civilian freedom from the USA. Germany was completely unable to break down Britain's defenses, and had to keep putting off their planned invasion, because the British fought them with cunning and technology. RADAR was what kept the Brits on top of Luftwaffe raids (well, that, and lots of sleepless nights for RAF pilots), while the first computers and an army of mathematicians broke the Nazi Enigma codes. By the time D-Day occurred, the Germans were already losing the war -- mostly because of a disastrous decision to go to war against the Soviets.
So with that out of the way, I have to honestly say, Dear Veterans, that you did not fight for my freedom. I owe none of my freedom to any American Vets who served in the 20th or 21st centuries. I can say this with utter confidence, because I actually have history and knowledge on my side, as opposed to the venom, vitriol, and self-aggrandizing emotionalism of the Vets who literally tell me that I had better shut up, because they fought for my freedom to speak. Don't misunderstand, dear veterans. I am not expressing contempt for you or your valiant efforts fighting under the banner of Old Glory and in the name of America. I am only disparaging the political notion that any of your efforts had anything to do with preserving my freedom, or expanding the freedom of unfairly disenfranchised citizens. Most of the great advocates and champions of Freedom in America are actually civilians, many of whom have no veteran status, and many of whom you all learned about in school. In fact, not only are America's greatest champions of freedom and liberty not military heroes, the U.S. Military has done far more against the cause of freedom and liberty than is has done to protect it. I will first list some notable American freedom fighters, then I shall list events in history where the Military fought against those who championed freedom, fairness, and the rule of constitutional law.
Here are America's true champions of liberty, and the actual defenders of freedom:Since I've often noticed on more than one occasion that many conservatives have an axe to grind when it comes to African Americans, I thought I'd start this lesson in freedom and liberty off with Famous African Americans who fought for our freedom.
- Frederick Douglass -- After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders' arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Many Northerners also found it hard to believe that such a great orator had been a slave.
- Harriet Tubman -- Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made about thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era struggled for women's suffrage.
- Paul Robeson -- He became politically involved in response to the Spanish Civil War, fascism, and social injustices. His advocacy of anti-imperialism, affiliation with communism, and criticism of the United States government caused him to be blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Ill health forced him into retirement from his career. He remained until his death an advocate of the political stances he took.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. -- A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, in 1962, and organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama, that attracted national attention following television news coverage of the brutal police response. King also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history. J. Edgar Hoover considered him a radical and made him an object of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's COINTELPRO for the rest of his life.
- Malcolm X -- This will incite many conservatives, not just because he's a African-American, but because he's a Muslim, as well. Feel your conservative blood boiling now? Malcolm X was an African-American Muslim minister and a human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans; detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.
- Cesar Chavez -- A Mexican American, Chavez became the best known Latino American civil rights activist, and was strongly promoted by the American labor movement, which was eager to enroll Hispanic members. His public-relations approach to unionism and aggressive but nonviolent tactics made the farm workers' struggle a moral cause with nationwide support. By the late 1970s, his tactics had forced growers to recognize the UFW as the bargaining agent for 50,000 field workers in California and Florida.
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton -- Stanton was an American social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early women's rights movement. Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the Seneca Falls Convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, is often credited with initiating the first organized women's rights and women's suffrage movements in the United States. Before Stanton narrowed her political focus almost exclusively to women's rights, she was an active abolitionist with her husband, Henry Brewster Stanton and cousin, Gerrit Smith. Unlike many of those involved in the women's rights movement, Stanton addressed various issues pertaining to women beyond voting rights. Her concerns included women's parental and custody rights, property rights, employment and income rights, divorce, the economic health of the family, and birth control. She was also an outspoken supporter of the 19th-century temperance movement.
Susan B. Anthony -- In 1851, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who became her lifelong co-worker in social reform activities, primarily in the field of women's rights. In 1852, they founded the New York Women's State Temperance Society after Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was a woman. In 1863, they founded the Women's Loyal National League, which conducted the largest petition drive in the nation's history up to that time, collecting nearly 400,000 signatures in support of the abolition of slavery.
In 1866, they initiated the American Equal Rights Association, which campaigned for equal rights for both women and African Americans. In 1868, they began publishing a women's rights newspaper called The Revolution. In 1869, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association as part of a split in the women's movement. In 1890 the split was formally healed when their organization merged with the rival American Woman Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Anthony as its key force. In 1876, Anthony and Stanton began working with Matilda Joslyn Gage on what eventually grew into the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage. The interests of Anthony and Stanton diverged somewhat in later years, but the two remained close friends.
In 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York, and convicted in a widely publicized trial. She refused to pay the fine, but the authorities declined to take further action. In 1878, Anthony and Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote. Popularly known as the Anthony Amendment, it became the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
- Roger Nash Baldwin -- Roger Nash Baldwin was one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He served as executive director of the ACLU until 1950. Many of the ACLU's original landmark cases took place under his direction, including the Scopes Trial, the Sacco and Vanzetti murder trial, and its challenge to the ban on James Joyce's Ulysses. Baldwin was a well known pacifist and author.
- Lenny Bruce -- Leonard Alfred Schneider (October 13, 1925 – August 3, 1966), better known by his stage name Lenny Bruce, was an American stand-up comedian, social critic and satirist. He was renowned for his open, free-style and critical form of comedy which integrated satire, politics, religion, sex, and vulgarity. His private life was marked by struggles with personal demons and efforts to prevent his wife from working as a stripper. His 1964 conviction in an obscenity trial was followed by a posthumous pardon, the first in New York State history, by then-Governor George Pataki in 2003. He paved the way for future outspoken counterculture-era comedians, and his trial for obscenity, in which – after being forced into bankruptcy – he was eventually pardoned, is seen as a landmark trial for freedom of speech in the US.
Larry Flynt -- Larry Claxton Flynt, Jr. (born November 1, 1942) is an American publisher and the president of Larry Flynt Publications (LFP). In 2003, Arena magazine listed him as #1 on the "50 Powerful People in Porn" list.
LFP mainly produces sexually graphic videos and magazines, most notably Hustler. Flynt has fought several prominent legal battles involving the First Amendment, and has unsuccessfully run for public office. He is paralyzed from the waist down due to injuries sustained in a 1978 assassination attempt by Joseph Paul Franklin.
Flynt's triumphs include several landmark legal cases involving satire printed in his magazines, as well as the freedom to publish pornography in general. Though some may find that advocacy for the right to publish and read pornographic material is no great honor, it is significant in that prior to Flynt taking this to court, the government arbitrarily chose targets to censor due to its pornographic nature. Flynt's 1988 battle with Jerry Falwell over a satire liquor ad, depicting Falwell as an alcoholic who had sex with his mother, is significant, because it defended the right to satirize public figures.
- The Banana Wars -- General Smedley Darlington Butler, one of America's most highly decorated, respected, and important military figures from the 19th and 20th centuries, wrote about a series of conflicts that included U.S. Military action in the Philippines, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, and other central and South American countries. These wars were sold to the American public as uprisings of Communists who threatened American businesses in the region. The reality, as Butler wrote in his memoirs, is that they were fought mainly to protect the profits of the American-owned fruit companies, who were usually only facing having to actually pay for extracting fruit from democratic nations that didn't profit from the American companies being there. Butler saw these action as using the U.S. Marine Corps as hired thugs to protect monopolies.
In these police actions, Butler details how US forces were often asked to shoot at women, children, and Catholic clergy, including nuns, who were usually aiding the peasants fighting against the Corporations. He wrote a book called "War Is A Racket", which details all of his experiences, and advocated for more wise and prudent use of America's armed forces. In case after case, American troops tended to dismantle democratically elected governments, and place dictators in charge of them, who were often puppets of the Fruit Companies. U.S. Troops destroying democracy, to establish a dictatorship? Yes. It's all true.
Incidentally, Butler founded The Bonus Army after World War 1, which fought to get pensions and federal assistance for Veterans returning from the War. Prior to the Bonus Army, American Soldiers returning from war often returned home with nothing more than their battle-scars. The Bonus army was instrumental in getting benefits for veterans, as a reward for being wounded for and dying for their country, and paved the way for the G.I Bill that came in 1944. But it did not happen without a fight.
In 1932, Veterans of World War 1 marched on Washington to urge the government to pass the Wright-Patman Bonus Bill, which would have paid vets for their service during the war. Many vets came home to find no jobs, and became homeless. Soon, a shanty-town formed just outside of the capital, called "Hooverville", where veterans lived during weeks of protest. It was very much like the "occupy" movement of it's day. On March 28, 1932, the bill was defeated in the senate, and as veterans marched to the capitol in protest, the army was called in to deal with them. General Douglas MacArthur led a U.S. Army infantry division, complete with tanks, on Hooverville, where they clashed with veteran-protesters and their families who were camped there. Major George S. Patton, who led the tank division, was cheered by the protesting vets as a hero, until he ordered his men to fix their bayonets and charge them. Though only a few veterans were killed, both MacArthur and Patton regarded the incident as the most distasteful orders they were ever given.
- The Ludlow Massacre -- The Ludlow Massacre was an attack by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914. Some two dozen people, including women and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for the incident.
The massacre, the culmination of a bloody widespread strike against Colorado coal mines, resulted in the violent deaths of between 19 and 26 people; reported death tolls vary but include two women and eleven children, asphyxiated and burned to death under a single tent. The deaths occurred after a daylong fight between militia and camp guards against striking workers. Ludlow was the deadliest single incident in the southern Colorado Coal Strike, lasting from September 1913 through December 1914. The strike was organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) against coal mining companies in Colorado. The three largest companies involved were the Rockefeller family-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company (CF&I), the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company (RMF), and the Victor-American Fuel Company (VAF).
In retaliation for Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of mines over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg. The entire strike would cost between 69 and 199 lives. Thomas G. Andrews described it as the "deadliest strike in the history of the United States."
- The Tulsa Race Riot -- The Tulsa race riot was a large-scale, racially motivated conflict on May 31 and June 1, 1921, in which a group of whites attacked the black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It resulted in the Greenwood District, also known as 'the Black Wall Street' and the wealthiest black community in the United States, being burned to the ground.
During the 16 hours of the assault, more than 800 blacks were admitted to local white hospitals with injuries (the black hospital was burned down), and police arrested and detained more than 6,000 black Greenwood residents at three local facilities, in part for their protection. An estimated 10,000 blacks were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire. The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics was 39, but other estimates of black fatalities varied from 55 to about 300.
Numerous eyewitness accounts described airplanes carrying white assailants, who fired rifles and dropped firebombs on buildings, homes, and fleeing families. The planes, six biplane two-seater trainers left over from World War I, were dispatched from the nearby Curtiss-Southwest Field (now defunct) outside Tulsa. White law enforcement officials later stated the planes were to provide reconnaissance and protect whites against a "Negro uprising". Eyewitness accounts and testimony from the survivors maintained that on the morning of June 1, the planes dropped incendiary bombs and fired rifles at black residents on the ground.
- The Kent State Shootings -- The Kent State shootings (also known as the May 4 massacre or the Kent State massacre) occurred at Kent State University in the US city of Kent, Ohio, and involved the shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.
Some of the students who were shot had been protesting the Cambodian Campaign, which President Richard Nixon announced during a television address on April 30. Other students who were shot had been walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance.
There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected public opinion—at an already socially contentious time—over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.
- The U.S. invasion of Hawaii -- When a group of missionaries dead set on talking the King Kalākau of Hawaii into giving them all of his land, got thwarted by his daughter, Liliuokalani as she ascended to the throne, and threatened to establish a democracy where native Hawaiians and colonists from America would be treated as equals, they called on the U.S. Government for help. Apparently, many of America's senators and congressmen were as appalled as the white settlers at the thought of being "equals" to people whom they mocked as nothing more than monkeys (newspaper articles and cartoons pretty much established that fact), so they sent in the Marines, of course.
In spite of the fact that Queen Liliuokalani's native citizens had no weapons (The American colonists took them away), no land (Sanford Dole, leader of the missionaries, forced King Kalākau to sign a bill that forbid Native Hawaiians from owning land), and were being threatened by the white settlers, who had all the land, all the guns, and looked down upon the natives, the Marines came and stood at the side of the colonists. The rest is history.