You salute a flag that was designed for a slaveholding nation, you stand for an anthem that has explicitly racist lyrics, you allow yourselves to be the servants of a crackpot cult leader named Donald Trump. Meanwhile, your government is deporting your friends and relatives, scrubbing them from voting rolls, and imprisoning them at astronomical rates for a bunch of bullshit.
I know its hard to resist in uniform. I wore one for a lot longer than I like to remember. You have kids in school, a mortgage, your own continuing education, health care, job security, and a nice regular check. I get that. I am writing in some cases to people I know, people I am related to--black or brown in uniform--and I am not about to say an easy thing.
But remember that you will be asked, as many of you have already abroad, to do things that challenge your own moral beliefs. It is only a matter of time before you are deployed, however, to support white supremacy by aiming your power at your fellow residents of the US. It might be oblique. It might be direct. It's coming.
(If you are unfortunate enough to be Muslim in uniform, I don't even know where to start . . .)
Because you--African America and Hispano-Latina America (menos algunos de los cubanitos derechistos)--are one of White America's colonies. Many of you grew up in occupied territory, among your own culture with white cops roaming the streets. Many of you grew up among people who had far less and therefore worked for less than most white people. Many of you have seen the business people who live in the high-dollar neighborhoods extract wealth from your own people's neighborhoods and farms. That's what happens in colonies--good stuff is extracted and exported, and bad stuff is imported to be dumped.
Used to be, the colonies abroad were in the gunsights--that's what I did in the Army--but as the ability to project US power waned abroad and the wealth-streams were exhausted (they never have enough), the white ruling class (that is what they are . . . they rule with their wealth, and we obey) has had to turn in to the home territory, and in the racial pecking order, as if you don't know already, well . . . last in, first out.
The military is the ultimate go-along-to-get-along culture. I understand that. I was on active duty for a very long time. One troop--enlisted or officer--is a powerless entity against the greatest bureaucracy in history. And in a world where people's options are being slashed, income and doctors for you and your family cannot be discounted. You are not indispensable. You know that. You know that someone will do that job, someone will collect that check.
So you may listen without protest--as I have seen among those in uniform for whom that job is crucial to supporting a family--as your own white associates in uniform spout off the racist talking points of the Trump Cult.
You may keep your mouth shut among your white colleagues about Kaepernick's problem not being flags and racist bar ballads, but about the fact that you or someone you love stands too good a chance at being gunned down by mean cops.
You may keep your mouth shut among your white colleagues with regard to children being ripped from their mother's arms by men, like you, with American flags velcroed to the sleeves of their uniforms.
You may be one of the women of color in uniform who listens without protest as your colleagues systemiatically and incessantly pass along all the woman-hating cultural cues that are now routinely shat from the lips of your Commander-in-Chief.
I remember keeping my mouth shut with one eye always on survival for my family. Powerless.
For anyone in uniform, there is always a menu you receive every working day, asking you to prioritize which forms of humiliation to which you will submit. Or what kinds of authoirtarian control you will be obliged to exercise.
I hated that, the obligation to be an asshole. I was mean to people I actually would have liked.
But for me . . . this may be something you share . . . the little poisonous cyst in my belly that I tried hardest to ignore was what I did downrange. You think that's bad, wait until they ask you to do a replay of Kent State! Wait until they ask you to put down the people you swore to protect! Here's what the cyst in my belly encapsulated so I'd never have to see it: The military asked me to outsource my morality. And once I consented to that, the slope just got slippery as hell.
So I'm giving you a heads-up. You may be doing fine with it now, maybe see your way through to that pension before it gets too bad. But you need to start thinking about where your un-crossable line might be, because it is getting more likely with each passing day.
Your government is fixing elections, actually trying to recuscitate Jim Crow. Your government is enabling white militias all over the country, one of them with five million members, called the National Rifle Association. Armed white vigilantes are being allowed to roam the Southwest killing people for being brown. I don't know how it is now, but when I was part of Special Operations, that whole swamp was teeming with white supremacists.
Your Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump is an arch bigot, a xenophobe, and an utterly self-absorbed child with access to nuclear codes. He is a liar and a cheat and a bully, but the really scary thing--considering this from the standpoint of people in uniform--is he is colossally stupid . . . with access to nuclear codes.
It is easy to be reassured, too. For those in well-integrated units, you have friends across all these boundaries. Folks from your unit show up with thier families in tow when a child has a birthday or there is a promotion party. You can look around--those of you who are fortunate enough to be in that kind of unit--and the existential threat that is Trump and his base of 63 million white supremacists with a five million strong white naitonalist militia . . . well, it just doesn't really compute.
When you return from combat missions, it is difficult to reconcile the reality of that place with the more pacific reality of home and family. We all know that feeling. In the same way, we have difficulty reconciling the easy friendliness of a diverse shop with the creeping horror that looks to this next election for a squeaker win that will allow it to move us closer to one-man rule in what is already an explicitly white supremacist government. And so we cling to that local reality as reassurance that the other reality can't reach you.
But it will, one way or another. It will reach you in the form of white power or it will reach you in the form of terrible moral choices.
I am praying these days. Quite a lot. I recommend it when there is a lot to think about.
"My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden . . ."