Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cathay Post Veterans Throw a Party

In news to me, the circular plot of grass in the park between the San Francisco Opera House and the Veterans Building is hallowed ground, with soil from all the battlefields where American soldiers have died.

On Sunday afternoon, there was a formal ceremony sponsored by the mostly Chinese-American Cathay Post of the American Legion.

Two new battlefield additions were being interred, from Iraq and Afghanistan, which is where the soldiers above were stationed.

There were a number of Junior ROTC groups performing, and as usual they were great.

They drew a few dancers from the San Francisco Ballet next door who were about to perform in Balanchine's "Jewels," including the outrageously talented Isaac Hernandez (above right).

San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong (above left) was attending, as usual looking stoic and lonely.

I knew a few of the gay veterans, who kindly invited me to the second floor Green Room in the Veterans Building for "great food and booze afterwards," but I couldn't make it.

The emcee from Cathay Post No. 384 was a character...

...reveling in elaborate introductions of just about every individual in the small crowd.

He also championed their work in Hepatitis B testing and prevention which is particularly virulent in the Chinese-American community. In fact, they make up around half the adult cases in San Francisco, which was also news to me.

Then he started a speech about how the Junior ROTC program was under attack in San Francisco city schools and needed to be saved. "Oh, oh," veteran John Caldera said, standing next to me. "This thing just got political. Very political."


whabbear said...

Interesting! I'm of two minds about the JROTC.

On the one hand, the organization probably does benefit the individuals who participate, as you suggested in your next blog.

On the other hand, I don't agree that it's safe to delay pacifism until kids of out of their teens. One of the most insidious things about the military is the strong connection it makes between the rituals, the culture, and highly valued concepts like personal valor, selflessness, honor, and the like.

These gilded trappings are so seductive that they easily mask the underlying truth: that to embrace a military mindset is to sort human beings into two crisp categories: those whose lives have positive worth, to the point where you should strive to preserve and protect them at all costs; and those whose lives have negative worth, so much so that you should strive to murder them at all costs.

I worry that indoctrination into this mindset may do more harm in the long run than the benefits of participation.

Civic Center said...

Dear Rob: Well-stated pacifist reasoning. I'd argue, however, that George Lucas' six "Star Wars" movies and all those shoot-em-up video games from Electronic Arts are ten times more insidious in terms of promoting that kind of binary mindset than marching around in uniforms with your friends as a way to get out of P.E.

It would be great if the school district could up with a real alternative program, such as teaching emergency response skills for earthquakes and CPR (an idea of my friend h. brown), but nobody has done so. Until that time, I say leave these kids alone.

whabbear said...

Interesting food for thought on both counts! Thanks...