I wrote that years ago when I was first drafting the book’s final chapter, as the “Bradley Manning” story became the complex reality that is Chelsea Manning, as new dissent appeared daily and what had seemed pretty black and white under George W. Bush moulted into a sinister purple glow under Obama. Now, this second, the moving target is the Veterans Against Trump movement birthed in the current uprising; I promised to write about it for Waging Nonviolence, but find myself checking the news after the 100th Night of Protests. Does what happened last night impact what I’m writing now?
Last week, for example, it was the LAPD that shot and killed a man for possessing a handgun. LA was already brimming with BLM even before George Floyd, and their Wall of Vets group following the latter’s lead. The head of that group just got back from the D.C. march and can’t be there. Are these “walls” actually having an effect? One of my key questions.
The list of orgs laying claim to the movement is dizzying: not just the ones I noted earlier, Continue to Serve and Wall of Vets, but the aggressively nonpartisan Vets for Responsible Leadership and the Working Families Party’s Vets for the People. I first learned of the latter at last month’s Veterans for Peace convention–VFP, of course, has been working toward this at least since Ferguson, when they adopted the then-controversial “Peace Abroad, Peace at Home” campaign. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when Continue to Serve founder David Smith said to me “Veterans for Peace? Yeah, I know Garett!” meaning Garett Reppenhagen, VFP’s director, who I met when he was president of Iraq Veterans Against the War in those clear-seeming Bush years. Because this present isn’t just a moving target: it’s one spinning in 4 or 5 dimensions.
Before I stop writing here and try to draft something, I did want to report on the very first published review of the book — and it’s in Publisher’s Weekly, the mag used by bookstores to decide what’s worth buying. We got a thumbs-up, as “an enlightening roundup of the long tradition of resistance within America’s armed forces.” Describes the book as “well-researched” with a “wealth of detail,” perhaps the highest compliment possible for a work of narrative nonfiction.
I’ll try to stay warmed by those words, as I act like a reporter and turn the detail I’ve managed to gather into a story about veterans acting in support of Black lives. Wish me luck.
(Image: an early draft of the book’s cover. I asked that it not be yellow, so as not to maximize the amount of time I get the book’s characters called “cowards.”)