By Matthis Chiroux
Mar. 20, 2010: Matthis Chiroux burning the American flag.
On Saturday, thousands of people converged at the White House for the March 20 March on Washington—the largest anti-war demonstration since the announcement of the escalation of the Afghanistan war. By the time the march started at 2 p.m., the crowd had swelled up to 10,000 protesters.
Link to video of flag burning
Another year another peace rally. The wars rage on, and the struggle continues. Like at all the others, I felt inwardly horrified. A billion wailing voices echoed in my mind.
On we go with this tragedy of intention and this comedy of errors while the bodies pile higher. I long to take the needle off this skipping record and rest it on my broken heart. There alone can truth be sourced. A mind is too easily corrupted.
For so long I have suffered from “truths” that weren’t my own. I listened to them and repeated them, like Santa, my orders or television. I’ve been searching all my life for the courage to express myself without fear, shame or compromise; to deliver a pure message on where I stand and how I feel. It was in this spirit Elaine Brower and I sparked a light we hope may grow to illuminate struggle yet unseen.
As the burning American flag clutched in my fist above me bathed my fingers in yellow flame, I felt no pain nor shame of conscience. I stared into the eyes of 5,000 people and returned to dust a genocidal fairytale. One force-fed to me since birth and later used to enslave my body. A bed-time story of epic deceptions. A lost dream groped for in the empty darkness.
Fairytales are never told just for entertainment. They serve a function. They guide us and mold us. They beg us to believe in their values. They connect with our inner most delusions of grandeur. They place our minds at the center of the universe. They elevate us above our lived realities, and sometimes, we don’t want to come back.
The American flag is a weave of fantasy. We embrace it only because we’ve not fully lived out its reality. It is a spiked symbol of subservience wrapped over our faces preventing us from seeing all that is. What pride is connected with it must only be measured in comparison to the atrocities our country was founded on and continue to carry out.
What some call the greatest country on Earth, I call the most lethal Empire in its history, which is why I can’t ever stop resisting the injustices that it systematically produces. We did 48 hours in the D.C. Central Lock-Up this weekend for sitting on the White House sidewalk. I fasted and reflected and have emerged all the more firm in the righteousness of our cause.
But to achieve it, we must leave fantasy behind. We must face the realities of our hearts. We must show no fear, shame or compromise. We must be unwavering in our insurgency. We must hold firmly to truth and permit nothing less than justice to be served. We must resolve ourselves to ourselves and trust our abilities to love.
We must be proud, but not in what they brand us with. We must question our traditions and that which we hold dearest. We must investigate history. We must investigate ourselves and share our findings with others.
We must be prepared to discover we were wrong and embrace personal responsibility with words and deeds. There is a moment coming soon when all hearts will be open to us, and we must be prepared to fill those hearts with love for something greater than a flag, country or corps.
The dream is a nightmare, but is still only a dream. We can end it but first we must assert our power. Our power is in real stories, not fairy tales or fantasy. We must stir now with the coming of spring and express ourselves in radical, fearless new ways.
The nightmare will end when we wake up! America, please open your eyes.
Matthis Chiroux is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He frequently writes about his resistance to American foreign policy throughout the world and last year he won a court battle that ensured his post-service benefits. This piece is republished here with his permission.