Reading: Bourbon Thoughts: Notes from a Veteran on Immigration and Hatred...

Bourbon Thoughts: Notes from a Veteran on Immigration and Hatred

Commentary - February 1

The news over President Trump’s travel ban has caused a great deal of noise in the world. Fuck all that noise and just listen to me please. Let’s talk about Islam and Muslim people; let’s talk about war.

I served two tours in Iraq. I spent Sept 2005 to April 2006 in Fallujah and January to August 2007 in Habbaniyah. I was with an infantry battalion both times as the unit’s combat correspondent. I don’t pretend to be a war hero or some high speed operator. I was a guy doing his job. My job was to tell a story about the Marines I served with and the experiences we all went through. I enjoyed my job.

The worst part of my job, the parts that still haunt me, were the memorial stories. For those unfamiliar, every time a Marine was killed, we held a memorial service. It was a way for us to have the brief period of mourning we desperately needed before heading back out for another patrol and possibly another memorial. Every single Marine that died, I reported on their death. I told their final story to the world. I told their family. I told their friends. Each time the wording was “anti-coalition forces” or “insurgents” had killed my friends, my brothers. Nonsense really, my Marines died from the work of Islamic terrorists, extremists, or whatever buzzword you feel fits. Let me make it clear, they died fighting assholes who made it their goal to kill Americans.

And I hate them for it. I hate what those assholes have done. I hate the moral injury myself and so many veterans came home with. I would gladly march through a river of their blood.

But I don’t hate Islam. I don’t hate Muslims. I just don’t.

Because this is what that hatred leads to. This is what happens when hatred becomes fear. This is what happens when fear becomes weaponized propaganda.

If you ask me what I remember about Iraq, what I really can’t shake are the people. The innocent. The children and the women. The victims. The people who were just trying to shake out a life for themselves amidst the violence, the fear, the passing of one tyrannical ruler for the insanity of another.

These are the people that I think of now, in my comfy American home. These are the people most deserving of our humanity. These are the people who America should be a beaming beacon of hope towards. These are exactly the humans we dedicated the Statue of Liberty to.

I’m going to switch gears here, so bear with me. In the last six months I have had the pleasure of working for a company I have referred to as my dream job with great honor. It’s a place that leans predominately to the conservative side of life and I have gained tremendous friends and family there. I say this because I love them even though I disagree with a lot of their personal politics. A lot of them voted for Trump, I voted for Hilary. But yet, and I mean this, I love them. Here’s why that’s important:

The worst thing, the very worst thing we do, as a society is build ourselves into protected bubbles of like-minded thoughts. We do it on both sides of the aisle. We do it across employment lines, across friendship lines, across family lines. We entrench ourselves in our positions and we demean the humanity who disagrees with us, regardless of how much we love them! That my friends, is fucking insane.

My perspective as a human, albeit just one dude in a world full of them, has changed so much over the last year! Why? Because I couldn’t reconcile the idea that I could love a person and also demean them over politics. I made it a personal goal of mine, and I believed in it so strongly that I didn’t tell anyone, to judge people by who they are to their fellow humans. That’s it.

So now we circle around to the so called “Muslim Ban” that was enacted by President Trump and subsequently paused by a federal judge pending further appeal. My friends, this is insane.

When I wrote my memorial stories, I did so under an American flag. When we bowed our heads and touched the dog tags of our dear friends, we did so under an American flag. When I wake up in the morning, I see an American flag. I go to work in a building that proudly flies the American flag.

I love my country. But these actions are not befitting the values that make America the beautiful place it is. When we say, “All men were created equal” there is no fine print that says “except those from Syria, Iraq, Iran, etc.” When we say “liberty and justice for all” there’s no fine print there, either.

Friends, the time has come. Please don’t let hate and fear be weaponized to further divide us.  Fight for your fellow humans. If our elected officials want to halt immigration and further vet beyond what is already an exhausting time consuming process, then we need to demand they have a better plan than a signature on a piece of paper that contains no actual plans or policy. We need to demand thought out reasoned reactions from our government.

We also should demand better than hate and fear from our government. Because I’ll be damned if I ever let Donald J. Trump tell me who I’m supposed to fear. I’m a combat veteran, a battle-tested Marine. I don’t fear. And I don’t need fear as a weapon.

Love is more effective.

And I love you all.

Chris Zahn is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who lives in Milwaukee, but deeply misses the South. Believer in not wearing pants, drinking good Bourbon, and setting the example for his daughters to look up to. Chris is continually amazed by the world and forever inspired to write.

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