Freedom Beat Across America: In Search of America's Heartbeat

We’re makin’ a movie!

the Freedom Beat Bus

The eventual purpose of this road trip is to produce a film documentary. People have asked us to make a statement about why we want to cover this particular subject. After some thought, here’s mine:
I am of the Viet Nam generation. I didn’t protest the war – by the time I took a breath from raising children and started considering what the government was doing over there, it was over. For my second husband, however, it was never over. He never forgot being called a “baby-killer” when he came home. I don’t believe any of my generation begrudges the young ones their welcome-home parades, but I think there will always be a tinge of bitterness over the difference in people’s attitudes. Over what our husbands and brothers missed out on.
When my son returned from Desert Storm, I was thrilled to watch his town give a parade, and even more thrilled to see the tears in his tough man’s eyes. My other son has served a lifetime in the Army Special Forces, an outfit that discourages public recognition, and yet I’ve seen the pride in his eyes too. I could not be more proud and want to meet other moms and their soldier children.
Have there always been victory parades? Or were there other wars where veterans were vilified, or simply ignored and forgotten as soon as possible? Are we the only country that has a love-hate relationship with our military? Wanting to honor the young ones for their sacrifices, and yet unable to ignore that ingrained American fear of a military strong enough to threaten our civilian executive, legislative or judiciary?
My father told stories of the days of WWII and Korea when he and his buddies in uniform could stick out a thumb and be given rides to wherever they wanted to go. But, my father would add in wonder, it was safe back then. It never occurred to anyone that it wasn’t. He wouldn’t do it now, no matter how much the American public waves the flag. Has the trust gone? Was it ever really there?
In 1962 John Steinbeck stood witness as scores of people lined an Alabama street to scream insults and threats at a tiny black girl who dared attend a “white” school. And his question was, where are the people on the other side? Her defenders, the common people who believed that she had every right to attend a particular school in the same peace and honor as any other child in that town? Why aren’t they out there too, being just as vocal?
As I watched the Patriot Guard use their bodies to shield a family from the “free speech” of hate-filled religious homophobics, I wondered: Why aren’t there more defenders? Where are the ones who believe in the decency of allowing a family to bury their child in peace and honor? Why aren’t they out there too? And why was the Patriot Guard even there to begin with? How did a group that tends to be looked on as a fringe “biker” mob end up being the only people to literally stand between a grieving family and those who sought to turn that grief into horror?
I’d like to explore these questions and see if it isn’t time we all tried to answer them.


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