Art Exhibit- Long Shadow: Painted Remembrances of Vietnam

Vietnam war veteran and artist David Giffey’s series of paintings – Long Shadow: Painted Remembrances of Vietnam – will be exhibited August 15 – September 30, 2016, at Gallery 211, located at 211 North Carroll Street, in the downtown Madison College (MATC) campus building.  The exhibition will open to the public during regular gallery hours which are Mon-Thurs: 11am-5pm, Friday: 10am-2pm. An artist’s talk will be scheduled in September at a date to be announced.

Artist and journalist David Giffey, a Wisconsin native and active member of Veterans for Peace Chapter 25, was drafted and worked as a combat journalist in the 1st Infantry Division in the American War in Viet Nam during 1965 and 1966. Giffey’s murals are permanently installed in schools, community centers, public buildings, and Greek Orthodox Churches in the Upper Midwest and in Greece. He has completed hundreds of easel paintings by commission, and designed the earthen effigy mound “Dove of Peace” which was built at the Highground Veterans Memorial Park, Neillsville, Wisconsin.

Giffey’s series of large paintings – Long Shadows – has been exhibited widely including at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. The Long Shadows paintings are based on photos taken during the war in Vietnam. The Long Shadows series includes six canvases painted from 1991 through 2013. His murals and other paintings are permanently installed in many public buildings including churches, schools, and community centers.

Giffey’s written publications include “Long Shadows: Veterans’ Paths to Peace” (Atwood Publishing), “Struggle for Justice: The Migrant Farm Worker Labor Movement in Wisconsin,” and “The People’s Stories of South Madison.” He is an award-winning journalist and editor.  Click here to view the exhibit flier.

Artist’s Statement

When another generation of young Americans was sent to invade a distant nation at the start of the Gulf War in 1991, I was filled with anger and sadness and began working on the Long Shadow paintings. Photographs I took during the war as a combat journalist with the Army 1 st Infantry Division in Viet Nam inspired images for the canvases.

I made sketches and rough compositional layouts. The large format is comfortable for me since I’ve worked as a muralist for many years. The loosely hanging canvases remind me of the flimsy insecure tents we sometimes used.

I was determined to experiment artistically with my dismal, frightening, and emotional memories of war. But I didn’t anticipate the impressions of bloody explosions, violence, and loneliness that the work brought forth in my mind.

As a war veteran, I’m grateful that I have been able to work as an artist. Art is a peaceful outlet for the inner residue of war. Along with art, the love and support of family and friends, activism for peace and justice, a spiritual path, and writing have come together to make life precious beyond words.

By many standards my experiences in war were trivial. Yet not a single day has passed in 50 years when I am not aware of some aspect, a detail, of the war in Viet Nam. War casts a shadow of trauma. Veterans return home with that shadow permanently attached to their psyches, and pass it along to their families, friends, and communities. The antidote to the contagion of war is peace. But the peaceful cure is repeatedly preempted when young people are sent to another war, which will end only with the death of its final survivor.

David Giffey

Arena, Wisconsin

2016

County Board Honors Atomic Veterans

By Paul McMahon, Chapter 25

On Thursday, July 14, 2016, the Dane County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution honoring “Atomic Veterans”. Beginning on July 16 th , 2016 and every following July 16th henceforth, Dane County honors the service of those who were victimized by the US government in the name of “safe” atomic weapons research between August 1945 through the passage of the nuclear test ban treaty in 1963 which finally out-lawed atmospheric testing.

The success of the County resolution is in no small manner due to the tireless efforts of Chapter 25 member Lincoln Grahlfs over a great number of years. The resolution was introduced and sponsored by his county supervisor Mary Kolar.

Lincoln Grahfls, Chapter 25 member and Atomic Veteran

Lincoln Grahfls, Chapter 25 member and Atomic Veteran

Chapter 25 commends Lincoln—as well as his fellow “atomic veterans”—for this significant accomplishment. We thank Mary Kolar for her sponsorship and support.

What follows is the resolution, including a summary of the historic plight of the atomic veterans. The resolution was read in full and explained by Supervisor Kolar. (Note: See accompanying photographs taken at the Capitol Lakes Retirement Center two days later, at a program presented by Lincoln.)

County Board Supervisor Mary Kolar, sponsor of 2016 RES-139, Dane County Atomic Veterans Recognition Day July 16

County Board Supervisor Mary Kolar, sponsor of 2016 RES-139, Dane County Atomic Veterans Recognition Day July 16

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2016 RES-139

Dane County Atomic Veterans Recognition Day July 16

Millions have served our country through military service including in wartime. Most came home and continued to serve their communities in the best ways they were capable of. Veterans Day acknowledges the military service of our fellow citizens; on Memorial Day, we remember those who gave their lives that we may continue to enjoy the freedoms of life in these United States.

While many military service members could expect to face life threatening conditions on battle fronts, most were not prepared nor expected to be a part of our country’s experiments with weapons of mass destruction.

On July 16, 1945, in the New Mexico desert, the first atomic bomb was successfully detonated. Three weeks later, on the 6th and 9th of August, atomic bombs were exploded over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Though the bombings precipitated the conclusion of war between Japan and the U.S., reaction to the destruction and unfathomable death toll in the two Japanese cities was overwhelming. There were widespread calls from both scientists and lay persons for such weapons to be outlawed.

Yet, there were elements in our government who were intrigued by this new line of weapons. In a short time, the U. S. Navy called for volunteers to participate in a program to test the effectiveness of atomic weapons against naval vessels.

The number of volunteers fell far below expectations, so personnel were simply assigned to this operation, and many others that followed. Between 1945 and 1963, the United States conducted some 235 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and the American Southwest.

At least 220,000 American service men and women witnessed and participated in these tests, or served in forces occupying Hiroshima and Nagasaki immediately following World War II. They were exposed to the potentially harmful effects of ionizing radiation in these weapons. Many of them have endured serious health consequences.

These service members, who refer to themselves as Atomic Veterans, are generally proud to have served their country.

They feel, however, that they were forced to be subjects in a risky experiment for which they were denied the option of informed consent.

It is only fitting that their dedication to duty be afforded proper recognition by Dane County and be brought to the attention of all Americans.

Be it resolved that July 16th, in this and ensuing years, be known as ATOMIC VETERNS RECOGNITION DAY.

/s/Sharon Corrigan, Chair

Dane County Board of Supervisors

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Chapter 25 Announces Madison High School Recipient of Peace Scholarship

By Paul McMahon, VFP Scholarship Committee

Chapter 25, Veterans for Peace, is pleased to announce that Jainaba Joof, a senior at Madison East High School, is the winner of the 2016 James Allen Memorial Peace Scholarship awarded within the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Jainaba

Jainaba Joof

Jainaba wrote a winning essay on the assigned topic “Why I Believe War and Violence are Not the Answer.”  She will receive $1,200 to attend Madison Area Technical College (Madison College) starting this fall. She intends to earn an associate degree in accounting.

Her strong letters of reference credit her with a broad array of activities and leadership responsibilities– from her family life to school extracurricular activities (President of the International Club) to mentoring and guiding fellow students with their studies and homework.

Chapter 25 has awarded a $1,200 peace scholarship to a Madison high school senior each year since 2009. The scholarship opportunity was open this academic year to all Madison public schools to attract a maximum number of applicants. Previous years focused on a single school.

Education, not Enlistment

Believing that many students opt for military service because they cannot afford the cost of post-high school education, Madison Veterans for Peace decided in 2009 to establish several scholarships to encourage post-high school training and study. Through generous contributions from both our members and community supporters, VFP focuses not only on Madison schools but also smaller rural schools, including Richland Center, Dodgeville, Spring Green, Boscobel, Baraboo and Muscoda. In recent years at several of the rural high schools, 10-15 percent of the graduating seniors have written powerful essays on the topic “Why I Believe War Is Not the Answer.” David Giffey works tirelessly to inform students in these districts, encourage applications, and award scholarships each May.

The program was named the James Allen Memorial Peace Scholarship to honor the late Dr. Jim Allen, a long-time VFP member and generous supporter and friend to all he met. Dr. Allen, a highly regarded ophthalmologist, practiced at the Madison Veterans Administration and University of Wisconsin hospitals. He died in 2011.

A Mile-long Memorial to U.S. War Dead

On Memorial Day this year, I spoke at a rally organized by the Clarence Kailin chapter of the Veterans for Peace in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s like an annual family gathering for progressives in Madison. Particularly sweet for me, the event was held at the tiny, historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue, where I was married on a summer day almost 17 years ago.

The day before the event, I asked my dad what he thought I should say.

Being a visual artist, his answer was to take me down to Olbrich Park to drive the Vets for Peace Memorial Mile. Every year, veterans set up small white tomb stones along the edge of the park, in memory of the more than 6,675 U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. It’s a powerful statement, that annual display, there in the heart of a peaceful weekend scene. As you drive past, the gravestones flow by in long, silent rows, past the tennis and basketball courts, past kids playing and joggers trotting past, with the dome of the state Capitol shining across the lake. They are a reminder of the terrible price of the wars being fought in our name, far away from our everyday lives.

My dad and I drove to the end of the park, turned around in a parking lot and drove back past those 6,675 tomb stones. It was raining on and off, and the sun was bursting through the clouds, intermittently lighting up the raindrops on our windshield./ We had just reached the top of the hill at end of the park when a big rainbow appeared in the sky, stretching from horizon to horizon, framing those glowing grave markers in the park below. And then we drove home.

Sometimes words are not enough.

One of the great problems with being a citizen of the American Empire is that the violence waged in our name has so far outstripped our language and logic, and the ability of our verbal, rational minds to grapple with what we are talking about when we talk about war. The political and tactical explanations for war, the sterile-sounding terminology—none of that helps. All those dead. How can you begin to rationalize it? Our longtime columnist, the late, great people’s historian Howard Zinn wrote:

“Memorial Day should be a day to honor all those people striving for peace, including those men and women who have come back from Iraq and called for an end to the war and the occupation.”

Zinn, who flew bombing missions over Europe as a World War II pilot, was invited to participate in a panel of veterans telling “war stories” to dedicate the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, back in 2004. He startled his audience, he wrote in The Progressive, by declaring: “World War II is not simply and purely a ‘good war.’ It was accompanied by too many atrocities on our side.” One of those atrocities—the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima—was in the news this week, as President Obama became the first sitting President to visit the bombing site. Obama called for “a world without nuclear weapons,” and honored those who died. There was a lot of political debate about whether the President would apologize to the people of Japan (he did not). His visit reignited debate about whether the atomic bomb was “necessary” to end the war (we have published a fair amount of scholarship showing that it was not).

But here again, words are inadequate.

The symbolism of Obama’s visit, and the image of his embrace of a survivor of the bombing, was far more significant than any policy discussion to come out of that trip. The Unites States maintains its nuclear stockpile, and we are still engaged in a seemingly endless, murky War On Terror. But a moment of human contact and empathy at the Hiroshima memorial—two men, heads bent, embracing, one a U.S. President and one a target of the first atomic bomb our country dropped on a civilians in another land, was like a momentary burst of sun through the clouds. Policy talk about horror on the overwhelming scale of Hiroshima is almost always dramatically, dizzyingly diminishing. My freshman year in college I took a history class with a discussion section taught by an energetic young TA who said to us one day, “Quick show of hands—who would have dropped the bomb on Hiroshima?”

That moment stayed with me for years and years afterwards. I remember the eager freshmen around me—mostly boys—dutifully raising their hands and jumping into the debate. I don’t remember much about which positions they chose. What I do remember is the feeling that this was not so much a college course in history as it was a training session in absolutely stunning hubris. That “quick show of hands” method of thinking about war may be precisely the kind of  training you need to be a future leader of a military superpower waging war around the globe. If you are too overwhelmed by the horror of war to engage in a “quick show of hands” debate, you can begin to feel quite alienated.

That’s why I am glad to work at The Progressive, where, for the last 107 years, we have failed to raise our hands to support U.S. military aggression. We’ve published Howard Zinn and Erwin Knoll and Kathy Kelly and other voices of reason and humanity that stand up to the macho nonsense and mechanistic, dehumanizing rhetoric of war. I had a chance to talk to Phil Straus, of the Straus Military Reform Project, after the Pentagon made its 2017 budget request: $582.7 billion in discretionary funding—a $2.4 billion increase over last year. $58.8 billion of that is for a general “war spending” slush fund created to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2001. It’s not subject to spending caps or regular scrutiny by Congress. Straus and his colleagues have been fighting for years just to get the Pentagon to submit to regular audits. Years ago they helped uncover the fact that more than $8.5 trillion doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996 can’t be accounted for at all. We don’t even know how the money was spent.

Our military budget is a statement of seriously warped national priorities. Straus calls the latest budget a “Mardis Gras” for defense contractors. We don’t just spend ten times more than China, the next largest military power, we are burning the money on weapons that don’t work, some of it on we don’t even know what. Like the $300 million a year in unaccounted for spending on the national police in Afghanistan. That’s pretty troubling given our problems at home. Think Progress points out that with 1 percent of the military budget, we could purchase permanent housing for the nation’s 565,000 homeless. In fact, the Pentagon could make every homeless person in the United States a millionaire and still have money left over.

I was on a local radio show last week, when a woman called in to explain why she supports Bernie Sanders, and why she is completely disaffected from mainstream politics in this country. She talked about multinational corporations outsourcing jobs, and domestic and foreign policies that are making things worse for the people who live in her neighborhood. She described how one young man who lives nearby came back from Iraq with no face.She was stringing together these ideas—that our government serves the powerful and corporations, and that shrinking opportunity at home is related to our military adventurism abroad—and I could see the host and the conservative guest in the studio with me getting visibly impatient.

The way this woman was describing America is not at all the way our political leaders or TV pundits describe it. It’s not our shared language, it’s complicated, and it’s a downer. My conservative counterpart, when he finally got to respond, called it “incoherent.” But it wasn’t incoherent. In this political year the sense of anger and betrayal in that woman’s voice is something many Americans are feeling. You can feel like you are crazy and isolated thinking that way. Especially when it comes to far away wars, it’s much easier not to feel the heaviness of moral responsibility. Also, we are trained not to think about it, to push it aside, to rationalize warfare as somehow making sense, when the lived experience of it cannot be justified or made sense of.

Quick show of hands: Who would drop the bomb?

The level of sheer callowness we have to cultivate to keep living this way is breathtaking. I am grateful to be part of a progressive community that stands for peace, and that can create a response to war as moving and serious, and also beautiful, as that Memorial Mile on Lake Monona. I’m thankful for a Memorial Day tradition of gathering together to support each other in our work to bring our community and our country a little more sanity, humility, and peace.

Ruth Conniff is editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine.

– See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2016/05/188759/mile-long-memorial-us-war-dead#sthash.kKiEpZ2v.HpAjMskT.dpuf

See photos of the Memorial Day event which Ruth was the featured speaker at here: http://madisonvfp.org/memorial-day-2016/

See pictures of the Memorial Mile installation and removal here: http://madisonvfp.org/2016-memorial-mile/