A veteran gone AWOL, a vote for nobody

    Micah Turner speaks at a rally at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in New York City on October 7. (Picasa/Ellen Davidson)

    I fought four combat tours in the U.S. Army; I thought when I went AWOL from Fort Bragg that the war was over for me. But I found myself in the heart of a new battle — a war of words and a war of peace-fighters who put their lives on the line for their beliefs. In this war our voice is a weapon of mass destruction, and no banker, cop or politician can stand in our way. The mainstream media has gone to great lengths to try and marginalize this revolution, but this is a worldwide movement. You can ignore some people sometimes, but you can’t ignore all of the people all the time. We are the 99 percent, and we will be heard.

    On one rainy day in October 2012, I spoke my piece on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That night in New York City, 25 veterans were arrested for reading the names of their fallen comrades. A park regulation stated that we had to vacate by 10 p.m., but there were so many dead we went over the allotted time. The NYPD swept in and followed orders, mindlessly, heartlessly. That night I attempted to turn myself in to authorities at Fort Hamilton, New York, but was denied. The next day I tried again and was turned away.

    It was only when I spoke with my attorney that I realized the gravity of their mistake — another 30 days of AWOL status with the same consequences as the first day I left Fort Bragg. Another chance to tell my story, another chance to say all that had been left unsaid. That day I became a warrior in the war of words. I joined Occupy the Roads with fellow veterans and christened our trip the “Tour of Duty,” because it is our duty to speak out against this unjust war. It is our duty to dissent.

    Since then we have paved a path across the East Coast, through six states and 12 cities, telling our stories to anyone who would listen. Our message: Stop this unjust war and use the money predisposed for death for a better future. With even one-tenth of the military budget our teachers could have manageable class sizes with better wages, a computer for every child and a knowledge-base as broad as human understanding itself. With even one-tenth of the military budget we could create jobs building sustainable energy all over the country. We could stop the desperate attempts to profit from Mother Earth like fracking. We could stop polluting our air and our soil and our water and our wildlife. With even one-tenth of the military budget we could build a sustainable society. But none of this is possible with this war still waging and our people still dying.

    Everywhere we go we meet a warm and loving Occupy family and stand with them in solidarity. Everywhere we go we find average people thirsty for the truth. Everywhere we go we find a people who are past ready for this world to make a change. We are the 99 percent. We are that change.

    One of our main concerns during our outreach was to make Occupy’s message concise and easily understandable. We also wanted to bring our philosophy into the real world. By promoting self- and community-betterment through existing institutions like KhanAcademy.org and Food not Bombs, we were able to inform the unaware and give hope to the disheartened. This is a movement of human interaction. The revolution will not be televised — it’s happening right now in the streets and in the hearts of humanity. All it takes to make it a reality is the communication and collaboration of groups and individuals. We are unstoppable, another world is possible.

    Now, as we head back to the heart of political corruption in Washington, D.C., we will march with our brothers and sisters against this mockery of democracy that is the presidential election. As long as it takes millions of dollars to become a politician, politicians can only represent the interest of millionaires. All roads lead to Wall Street, but they end in D.C. on November 5, 2012.

    That day I will cast my vote, a vote for nobody. Voting is one of the most powerful tools we have, yet this election is a cruel joke on the American people; casting a vote for nobody allows you to participate in the electoral process while demonstrating your contempt for the system it embodies.

    Soon I will be arrested for standing up and speaking out. I will go with them peacefully, but not quietly.

    This article appears through a collaboration with Occupy.com and was jointly published there.

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