Walking through Washington Square Park I usually don't notice the always present American flag. The last time I was there I did notice that it was at half-mast in honor of the two NYPD cops where were killed.
I snorted in contempt, thinking, "Would they ever do that for a victim of police murder? Unarmed black men are routinely shot down by racist cops, do they get any official respect?"
Flying under the stars and stripes was the still ubiquitous black POWA/MIA banner. It struck me how they go together as a reminder of the deep hypocrisy of our USA.
The return of the US prisoners of war and accounting of US soldiers missing in action as an issue was created by then President Nixon in 1973 during the negotiations between the US and the North Vietnamese government and the National Liberation Front of the South Vietnamese fighters. What was being negotiated was the unconditional withdrawal of US military forces. Which meant in plain language: the US lost, the North Vietnamese and the "Viet Cong" won. End of story.
for a brief time Nixon balked and demanded that the other side return all the POWs and MIAs. Insinuating that these evil, low-down asiatic communists were holding on to some of our red-blooded American boys. What was the evidence and for what reasons? Nothing rational was ever advanced, except that this is the kind of dirty trick those commies would pull.
This incident was a blip in the negotiations, but had great cultural resonance among a large part of the US populace. It allowed them to vent rage and express bitter anger at those inferior, yellow skinned gooks (a very common expression in the US during the Vietnam war). For hard-core rightist, racists, flag waving patriots certain of America's divine right to rule the world, the US getting its sorry ass whipped by the Vietnamese was a very bitter pill to swallow.
The "stab in the back" theories abounded. We weren't allowed to win the war. Yes we had total control of the air and sea coasts and over 500,000 US troops and tens of thousands of allies (50,000 South Korean troops, thousands of Australians, among others) in place and managed to kill millions of people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia...but we didn't win..because we weren't allowed to...what? use nuclear weapons? send over 2 million troops? It was the peaceniks who tied our hands.
Hard line, America first racists couldn't fathom the idea that the great mass of the population was tired of endless war for no good reason and tired of seeing dozens of dead US soldiers shipped home every week (unwilling soldiers in a draftee army) and decisively turned against the war. The majority was fed up and wanted the war to end. the most bigoted, patriotic (and most likely religious) part of the population couldn't grasp that reality.
They were also immune to the idea that the Vietnamese didn't want a foreign country to control them and prop up a hated military government in South Vietnam.
No, they insisted, the USA is invading other countries to promote democracy and if they don't like it then let's kill them all. Sound familiar?
Their reality was that somehow the USA was an innocent victim of the satanic asian communists and traitors at home.
Thus was born the black MIA/POW flag. It became a cultural icon for super-patriot racists and gained a semi-official status as local governments had the flag flown all over the country.
A couple of generations have grown up in America with that dumb ass flag flying at fire stations, parks and courthouses, most likely not knowing why or what it was supposed to mean.
Well, the same bigotry, xenophobia, cult of American patriotism, and general willful ignorance of the world that fueled the 1970s POW/MIA movement has has quite a staying power that carries over to current times.
The USA is the victim of Islamic terrorists and weak kneed peacenicks. And our gallant (white) policemen are unfairly under siege from hordes of criminal black youth who need to be kept down. This crybaby racist mentality will bring the American Empire down.