Bonding with Uniformity

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John Rauschkolb by Michael Daly December 07, 2010

My recent postings have a common thread. They are art assignments of military people in uniform. This is my drawing of John Rauschkolb in his whites. Earlier I published my poster art of Bradley Manning in uniform. My next post will feature two military wedding artworks I did last week: -a fun news story illustration of a gay military couple in uniform and a traditional drawing of a wedding couple, the groom in uniform. This small art collection with theme was not designed but came together naturally.

I had the opportunity of drawing Rauschkolb’s portrait while he was in Honolulu attending the 69th anniversary of Pearl Harbor on December 07. This kind gentleman is 90 years old and a survivor of the 1941 Pearl Harbor. His loving niece, Robin Lamar commissioned the portrait. I also did a pastel drawing of her in colour.

As an artist/writer I’ve become interested in important matters about the uniform.

Uniforms and symbols have a significance of spirit that engender mass culture. This is no small thing. It can be the difference between respect, understanding, survival – and repressive crackdowns, violence, division and evolutionary breakdown.

I recall being outraged in the 90s when local police on Kaua`i island would make presentations at my daughters’ elementry school in Hanalei; they were wearing guns which generally ended up being an ogling feature of class attention. On complaint, I was told the gun was a “part of the uniform” and could not be left behind. It’s violations of the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice that the prosecutor is charging Bradley Manning with for allegedly disclosing classified documents to WikikLeaks.

Last week I was painting an illustration of a gay military wedding couple for the cover of Honolulu Weekly, February 23, 2011. I noticed I was making the camouflage shirt of the lesbian bride look like one those cute nursery uniforms. Something of a contrast in the military that would delight me.  No one would believe a cruel national dictator could amass a military arm with uniformed troops parading designs associated with love and care. Don’t underestimate the power of love and care. Here is an idea in support of giving peace a chance. Consider military uniform designs of hostility as being obscene to humanity, make treaties to abolish them everywhere and see our goals of global security advance. This is a new order of military conversion. And a way of retention, recruitment and so on for our global forces facing environmental threats. Like any fashion statement, the change will place traditional uniforms in their historic context (not a chapter to be proud of).

It has been gratifying for me to be able to represent with honour the faces of folk in uniform. In the cases of my local drawings I have come into good contact with service people who I don’t usually meet. I make sure to let my military subjects know I am a pacifist and that I believe most military personnel are victims of a deceitful and failed system. They may not agree or fully agree, but so far they respect my views; few can counter that institutions of weapons and war are rife with terrible human and economic waste.

Here I’d like to note that protection racquets such as false flags, where fear is purposefully manufactured, are an old evolutionary game of sexual prowess and control.

Martin Luther King Parade, Honolulu 2011. Arthur Defries, Michael Daly, Brihadi with Bradley Manning poster

Since my most informative college days in Melbourne their has been a definite gulf of isolation between people in uniform and myself. While being an art student I attended many street protests against U.S. and Australian military involvement in Vietnam. There were violent clashes with police . But now, after almost forty years, I see something of fundamental reconciliation happening. Keen jerk reaction to protesters is replaced with thoughts of something is “wrong, terribly wrong”.

When I was voluntarily painting my poster of Manning in his uniform I couldn’t help but notice how unusual -and refreshing!- it was to be directing my prized talent in the support of a military guy.  I immediately displayed this art poster publicly on the sidewalk of Waikiki and felt a long waited satisfying sense of inclusion with society. I offered the image to Manning’s support team. I used it to create a web animated art statement, and I proudly held the original high in the Martin Luther King Day Parade through Kalakaua Avenue with a team of Revolution Books and World Can’t Wait marchers.

The relationship between activists (often progressive, free-thinkers, artists, definitely outsiders) and enforcement (usually ruled, authoritarian, paid and socially embraced) has changed in the past weeks. We witness across-the-spectrum Egyptian revolutionists of huge numbers seemingly protected by the Army and definitely not provoked or attacked by them. This mostly peaceful revolution on the street is not what I’ve experienced in dealing with uniforms at large protest turnouts.

Also, today in Wisconsin, USA, the public service unions including police and firefighters (not even directly attacked by state union-busting) stand as one with long time activists and voices for truth in government, equal rights and democracy.

On February 25, 2011 with the backdrop of protest inside the state building, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewed Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters Association. The interview reflects a spirit of solidarity today between the uniform and tie-dye forces.

There is a letter from former Marine Corps captain, David MacMichael written to General James Amos, Pentagon Commandant of the Marine Corps posted at Manning’s website. MacMichael supports Manning. I now have another uniform I can admire!  With enthusiasm I write my appreciation in the blog’s comment section.

MacMichael refers to Manning’s unusual detention at Quantico, a Marine Corps installation, since Manning is Army enlisted.  He notes constitutional issues of long term detention without a court-martial and says: “I seriously doubt that the conditions of his confinement – solitary confinement, sleep interruption, denial of all but minimal physical exercise, etc. – are necessary, customary, or in accordance with law, US or international”.

MacMichael once commanded the headquarters company at Quantico where Manning is jailed. He himself was a “whistleblower” in the Iran-contra affair in the 1980s. He says: “At that time, I wondered why Lt. Col. Oliver North, who very clearly violated the UCMJ—and, in my opinion, disgraced our service—was not court-martialed”.

I’m asking why, if MacMichael received a salute for his duty as a public informant in the 80s why then is Manning being woefully singled out now?  Further, its strange that military justice is a different animal to civilian justice and diplomatic justice is different again.

Martin Luther King said Justice denied anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Justice is a universal concept of equal application so it must apply to humanity equally. Their is no justification for different law books. And, even as it is, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice Manning must have his rights restored immediately and a fair trial without delay to establish if any corrective action is required.

We can bond with such uniformity.

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