Standing at the intersection of Menaul and San Mateo Blvd in Albuquerque New Mexico holding a sign that hearkened back to the anti-war movement of the 1960s:
GULF OF TONKIN?
DON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN!
I was getting so many happy honks and thumbs up of affirmation, still I was taken aback by the explosive reaction of some of the passersby: their screeching disavowal’s intention—angry words drowned out by distance and engine noise—made clear by their middle fingers and the frothing expressions on their deranged faces. Albeit, I stood among people holding flags flapping in the breeze that proclaimed FUCK JOE BIDEN, so it would be foolish to think all their vitriol was directed just at me. But still…after someone drove by with their wingman leaning half his torso out the passenger window to shout something obscene, making eye contact with me directly, I had to look down at my sign again to make sure I hadn’t accidentally swapped it out for LET’S GO BRANDON or DON’T BE A SHEEP because it just didn’t make sense to me that anybody could get so upset about a sign that cautioned against falling for government propaganda, like we have so many times before.
Of course, the sign required some little bit of historical comprehension to understand. A a fellow protestor holding an American flag, came over and told me someone waiting at the light had pointed at my sign and asked her through their open window, “What’s a WMD?”
I shrugged and said, “Well, at least now they might go home and look it up, right?” Likewise, if they didn’t know about the inciting incident that allowed Lyndon Johnson to wage unrestricted war in Vietnam, they’d go look up the Gulf of Tonkin, which is further in the distant past than the acronym for Weapons of Mass Destruction.
I suspect confirmation bias was at work when all three people rolling by raised their middle fingers, all as one, without even looking at my sign. Maybe they saw the FUCK JOE BIDEN flags as they drove up to the red light and just assumed it was one of those kind of demonstrations…you know, the white supremacist, xenophobic domestic terrorists their legacy media prophets warn them about on TV, their fuck you fingers automatic as Pavlov’s dog’s drool at the sound of a ringing bell.
Yep. It’s been a while since we had a war that dominated the headlines. Afghanistan dragged on so long nobody even realized it was still a thing until we botched the withdrawal so badly it cost 13 American service members’ lives in one day and between 10 billion and 85 billion dollars worth of stranded military equipment, depending on who you ask.
Now the signs of escalation in Ukraine are screaming in our stupid faces just like that person driving by hanging out the car window having an epileptic seizure at the sight of my sign. I will gladly take their vulgar, ill-, mis- or non-informed middle fingers in hopes that reasonable people—who I believe are still in the majority judging from the preponderance of validating thumbs up—that we’ve been had so many times before it would be a travesty and a tragedy to allow ourselves to get fooled again; hypnotized by the jingoistic spells the DC war pigs cast to sacrifice another generation, and make their bread upon our sons’ and daughters’ blood-soaked bones.