LA CityBeat: So what’s the protest?
What’s wrong with it?
That’s a sham. It gives the impression they want to make a park for veterans. But the elite in Brentwood – they were instrumental in putting this fence up, for veterans supposedly. But on their website, they said they’d turn the north campus into “Central Park West.” We the Veterans want to keep the spirit and intent of the grant deed of 1888.
Approximately 80 percent of the land that was deeded to the veterans in 1888 is being used for everything but its stated intent and purpose. For example, these 16 acres are controlled by Richmark Entertainment. They were already kind of putting it in our faces; they’ve sponsored some very lavish private parties here where booze flows right next to longstanding veterans’ rehab programs. They’d have huge private parties, with tents and air conditioning. At first I thought it was a stand down – where they take vets off the streets, shower ’em, give ’em a haircut. Nope, it was a party. Surveys show it takes about five “touches” before a program works for homeless people. [Derisively] But the Veterans Administration is very proud of its one-touch program.
This is the biggest, busiest VA of all. It touches people east to Nevada, as far north as Santa Barbara.
If we can stop this land grab, the politicians who’ve run interference for them ... we’re tired of that crap. We want to uphold and perpetuate the spirit and intent of the grant deed of 1888. It’s really a moral issue: This country is sending people to Iraq and Afghanistan, creating veterans every day, and then is taking veterans’ land and making “Central Park West”?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder claims are the highest in history. You cannot expect people to see the carnage of war and expect them to be the same after that. It’s the plot and storyline of Rome; it turned its back on its veterans. It could [sic] give a shit.
If you’re not gonna take care of the people you send to defend the nation or – supposedly – spread democracy ... they’re pawns in this, and then you flaunt a park in front of them?
What do you think of Iraq and Afghanistan?
[Quietly] It’s a continuation of Vietnam and Korea. I’m guilty by association of spreading “democracy” where it’s not wanted. And now they’re killing my younger brothers and sisters. How can I blame them for being there? They are pawns.
So what should be done with this space if it shouldn’t be a park?
It’s space, valuable space, that could be used for a model of healing. With PTSD, you need quietude! The power brokers don’t want it; God forbid, veterans might start getting healed. See behind you? That’s Brentwood School right there, one of the wealthiest private schools in the nation. What’s it doing on federal land? The governor’s got two kids in there, and he just cut veterans’ programs.
Did you see the article in The Nation about how they deny PTSD claims by saying the vets had it before they went to war?
Yeah, I read that. [Shakes his head.]
It’s shocking how the Bush administration talks-talks-talks about the troops but then cuts them off the rolls.
[Evades a bit] In the group, we have political differences between ourselves, but as long we focus on saving this land ... . It’s a land heist! These men and women, my brothers and sisters, having the land pulled out beneath them because someone wants a public park or a statue of themselves! If the senator of this area would instruct his staff to meet with us, we could explain further, but they call us “disgruntled veterans” or “agitators.” We just want to honor the terms and conditions and the spirit and intent of the land grant of 1888.
A park? You’re opening up Pandora’s Box when you want to mix the public with veterans who are healing.
It’s just the haves and the have-nots. The haves are always gonna take away anything they can.
How long have you been doing this?
This is the 13th Sunday in a row. I have to admit, I haven’t made them all. Father’s Day, my kids wouldn’t let me come. And Mother’s Day, of course, I spent with my mama, my 97-year-old mom. We’re all from California; I grew up in Santa Monica. I remember coming here as a kid, right when I got my license. I used to bring a guy here every day, Mr. Miller. He got the cancer. And then I’d bring his wife when it went terminal. They had legions of doctors, nurses, candy stripers. Veterans were treated much differently than they are today. There’s so many of us today, more living veterans than at any time in our nation’s history. CARES – Capital Assets ... I don’t know the rest of the initials, but they don’t “CARE” – CARES hangs its hat for future veterans’ services on a study that says there will be less and less veterans, and there’s more living veterans now than any time in our history, so who’s bullshitting who here?
You heard the thing with Obama’s great-uncle, where after World War II, he stayed up in the attic for six months or something, PTSD. They didn’t have a name for it then, right?
I missed that one. But yeah, back then, they’d say you were “shell-shocked.” It’s always been there. Only Vietnam brought it out as PTSD. There’s only about five World War I vets left, but you see these old veterans, and you see them get quiet, and that’s when they cry.
The VA has a lot of flaws; I keep a folder of them on my computer desktop. But land-use policy is the bottom of the pyramid. If you don’t have the land to provide all the services, then you got a problem. What you do have is NIMBY-minded commissions who feel they have the right to negotiate open space. This is federal land with a specific purpose.
So if they did make this a park, like they want, I assume they’d be pretty horrified if a bunch of crazy veterans actually started congregating here.
If the homeless veterans were to come in here, that group, the Veteran Park Conservancy, would deal with them, and they would not deal with them positively.
Therein lies the real cost of war.
Please note: forwarded message attached
Frank: You did a great job. This is probably the best pieces, and told from the vets’ side, that has been written about the land grab in a major newspaper. The LA Times articles weren’t as “on the mark” as this one. We need to figure out a way to QUICKLY! Capitalize on this story, while it’s still fresh. I’m good at ideas and helping shape language and situations. You’re good at that but, I think, also as a spokesperson. Fortunately so is Bob, Keith also. Your three speak, probably, the best of all of us, especially in front of cameras and with the media in general. Tomorrow night, the band plays at Rae’s Lounge. As you know, two of us are vets, and because of the VA’s failures, we’ve written four songs dealing with what is going on over there. Maybe we can use music as another way to pass the message around. Whether you can make it to Rae’s or not, why don’t you (it will sound stronger coming from you) email the writer about tomorrow’s music performance. Tell her the band is committed to objectives of We the Veterans and of saving the land. It will make it seem that We the Veterans, CFVR, AMVETS, and all the rest of the vets’ organizations have more as part of their “machine” than just politics. It will show how veteran writers, musicians, actors, and artists are also part of this growing movement. Also, if you have an email list of veterans who live on the West Side, also email them. Danny
Thank you Professor Cano for showing up last Sunday.