For several years, I’ve taken criticism from strangers, friends and some respondents to this column because of what was perceived as my lack of “support for the troops.” The rebukes always came after I said “Bring ‘em home.” Which I now say again.

As a veteran, that sort of criticism has stung at times. As though I were some sort of “peacenik” who had no idea what military service was about. Duty, honor, country, sacrifice, etc. I spent more time in uniform than most people who don’t make the military a career and have a pretty good idea what those words mean.

Others with my outlook on Iraq and Afghanistan have taken some flak, too. We have a large Veteran’s Administration facility in our town. For many, many Friday’s, two groups of flag-waving people have gathered along the street hear the entrance. Separated by about 200 feet, one group has supported the wars; the other group has not. Lots of catcalls and horn honking from passing motorists, sometimes accompanied by shouts and gestures not suited for family hearing or viewing. Lots of flags and signs supporting the divergent views.

One interesting aspect for me is that both groups are made up mostly of folks over the age of 60. Both – based on some friendly faces I’ve seen – have veterans among them. So some of the supporting and opposing voices are coming from experienced people at two ends of the same pole.

While I don’t feel the need to justify my feelings on this subject, it comes as an interesting turn that the U.S. Conference of Mayors has gone on record with a resolution to end both wars – conflicts – whatever. A group normally concerned with potholes, sewer plants, street lighting and zoning issues has done something it has never done before: taken a stand on foreign military involvement. A stand that says simply “End it. Sooner rather than later.”

The reasons why these mayors have spoken up so loudly are – potholes, sewer plants, street lighting and zoning issues. With billions of dollars going down the rat hole in two unwinnable wars, they are watching the crumbling infrastructure of cities coast to coast as federal funding for our everyday needs dries up. Those needs, too, are legitimate functions of government.

To my knowledge, such national action coming from local roots in every state has never happened before. While the decision was not unanimous, it does reflect the continuing majority found in poll after poll among Americans. In many of them, more than 60% want us out. If not immediately then soon.

The mayors carefully noted the approximately $126 billion a year in direct war costs, 6,024 U.S. military killed and some 120,000 civilian deaths. But they also said “the severity of the ongoing economic crisis has created budget shortfalls at all levels of government and requires us to re-examine our national spending priorities.”

There is no question most of the American public is tired of watching our best efforts in these two countries drain treasure and lives. There is no definable victory to be won. We seek no conquest for national gain. There is no direct threat to our national security. More and more members of Congress as well as current and past administrations – even some in military leadership – are publically saying it’s gone on long enough and it’s time to get out.

While the mayor’s statement says we must “re-examine our national spending priorities,” I believe we’re at a time in our political, military and economic history when we need to re-examine ALL those national priorities. All are inextricably tried together and all are in need of both recognition of that fact and a major national effort to realign how each affects us all. And what’s best for us as a nation.

All countries – those that fail and those that survive – come to just such a time in their history. Without altering the precepts on which each is based, there is a moment when present conditions require new ways. When today’s needs must be met in different ways than they were yesterday. Honor the past but recognize the change. And adjust to it.

It’s no stretch to say our country is at such a point. Our politics and the resulting national government are not sufficient or seemingly capable of dealing effectively with our national needs. Our military has been badly used, allowed to be run with too much involvement of monied industrial interests and political self-service and needs to be redesigned to meet today’s realistic challenges. Our national economics have been unchecked and the result has been unnecessary hardship and suffering by millions of Americans.

The proof of all this is that so many of the things that affect each of us daily are not working. Government that is supposed to serve is controlling. A military that is supposed to protect has been thrust into “wars of choice.” An economy that is supposed to benefit us all has been perverted so it benefits only some at the expense of all.

The mayors are right. Re-examination should be the national drive in all that we are and hope this country to be. And now is the time.

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