News & Politics

War 4th: Think Blood, Not Ketchup



The East Coast Memorial honors 4,601 Americans lost in the Atlantic in World War II—about the same number who died in the Revolution 120 years earlier. (Parks Dept.)

“On Independence Day,” the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council reports, “Americans will enjoy 150 million hot dogs—enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. over five times.” Or enough to go round trip from Baghdad to Battery Park, where veterans George McAnanama and Peter Bronson will spend most of their Fourth of July not eating hot dogs, or anything else.

Instead, they’ll be on hunger strike to protest the Iraq war and call for immediate U.S. withdrawal as part of “Troops Home Fast,” a nationwide antiwar effort that begins on America’s birthday. The locus of the action is in front of the White House, where some of the lead organizers will begin an open-ended, water-only fast on Tuesday. In New York—the hot dog-eating capital of the country—McAnanama and Bronson will skip meals for 24 hours down at the Battery, in front of the East Coast Memorial to Americans who died at sea in World War II.

McAnanama (who was in the service during the Vietnam War; Bronson served in Korea)expects a few dozen people to join at least part of their fast, which runs from 3 p.m. Monday until 3 p.m. on the Fourth. “The basic thing is to let people know that there are hardships to be borne in war, and we don’t seem to be seeing that at home,” he says. “It’s been kind of sanitized and by fasting the people can give up the hotdogs and the other BBQ items and think what it’s like to have sand blasted in your face and MREs to eat.”

McAnanama doesn’t know if the park police will allow he and Bronson to stay at the memorial all night or how many people will see the protest or understand it, since the Fourth is traditionally a time for watermelon, cherry bombs, and red-white-and-blue bathing suits rather than deep reflection. A lot of the pageantry will be done in the name of honoring our veterans. “It’s great to have a highway named after you. It’s great to have a parade in your honor,” McAnanama says. “But then we have 300,000 homeless veterans in this country.” There ought to be time to think about that, he says, between sparklers and smoke bombs.

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