Saturday, July 28, 2007

Babies Going to War (or Not)

If you don't regularly watch Bill Moyers' Journal on Friday Nights, I highly recommend you get in the habit (Comcast On Demand saves them up if you want to watch without having to tape it while you're out on a Friday night). Two weeks ago was the scorcher about impeachment. And last night was also incredible.

But the thing that really got me was the very brief segment at the end about young people in this country. With one month to go before I face my 16-18 year olds (the prey of this occupation's designers), it was a frightening reminder of my lack of success in keeping several of my boys from becoming the fodder for the empire-makers. Moyers final segment started off with a profile of 18-year old LeRon Wilson who was recently killed in Iraq. Yes, 18 years old.

LeRon Wilson grew up on the Caribbean island of Trinidad where his father is a military officer. With his mother he came to Queens when he was 11 and dreamed of serving in the U.S. Army. After graduating from high school he enlisted.

Less than a month ago, July 6, Private First Class LeRon Wilson, and another member of his platoon were killed when their military vehicle hit a roadside bomb south of Baghdad.

This already has me doubled over thinking of the 3 boys in my senior class last year who enlisted and joined the Marines (2 of them were coerced by their recruiter to leave BEFORE graduating). My school is a prime target for recruiters because we have the highest percentage of poverty of our entire area. It is difficult for me not to consider the recruitment tactics as brainwashing based on the things my boys told me before they left this last spring. I am not anti-military; my father and husband are veterans, my brother is active duty (and thank god has survived 3 deployments since 9/11). But I am anti-occupation and I know, even if my 18 year old students don't, that they will be sent to the front lines of this heinous hellhole we are continuing to perpetuate. Will they survive until their 19th birthdays? I can barely stand to think of it.

But Moyers was not done. He then switched to some video he'd found of a Young Republicans Convention that interviewed several of these up-and-coming conservatives and not one of them, despite their gung-ho support of the occupation, were willing to enlist. One example:

JUSTIN YORK, UNIV. OF CENTRAL FLORIDA '10: We are all supportive of the war; we all believe that it is very important to win the war and to fight Al Queda in Iraq so we are not fighting them here in the United States.

BLUMENTHAL: Why are you not fighting them over there?

Well I'm an undergraduate right now and I had a scholarship...I just didn't have any real urge...I just didn't have any strong urge...

I weep for our democracy when the boys with means who want to be leaders in the Republican party eat up and spout back out the propaganda of an illegal and immoral occupation while the poor boys get seduced by the same propaganda - and both groups lose their way. The only difference is the poor boys are more likely to die before they become men.

Private First Class LaRon Wilson has been posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was the 30th 18-year-old American soldier to be killed in Iraq.


If you're interested in ways to counter the recruitment of your students (or at least interest them in getting ROTC scholarships instead of going directly to war), students themselves have stepped up the plate:

Campus Activism
National Youth & Student Peace Coalition
Youth Against War & Racism

And Veterans for Peace will gladly come to your classroom to do counterrecruitment


efmcgowen said...

Thanks so much for keeping recruitment issues in the forefront. Hope you're aware of and
Opting Out. I'm about to send a letter to the local papers here in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, to remind parents/students they have the choice to Opt Out. Here's part of what I wrote, in case others wish to do the same:
Many parents are unaware that the personal information of secondary students is automatically given to the Department of Defense for release to military recruitment offices, because of a little-known provision in the No Child Left Behind legislation (Section 9528 of Section IX). All secondary schools (public or private) receiving federal funds are required by law to turn over the personal, private information of all students to military recruiters In these days of an unpopular war, and with recruiting numbers declining over the past two months, recruiting tactics are liable to be very aggressive. Keep in mind, many schools require that the Opt Out form be submitted before September 30th . Although more and more districts have chosen to publicize the Opt Out choice, there are still many other school districts where the Opt Out alternative is excluded completely, or “buried” in small print. More information on this issue (as well as downloadable forms) is on Parents need to know when personal information about their children is being disseminated without their consent and should remember that, by not taking action, they are inadvertently giving permission for their child’s personal contact information to be turned over to military recruiters. This is a family privacy issue!

Smitten Eagle said...

So you're opposed to supposedly rich Republicans not serving.

You're actually opposed to all people who serve. Otherwise you'd oppose sites like

A great book you should read:

AWOL: The Unexcused Absense of America's Upper Classes from Military Service, by Frank Schaffer and Kathy Roth-Douquet.

Mz.H said...

I think what most needs to happen is honesty with our young people. The fact that 2 of my students were enticed to join the Marines 2 months before graduating from high school is heinous. Whether they ultimately choose to serve is of course up to them, but I cannot believe it is best for our society to disengage our children from their education in order to send them to die.