By Ernie McCray
I recently was reminded that the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD) has been around for 35 years; 35 wonderful years I might add. I mean they’ve worked tirelessly in society’s behalf to challenge the military establishment’s overbearing intrusions in our lives.
They, with a host of other peace groups, have kept military issues in our collective consciousness via community forums, in the streets, and through youth outreach, keeping us aware of how much the military strains our economy, how much it magnifies a negative image of our country around the world, how much racism and sexism and homophobia it nurtures throughout its hierarchy.
COMD is a big part of why I continue working with the Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC) to counter the recruitment of our children.
Without us there would still be rifle training on our campuses sponsored by the JROTC. To us, teenagers firing rifles on their school grounds made a mockery of San Diego City Schools’ Zero-Tolerance of Weapons Policy.
Through our efforts the school district also no longer places students in JROTC without their and their parents’ consent and they’ve ceased telling parents and students that JROTC classes will help them qualify for college because such an assertion is untrue.
Our endeavors have been sorely needed because in 2000 the country’s Defense Secretary, William Cohen, told Congress that JROTC is “one of our best recruiting tools.”
To combat such a boast ENAC helped the school district create a reasonable policy that addressed all recruiters, military and otherwise, at our schools, although it was only the armed forces who had to pull back because they were on our campuses more than some students.
Some of the wording in the policy paints a picture of what had been going on: “Recruiters visiting schools shall not at any time solicit contact information directly from students or require it as a condition to participate in an activity or receive an award or gift.” Recruiters had been gathering information from students before they could get the privilege to sit in a tank or flex their muscles on a pull-up bar like a “real” soldier or show off their dexterity in an interactive war simulation game like “America’s Army.”
And they have awards and gifts aplenty: free tickets to something; an opportunity to meet a celebrity; friendliness to an extravagant degree…
Because of COMD’s role in bringing such tactics to our attention as a nation, they’ve directly helped me live a life filled with hope. For 35 years.
And being an idealist both by nature and by choice I’m still pursuing a better world for our children for the next 35 years, hoping, in general, that schools join with the peace movement and make sure that “snake oil” salesman-type characters don’t come on our school grounds with pitches crafted for enticing our children to become warriors. Some will anyway but the schools shouldn’t contribute to that happening in any way.
With such thoughts in mind I’d like to see our schools, in the next 35 years, simply not allow the military to market itself to our children. I hope they come to realize that war is sold to them enough: at NCAA and professional games, in so many ads on TV, online, in magazines and newspapers, at the mall.
The Pentagon should have no ownership in our schools, especially when they spend so much of their time, when on campus, developing rapport with youngsters who lack self-esteem, who are outcasts in an environment where being popular is everyone’s dream, telling them “You’d sure look snappy in the dress blues of a marine, my friend” or asking them “Wouldn’t you like to make a difference in the world by fighting for your country so that we all might remain free?”
And the military has no shame in pursuing black and Latino youth fervently, selling them notions of having “pride” (in being a killing machine) and “purpose” (putting their lives on the line so some corporate head at Exxon Mobil and Chevron and BP and Shell and Halliburton can win a bonus worth millions of dollars) – while the “Prison-Industrial Complex” sits by waiting for them to fail and end up in jail, harboring neither hopes or dreams.
Well, I would hope that at some time in the next 35 years the school system starts considering the implications entrenched in such sad schemes and comes to comprehend at a deep level just what’s going on in the world that’s relevant to all the children it serves so that it can better nurture them to attend to their world, one that they, literally, must save.
We owe our children opportunities to learn newer ways of being in their world and I hope that we begin that journey with sincerity in year one of the next 35 years. A good start, in the spirit of all that has been done up until now, is for each of us to see that, at least, our school system honors its commitment to limiting the recruitment of students on its campuses by the folks at www.military.com/join-armed-
And it would be so hopeful if, when the district considers how to help our children relate to and understand a rapidly changing world, it honors the works of the likes of COMD by consulting peace activists as to how warrior values can be diminished in our schools, allowing us to devote our energies to helping our children pursue the making of a sensitive caring cooperative society.
I hope our schools know that Jackie DeShannon had it right back in 1965 (and it’s certainly applies right now) when she sang “What the World Needs Now is Love.” It’s so true that “It’s the only thing there’s just too little of.” Our children are capable of learning the ways of love; they just need us to show them the way.
Wanting a more loving world in the next 35 years shouldn’t be too much to hope for.