Rekindling the Fire – Now That Would be Great!

by on July 18, 2011 · 22 comments

in Education, From the Soul, Military, Popular

Working to counter military recruiting and demilitarize our schools

High School students pass out fliers to educate their peers about the militarization of youth

I was asked to see if I could rekindle (and I can barely keep a campfire going) energy around leafleting our high schools with information to help students understand and deal with the attempts at militarizing them they’ll find in their schools and in their communities and beyond, as anyone can see in commercials, video games, and every form of media.

Well, it should be obvious that there’s a tremendous need for us, especially those of us who dare to refer to ourselves as “community activists.” We look out for our children when Uncle Sam comes after them with his zest for war, even though some of the organizations and activities that counter the militarization of young people are shrinking nationwide.

For instance: the American Friend Service Committee (AFSC) no longer has staff in its national office working full time on youth and military recruitment. The work of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO) ceased in 2008 when the venerable, decades-old organization folded. And, for a brief while, Project YANO (Youth and Non-Military Opportunities) recently had to cut its sole paid organizer’s position to half-time.

As I settle into my rekindling assignment, I do so with thoughts of children on my mind and I find myself humming and singing lines from my favorite song of all time: “War! Hunnh! Good God! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” Truer lines were never sung.

Those words were written with children in mind, but the spirit of the message certainly doesn’t reside in the minds of our “representatives” in DC who fan the flames of war from one side of their mouths while decreeing that we are the “Greatest Nation” in the world from the other side. There’s nothing great about war that’s detectable to the naked eye, that’s for sure.

And right now Uncle Sam, who has pretty successfully armed so many of our young people the last few years, is licking his chops to hustle more of them with sweet talk about how they will have an opportunity “to make a difference” as mature, disciplined, prideful warriors: that 18 year old who just graduated the other day and some young Dream Act youth, if that law ever gets underway. Innocent prey to a War Machine.

Now what would be great is if we were to line up around the corner in that “It takes a village” kind of consciousness and enthusiasm, to leaflet our youth at their schools with relevant life affirming news and views they can use.

It’s the simple acts that will turn this world around, and there’s nothing more simple than getting up in the morning and spending about an hour leafleting at a high school to help young people think critically and become thoughtful, loving, caring, and moral human beings.

And if we also think critically we’d see that it’s crucial to get behind such work while our so called leaders let our children down, playing word games like defining “reducing the war” as bringing home the warriors they sent over to bolster the units already there – the “surge” forces. Deception through semantics.

Our young people, soon to be the creators and keepers of whatever our society is to become, need such “truths” explained so that they can plan their lives accordingly rather than going off somewhere killing other youth who also harbor misguided dreams and themes so that “we can live free.”

I don’t know of any outreach that has touched more young people than the leafleting that’s taken place in the past – a human touch initiated by passionate, anti-war peace activists, often through smiles and hellos and an occasional handshake. This contact can enable young people to walk away with information about how they can protect themselves. They learn facts like these from one of the leaflets we handed out in San Diego last year:

  • They and their parents must give fully informed permission before they can be enrolled in JROTC.
  • It was young people like them and older allies who ended weapons training in San Diego City Schools.
  • They may be asked to take a test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) which someone might say is a “career exploration” exercise but it’s really a test used for military recruiting that they don’t have to take.
  • If they know somebody in the military who needs help there’s an 800 number they can call.
  • They have the right to hand out leaflets in their schools.

I think it’s easy for us to do the right thing if we keep in mind the images the Temptations put in our minds when they sang about what war means:

Destruction of innocent lives…
Tears in thousands of mother’s eyes…
War has caused unrest within the younger generation…
Induction then destruction. Who wants to die?
War have (okay, a point off for grammar) shattered many a young man’s dreams,
Made him disabled, bitter and mean…
Peace, love and understandin’,
Tell me, is there no place for them today?”

Yes there is a place for peace, love, and understanding today, all across the country. Thousands of our youth have already been reached, and with more people involved we can easily touch the lives of thousands more. We owe it to our children to help them create a better world, a world that gives peace a chance. Let’s get on it. Let’s rekindle the energy that’s enabled so many young people to get a better understanding of how their world operates.

Note: If you’d like to volunteer for leafleting at high schools or other activities in San Diego, please contact Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD). If you live in another part of the country, visit the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth for a directory of over 140 grassroots groups working to counter military recruiting and demilitarize schools.

Reprinted from the July-September issue of Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Radical Uterus July 18, 2011 at 11:26 am

War, deviant penis excuse for control, abuse and corruption.


Ernie McCray July 18, 2011 at 11:47 am

You hit it right on!


doug July 25, 2011 at 7:54 am

watch out,patty would view this if was female anatomy related as a sexist comment and would hit the delete and censure button and then go on a vicious tyrade against you but seeing as how it’s male related your probly pretty safe,as a male i take no offense,but thats becuse i believe in free speach and i’m a big boy.


annagrace July 25, 2011 at 9:21 am

Doug- can you give it a rest? “Vicious tyrade (sic)” ?


Judi O'Boyle July 18, 2011 at 11:49 am

Thanks Ernie and the OB rag for working to rekindle our energy.


Ernie McCray July 18, 2011 at 11:55 am

Hey, that’s just how we roll.


Peter Brown July 18, 2011 at 11:53 am

Hey Ernie,
I enjoyed this piece and think that I would like to join y’all when I visit San Diego from Chiapas. How often do you go out?


Ernie McCray July 18, 2011 at 11:57 am

At one time I think we went out about once every couple of months.


Goatskull July 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm

One of the most overlooked things in all this aside from the grimness of war, is the
simple fact that many many civilians employers are just not impressed with
military experience, even here in San Diego. Some may even have a specific bias
against military vets. Surprisingly, there are even employers (some, not all) out there
who are vets themselves and the very last thing they want to do is hire
other vets. So many kids go in with the assumption that jobs will be banging on
their doors when they separate, and that’s just not the case. Yes some
employers are impressed but by and large not many. This is especially true of
those who’s rating/MOS (military occupational specialty) is something along the
lines of infantry or some other combat specific occupation. One of the
exceptions is the medical field as far as hiring potential once separated out of
the service. There are so many wounded vets out there, and not much of a future for them unless they’re going to be heading the school full time using the G.I bill. Even then with the grim job prospects these days for recent college grads.


Ernie McCray July 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Your comments get at the heart of why our kids need to be fully informed before they join the military. They need to know that it’s a commitment unlike any other job in that one can’t just jump up one day and say: “Take this job and shove it.” Well, one can, but one would find themselves in deep deep trouble – beyond just not having a job.


Goatskull July 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I suppose in the end it’s really a personal choice but yes, absolutely they need to be made aware of the potential outcome of doing something like this. After that’s it’s up to them.


Ernie McCray July 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm

And we can only hope they’re ready for the world on many fronts.


Dave Beekman July 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Hey Classmate…! (THS ’56) Nice piece… I agree.. War is Hell… especially when it drags on for ten years + with unattainable goals and saps the very essence of our country: our youth and our financial resources…. However…I do not feel JR ROTC is to blame for the problems of our country in any way shape or form…

Fact is… The reason you and I are not speaking fluent German or Japanese since grade school is that the leaders of both those countries knew that the civilian population of the good old US of A was armed to the hilt and knew how to use our weapons… (some by means of ROTC in our colleges and High Schools…) and knew that an invasion of our continental homeland would be disastrous… for them…

I took ROTC at U of A (where we both matriculated..: ) and am gratful for the training in military tradition and use of weapons to protect my family and serve our country.

Here is Spring Valley we are very proud of the JR ROTC unit at Mt. Miguel High School… who incidentally, won a national competition in Florida three years ago…

Mt. Miguel is in the Grossmont Union High school District… part of the San Diego County School System under the direction of Dr. Randy Ward…

Yes Ernie… War is Hell… I don’t feel we need to send our young men and women off to foreign lands to try and convince native peoples to conform to our ways of life… That’s none of our business and they will soon revert to their old ways as soon as we are gone… But…

We must be prepared to go to war to defend our own borders and national security when it really matters… and one of the best ways to do that, in my humble opinion, is ROTC.

Your thoughts…

Dave Beekman
Spring Valley Ca


Ernie McCray July 18, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Hey, I hear you amigo from long long long time ago :). My major concern is not so much with JROTC as with how in a lot of cases students were being led into it somewhat against their will like: “I’m sorry, Jose, (and in a lot of these cases it was “Jose” and “DelaShaun,” if you will, who were treated in this way) we don’t have an opening in American History that period but how about JROTC?”
It’s interesting that it’s often said that JROTC isn’t about preparing youth for the military but the Pentagon has gone on record as praising such as one of its great recruitment tools.
Anyway, our country is very much involved in sending our youth off to foreign lands to affect change ala American style and that’s why I feel they need to have as much information they can to help them make “choices” in their lives. Thanks for such an in depth response and, hey, we’re about three months away from our 55th Reunion. You’re old dude (smile).


Lauren July 18, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Dear Ernie,

Great piece. I noticed on a recent trip to Pa. that already my 8-year-old nephew had already been somewhat indoctrinated by his “Pappy” about defending the US bc if we weren’t “there” we’d lose our freedom.

Of course, many of us are aware that “there” is anywhere that serves the political interests of the moment with no regard for citizens, here or elsewhere on the planet.

Thanks for keeping the fire kindled.



Ernie McCray July 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm

The indoctrination sometimes is quite sensational. I know of a couple of elementary schools a while back that had military vehicles on their campuses for kids to enjoy hands on experiences and, of course, the boys, particularly, just loved it as I would have as a kid since I was already deep into cowboys and “Injuns” and cops and robbers and play war. We rat-a-tat-tatted up and down the street practically all day, especially right after the war. I don’t know how many times I shot Hitler and “Japs” and”Krauts” and Pretty Boy Floyd and Jesse James… And the next thing I knew I was in the Marine Corps Reserves where I got my eyes opened big time and almost ended up in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis with little hints of Vietnam already on the horizon.
That got the kindling started for me… And I haven’t let up since…


Rick Jahnkow July 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

I just have to throw in a few comments here about the military’s involvement in our schools:

1The teaching of citizenship, civic responsibility and all the other subjects that JROTC claims are part of its purpose have traditionally been addressed by the civilian school system. The real reason JROTC was authorized for the public school system in 1916 was to indoctrinate and groom children for soldiering. This motive was explicit in the congressional dialogue that accompanied the commissioning legislation (there was talk of matching the threat of German militarism.

Let’s be honest about WWII: It was the preoccupation with fighting on other fronts and impossible logistics that made invasion by Japan or Germany unlikely, not the presence of JROTC, ROTC or conscription in the U.S.

In the overwhelming majority of instances when the U.S. military has been used, the U.S. has been an aggressor seeking to enforce political policies that exploit the resources of weaker nations. If you want the historical facts demonstrating this, please read A People’s History of the U.S. by Howard Zinn.

Regardless of any other value they may offer, school programs like JROTC that popularize soldiering and track students into the U.S. military are really mechanisms for pursuing our global political objectives, including the current wars that a majority find objectionable. The schools that host them are therefore aiding those wars and the general militarization of society. If people oppose the wars and militarism, they need to look critically at programs like JROTC.

Our schools should be teaching students critical thinking and civilian democratic values, not military values and thinking. The danger of allowing the military establishment to intervene in civilian education was comonly recognized even by the early architects of the U.S. Revolution. Sam Adams, for example, represented this view when he said, “Where military power is introduced, Military Maxims are propagated and adopted which are inconsistent with and must soon eradicate every idea of Civil Government.”

into their development. giving the miklitary military thinking. civilians. If they choose to join the military, they , not mini-soldiers in the vast majority of the A bigger used their own parallel While some individuals say today that they have benefited from the program, many others feel the same way about the other subjects (e.g., AP language, music, art and athletics) that are being cut. JROTC is given privileged status and allows it absorb the resources that are being taken away from equally valuable academic alternatives.


Rick Jahnkow July 20, 2011 at 11:53 am

Sorry, I unintentionall hit “submit” before I finished editing the last paragraph of my previous comment. This is what is should have said:

While some individuals say today that they have benefited from JROTC, many others feel the same way about the other subjects (e.g., AP language, music, art and athletics) that are being cut. JROTC is given privileged status and allows it absorb the resources that are being taken away from equally valuable academic alternatives. It’s a reflection of the power of militarism in our society, and thus makes it more crucial to keep such programs out of our civilian schools.


Ernie McCray July 20, 2011 at 12:44 pm

One thing I’ve always appreciated about Rick Jahnkow is he tells it like IT IS!


Mike September 5, 2011 at 1:40 pm

You have risen like the Phoenix from the fires of my militant, anti-militarism, past Ernie. Keep up the grat work and writing. I’ll be following you in the Rag and anywhere else you recommed. Peace, Mike Hall


Mike September 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm

On this Labor Day I offer a WWI battle cry: “A bayonet is a weapon with a worker on both ends.” No more war.


Ernie McCray September 5, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Say it again: No more war.


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