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Too Political?

How can it be that veterans who want to speak to schoolchildren about their experiences in the military are told that they cannot do so because their pro-peace views are deemed “too political” for young ears to hear? Is peace really too controversial a subject to be discussed openly in our schools? What makes peace “too political” but war somehow apolitical?

Our children go to school to learn about a variety of subjects. They learn facts about the world they will inherit and ultimately inhabit as young adults. They will make meaningful decisions that will significantly impact their own lives and the lives of others. There is great hope that they will learn to think critically and creatively. To achieve this skill they will need to be exposed to different perspectives and supported in analyzing those perspectives intelligently.

So if this is the purpose in educating our young people why would they not be served by hearing from those who have served in wars of the past and hear what those individuals have to say about the subject of peace? Our present-day culture goes to great lengths to honor veterans (e.g. “Thank you for your service.”) when such recognition is in alignment with the power structure and agenda of our government. This kind of national etiquette effectively separates those who serve in the military from the government foreign policy of which they are the tangible extension. This also serves to discourage questioning that policy. The pro-military paradigm is now constructed in such a way that if one openly disagrees with the government’s actions it is equated with “disrespecting the troops” who are “fighting over there so that we can be safe and free here” at home.

This framework encourages us to assume that all veterans are unified in their support of our government’s policy of military interventions around the world. This is, in fact, a false assumption. A recent survey of veterans by the Pew Research Center indicates that the majority believe that our current military involvement in the Middle East (casually known as the War on Terror) is a waste of human and material resources.

Why do we choose to value only those veterans whose perspectives agree with our government’s military actions and try to silence those who express skepticism and disagreement with how our government is using our military in the world?

How can we “respect the troops” if we don’t listen to them, particularly when they are saying what some of us (and our government) don’t want to hear? The fact is that we need to listen to what all of them have to say if the respect we say we feel toward them is more than just a matter of social etiquette.

As to the matter of whether or not it is “too political” to allow students to hear from pro-peace veterans we must come to terms with the pre-existing condition of pro-military bias in our schools. Students are already exposed to the political aspect of military service in various ways that have become so normalized that they blend in without much notice. Military recruiters are allowed direct and indirect access to students. Posters promoting careers in military service are in school hallways along with the various colleges student can attend after high school. And, of course, students are allowed hear from veterans as long as they don’t invite students to think about the possibility that peace is a real alternative to war.

This is the established pro-military status quo in most schools. Veterans who are overtly pro-peace may represent an uncomfortable disconnect for some who expect them to support our government’s military interventionist behavior. This position of explicit support for and implicit endorsement of this status quo is certainly political but is assumed not to be because it has become so normalized. It is a mistake to assume that such inherent biases are somehow apolitical.

Do we really want our students to grow up without the capacity for appropriately expressing and demonstrating dissent? We need our future leaders and contributors to be ready, willing, and able to question authority. If our education system succeeds only in teaching young people how to conform to existing social, political, and economic power structures we are doing them a great disservice.

Everyone agrees that we want our children to live in a better world and we all agree that that this better world needs to be one of meaningful justice and peace. There are members of our society who have had the direct experience with the unglamorous reality and horror of war. They have valuable lessons to share from their experiences. It would be a mistake to try to silence those voices that are calling for precisely that better world we all want. Our students need to hear the messengers that invite them to be participants in that cause.

Oscar Romero’s last days

Quoted excerpts are from James W. Douglass’s book, The Nonviolent Coming of God:

Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador wrote a letter to Jimmy Carter on February 17. He asked the President — “if you really wish to defend human rights” — not to send more military aid to El Salvador and “to guarantee that your government will not intervene directly or indirectly, by military, economic, diplomatic, or other pressures, in determining the destiny of the Salvadoran people.”

He read a draft of this letter aloud in his homily on Feb. 17 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in San Salvador, and the people applauded. The next day a bomb exploded the Salvadoran Catholic Church’s radio station, on which the archbishop’s homily had been broadcast.

“On Sunday, February 24, a Costa Rican short-wave radio station began broadcasting Archbishop Romero’s homilies to all of Central America. That morning Romero made an appeal to the oligarchy and revealed a threat to himself…

On succeeding Sundays Archbishop Romero addressed ever more urgently a series of government and rightist killings…

On Sunday March 16, Archbishop Romero preached a long sermon on reconciliation, addressing every sector of the society, making specific appeals to the oligarchy, the government, and guerrilla groups…

On Sunday, March 23, the day before Romero’s death, the church radio station was back on the air. Once again his homily was broadcast to the nation. The Costa Rican station had been bombed but continued to carry the Archbishop’s words. The Vatican was urging him to tone down his preaching. Death threats had intensified.

In this final Sunday homily, Archbishop Romero recounted the violence of the previous week. Then, with the people interrupting him frequently with applause, he made the appeal to conscience that likely sealed his death sentence, but will never be forgotten by suffering Salvadorans:

I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army, and in particular to the ranks of the Guardia Nacional, of the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, you are part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. And before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time to recover your consciences and to obey your consciences rather than the orders of sin. The church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, the dignity of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to take seriously that reforms are worth nothing when they come about stained with so much blood. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beg you, I ask you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!

The Gospel reading that day was

Jn. 12:23-26:

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains infertile. But if it dies, it produces a great yield. Those who love their own life lose it; those who hate themselves in this world will be preserved for life eternal. Let whoever wants to serve me, follow me; and my servant will be where I am. Whoever serves me will be rewarded by my Father.

On PBS tonight

https://www.vegaspbs.org/the-test/

Vegas PBS’ production The Test examines the history of atomic testing in Nevada, atomic tourism, and the consequences of being in Nevada’s “atomic backyard.”

The Test addresses atomic testing from the Manhattan Project’s secret laboratories to Nevada’s “Doom Towns” and the “downwinders” affected by radioactive fallout. During World War II and the ensuing Cold War, U.S. scientists were racing to keep the nation secure in the nuclear age. They knew the bomb had to be further tested, but the scientists initially lacked a full understanding of atomic weaponry’s destructive scope. Ultimately, atomic testing sites, including one in Nevada, were established. The program delves into the testing in Nevada and the rise of “atomic culture.” Highlights include “atomic tourism,” which describes how nuclear testing became a main event in Las Vegas as residents and visitors alike lined up to watch “the show.” Additionally, the production takes viewers to the present-day Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, for a tour and shows how the site is used to prepare first responders for the fight against terror and other dangers.

“The Test is part of our effort to produce programs interpreting significant events in Nevada’s history that help create a sense of place for residents and visitors,” said Vegas PBS General Manager Tom Axtell. “It is a meaningful local production resulting from a collaboration between Vegas PBS and our partners, the Atomic Testing Museum and the University of Nevada Las Vegas History Department.”

Featured interviews include Congresswoman Dina Titus, known for her expertise in the history and policies related to atomic power and the author of “Bombs in the Backyard,” and former Senator Richard Bryan, who in his early career worked at the Nevada Test Site.

Hover boards are finally real

But they looked a lot more fun in Back to the Future II, when Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel from 1985 to 2015 to prevent Marty’s son from sabotaging the McFly family’s future.

How come everything cool — all the new science and technology — always has to be claimed by the state first and used as a tool of death? Instead of helping me fly to the grocery store and back while both avoiding traffic and looking super cool, the new “fly boards” are being touted as — wait for it — a possible “assault platform.” Man, couldn’t we have had some fun with these things first, before someone went out and started figuring out how they could be used to better kill people?

Justin Raimondo, RIP

“Of course, his most prolific writing was for Antiwar.com. He, along with managing editor Eric Garris, helped set up Antiwar.com in 1995 and he was writing a column 7 days a week by 1999, when Antiwar.com became a major force on the World Wide Web, going viral when it led nationwide opposition to the NATO bombing of Serbia and Kosovo. Justin was the guiding light of Antiwar.com and over those 20 years wrote about 3,000 articles.”