NOBODY'S RECRUITS: SMALL VICTORIES IN THE BIG PICTURE

Posted by CODEPINK Staff


Corla, a CODEPINK coordinator in Redland, California had that familiar sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. You know the one -- a temporary dip in morale when confronted with yet another face of the war machine preying on children.

She raised her morale by springing into action:

"Ten days ago my family went to a Harkin Theater in Moreno Valley, CA. March Air Reserve Base is a big part of the economy of this small town in Riverside County. I was outraged when I saw a video game from goarmy.com in the arcade. Our four person, three generation chapter wrote letters to Harkin's corporate office. I received a call within hours, but wanted a written answer to why our tax dollars were being used for a recruiting tool in a private establishment. Long story short, the game has been replaced with "Police Trainer." Personally objectionable? Yes! Better than a recruiting tool for the Army? Absolutely!"

Corla adds: "This is a message for all those tiny PINK chapters who are frustrated with a lack of participants which hinders our ability to make a big splash. Sometimes we become discouraged because we feel we are not making a dent in the BIG picture." True of many small groups of dedicated folks working to defend young people's freedom from the recruitment hard sell now permeating U.S. culture.

With school about to start up again in most parts of the country, it's the season of a million small dents. Who knows whether the student a counter-recruiter talks to or shares some literature with will enlist? Education is an open ended endeavor with few immediate results. One conversation or phone call or letter often has a ripple effect. Who knows -- a student may enlist anyway, and then become like "Skippy" and "Robert," effective resisters from within the military.

At a high school graduation in May '08, an Army National Guard recruiter delivered a five minute stump speech for the "war on terror" (a phrase he used twice) while at the podium to present awards to two graduates. This was an unprecedented use of that forum to deliver a political message, and the wording of his remarks matched that of the "award" presented to the students. He described in detail how one recruit's "eyes lit up" when shown a Humvee mounted with an gun.

Protests to the school administrator resulted in a letter to the recruiter's commanding officer. It warned that school events were not be used as a venue for political speeches, and asked for advance copies of any remarks to be made at graduation events. Recruiters for other branches of the military similarly put on notice. No repeat occurred at graduation '09.

Media tools can be super useful for communicating to high school students that killing people is not a good career path.

Arlington West is a project that remembers fallen soldiers with an interactive installation on beaches around the nation. The documentary film of the same name was created by Sally Marr and Peter Dudar. In June they took the "Arlington West Film" presentation to Verdugo Hills High School in Tujunga, California where teachers report "recruiters are all over the school, like sharks circling for chum." Two students struggled for months to get a screening of the film for approximately 200 students. In each of the three showings, discussions revealed at least one student who had lost a family member or friend in Iraq or Afghanistan, and several who had first-hand knowledge of the effects of PTSD on returning vets and their families. "Arlington West" in DVD format and study materials for the classroom are available by request from the Arlington West website.

Dents, dents and more dents in the "war is glamorous" propaganda blitz by recruiters.

But the big picture is a lot more ominous. There still seems to be plenty of money to invite public educators to a thrill ride hosted by the Army in an area with traditionally low enlistment numbers despite a chronically low-income population.

California is among several states effecting draconian cuts to the public education budget. Online discussions exhaust the subject of tax cuts vs. tax increases without acknowledging the 54% for war federal budget elephant dominating the room. Class sizes will soar, faculty positions will be cut or left vacant, and programs will wither away. What is likely to rush in to fill the void?

Military themed schools! Arne Duncan championed these quite successfully in Chicago as superintendent of schools, and now he is Obama's Secretary of Education. Read an account of his tenure in Chicago and the prospects for public education with Duncan at the helm here. Schools like this make JROTC programs look tame by comparison. More on those next week in NOBODY'S RECRUITS.

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