I was asked to see if I could rekindle (though I can barely keep a campfire going) energy for leafleting our high schools with information to help students understand and respond to attempts to militarize them. They encounter this not only in their schools but also 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 Friends Service Committee 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 mothers’ 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.
Ernie McCray is a retired school principal and member of the Project YANO Community Advisory board. Note: If you’d like to volunteer for leafleting at high schools or other activities in San Diego, please contact COMD, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you live in another part of the country, visit www.nnomy.org for a directory of over 140 grassroots groups working to counter military recruiting and demilitarize schools.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org/)