News & Announcements
Thursday, Jan. 12, 7-9pm: Visiting Professor from VCU to lead Workshop
SURJ Charlottesville (Standing Up for Racial Justice) presents Archana A. Pathak, Ph.D of VCU who will lead a workshop on whiteness and racial justice, approaching the question: "Why do we need to talk about whiteness when it comes to racial justice?"
Where: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church (717 Rugby Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903)
The discussion will be geared toward understanding white privilege in racial justice, where folks can learn about, understand and bridge the differences and connections between white and non-white experiences with and around racism.
Archana A. Pathak, Ph.D. (University of Oklahoma, 1998) is a post-colonialist feminist scholar activist who examines issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, and scientific imperialism from a social justice perspective. Academically trained in Intercultural Communication and qualitative research methodologies, she utilizes autoethnography to explore the ways in which we tell ourselves and each other who we are. She has also served as the President of the Board of The Conciliation Project, a not for profit social justice theater organization that addresses issues of racism and oppression.
For more information, email SURJCville@gmail.com .
The next peace demonstration will be Dec. 29, 4:30-5:30.
Place: In front of the Federal Building: corner of Ridge-Main-Water-South Sts.
Signs provided. If you believe it, come say it! No one is going to say it for you.
This text is the foreword to a new book by Pat Elder called Military Recruiting in the United States.
Most people in the United States are far from aware of the full extent of military marketing, advertising, and recruitment efforts. We run into movies and comic books and video games and toys and school worksheets and science fairs and television shows and websites all the time that have been funded by and created in collaboration with the U.S. military. But we don’t know it. Or we know it, but we have so internalized the idea that the most expensive and extensive military the earth has ever known is simply normal, that we don’t think of its role in our educational and entertainment systems as in any way questionable. We don’t even think of the military’s marketing as being aimed at recruitment, much less ask each other whether that’s a good thing or being done in a proper way, or whether we ourselves should be forking over some $600 million a year just for the military’s advertising budget.
Even more people are unaware of the work of counter-recruiters, of individuals and organizations that work to increase awareness of military recruitment and to counter it with inconvenient information — that is, information that may be inconvenient to recruiters but highly useful to potential recruits. Counter-recruiters bring veterans into schools to talk about their regrets. Counter-recruiters warn young people of the dangers of false promises and of contracts that will be binding only on them, not on the military. Counter recruiters lobby for policy changes that prevent the military from obtaining information on students without parental consent.
Sometimes — very rarely – counter-recruiters write outstanding books that inform us of the current state of affairs and guide us toward paths for engagement with their work. Pat Elder is a counter-recruiter turned author, and we are all in his debt. This book makes clear the need for counter-recruitment, and it provides the tools to expand it.
Why is counter-recruitment appropriate even when there is no draft, the military is all volunteer, and many people reading this book have never been pressured to enlist at all? Well, 99% of us in the United States are asked only to pay taxes for wars, vote for war architects for public office, tell pollsters we support wars, and tolerate war promotion throughout our culture. Nothing more is asked of us. But what about that other one percent? Our tax dollars don’t fund a dime’s worth of pro-peace propaganda for them. Despite warnings of health threats from the American Medical Association, military recruiters do not, like cigarette or alcohol marketers, have to provide the slightest shred of warning regarding the risks involved. They also are permitted to market to younger people than are the marketers of cigarettes and alcohol. As Elder points out, in most U.S. states you must be 21 to drink alcohol and 25 to rent a car, but at 18 you can kill or die in war.
Explaining the heavy, one-sided push experienced by targeted young men and women, disproportionately in low-income communities, to those who haven’t experienced it, is like trying to explain predatory mortgage loans that push the borrower to default in order to collect more fees to someone who’s only ever encountered banks that hoped their loans would be paid back. If you doubt the reality of aggressive recruitment, that’s not your fault. But you won’t doubt it after you read this book.
Counter-recruiters don’t make any promises to anyone, though they may try to help young people find peaceful careers. They don’t ask anyone to sign a contract to remain peaceful for six or eight or an infinite number of years. They don’t secretly receive detailed data on students without their knowledge in order to better target them for counter recruitment. If we are to truly think of those who enlist in the U.S. military as volunteers, we are required to make sure they have accurate information. Volunteering on the basis of insufficient or misleading knowledge is not volunteering at all. Counter-recruitment, then, is not something to tolerate, but something to insist upon.
One of the first things a counter-recruiter, and this book, will make clear, is that even a well-informed volunteer in the U.S. military, unlike any other volunteer in any other enterprise, is not permitted to cease volunteering. Even when a contract expires, the military can extend it indefinitely. Before it expires, the recruit cannot end it without risk of a dishonorable discharge and/or prison, and the recruit— by the terms of the contract—lacks basic Constitutional rights that he or she is often told the wars are fought to somehow defend. The risks haven’t stopped tens of thousands of people from deserting the U.S. military in recent years as soon as they discovered that, like most things, the military does not really resemble its television commercials.
War participation, unlike in the movies, does not come easily in real life. It takes intense conditioning to get most people to kill other human beings, and most people have a hard time recovering from having done so. This is great news for humanity, but bad news for veterans. The top cause of death in the U.S. military is suicide, and the suicide rates far exceed those for civilians. As Elder reports, some 45% of U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have filed injury claims, and some 25% have sought mental health treatment through the Veterans Administration. About 26,000 sexual assaults occurred within the U.S. military in 2012. Some states are working to eliminate veteran homelessness. This is an indication of the normalization of war in a society in which at some point in the future all homeless people could be non-veterans. It is also an indication of the fact that veterans for many years have been far more likely than non-veterans to lose all means of subsistence. “Support the troops” bumper stickers don’t actually pay anybody’s rent.
On June 12, 2016, the New York Times ran an article that reported that “modern warfare destroys your brain.” This was a reference to newly understood physical evidence of the damage done by being near explosions. If this were the National Football League you might expect a movie like Concussion to dramatize the problem. This being the military, which— by the way— pays the NFL with our money for most of the war hype at football games, one must rely on counter-recruiters to spread the word.
There are two major ways in which war destroys your brain, one of them long predating modernity, and both of them serious, real, and tragic whether neuroscientists have figured out what they look like under a microscope or not. In addition to the trauma of explosions, a participant in war faces the trauma of morality, the pain of facing hatred and violence, the agony of threatening and inflicting hatred and violence — aggravated in many cases by the weakness of belief in the cause. Once you join up, you’re not asked to kill in only the wars you believe in. You’re asked to obey without thinking at all.
In an end-of-year worldwide poll in 2014, Gallup asked people in dozens of countries whether they would be willing to fight in a war for their country. The results were encouraging, with some countries listed at only 10% or 20% willing to join in a war. The United States, at 44% willing to fight in a war, was quite high — though not the highest — by comparison. But people surveyed by Gallup covered the full age range of adults, and most of those years are above recruitment age. Most of those years are years in which you cannot enlist even if you want to. This poll was conducted at a time when the United States had multiple wars underway and had for many years. Why would people claim that they “would” fight in a war, when clearly they would not? Why would the National Rifle Association produce a video with an elderly musician, Charlie Daniels, encouraging warmongering toward Iran? I think a lot of people like to imagine themselves at war from the safety of their backyards. But in doing so, they fuel a culture that encourages young people to sign up without thinking it through. In the words of Phil Ochs:
It’s always the old to lead us to the war
I’ve met many veterans who signed up imagining they’d be global policemen and rescue workers, who discovered they were global pirates and snipers. Many of the most dedicated peace activists in the United States were once among the most enthusiastic recruits in the military. Many of them would not have been recruited had they had more information and other options. Many would not have been as attracted to Donald Trump’s “steal their oil!” and “kill their families!” as they were to pretenses of defense or humanitarianism.
Polls have found that a majority of recruits say the lack of other career options was a major factor in their joining up. This is why one of the most indirect but powerful means of countering recruitment is to increase access to jobs or college. A “volunteer” military in a full-employment society with free college and job training would be far more significantly volunteer.
There are, of course, many sorts of peace activism, including education, demonstrations, protests, civil disobedience, citizen diplomacy, and so on. I engage in all of these and support them. But one major form of peace activism in need of expansion is counter-recruitment. It’s a means of working locally, something that has greatly benefitted the environmental movement. It’s a means of working face-to-face with people. It’s a means of achieving immediate personal successes. When you help one young person stay out of the military, you know that you have done good work.
And don’t imagine that every person you keep out will be replaced by someone else going in. And don’t imagine the military does not need people now that it has robots. The military is having a heck of a time recruiting enough people to manage its robots. Even drone pilots have suffered PTSD and suicide. The military is struggling with recruitment, while counter-recruiters are piling up successes they can point to. Elder points to some of them in this book and advises on how to achieve more— how to limit the use of military tests to collect data from students, how to counter recruitment pitches.
The military not only wants more recruits than it is getting right now, it wants the ability to use the draft again if desired. Bills have made significant progress in Congress this year to require that young women register for the draft just like young men, and to abolish the Selective Service entirely. The liberal progressive position has been in favor of keeping the Selective Service in place while adding women to it. That’s how deeply war has been normalized. Some peace activists even want a draft because they think it would enlarge the peace movement. They claim the peace movement has never been as large as during the Vietnam War era when there was a draft. But there also has not been a U.S. war that killed anywhere close to as many people since that war. Imagining that we need a worse war in order to halt war requires that we fail to know our strength. We actually have the potential to end the draft forever and to deny the military the “volunteers” it wants as well.
People as smart as Tolstoy and Einstein thought we would end war only when individuals refused to take part. Ninety-nine percent of us are not asked to take part, but we have a role to play in protecting that other one percent. Of course the harm that U.S. wars inflict is overwhelmingly on the people who live where the wars are fought. The harm to U.S. troops is a drop in the bucket. But much of that harm is the moral injury that follows the infliction of harm on others. The experience of killing and injuring is traumatic for adults and even more so for kids. The United Nations, as Elder details, has sought to hold the United States accountable for its violation of a treaty in its recruitment of 17-year-olds. The United States is also now the only country on earth that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It’s hard to dismiss the suspicion that military recruitment plays a role in the decision to remain outside that otherwise universal treaty and basic standard of modern civilization.
This text is the foreword to a new book by Pat Elder called Military Recruiting in the United States.
Here's a proposal backed by RootsAction.org, WorldBeyondWar.org, Pax Christi Charlottesville, Amnesty International Charlottesville, the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, and 257 people who have signed this petition: http://bit.ly/cvillepeacepole
Charlottesville, Virginia, has the potential to be a leader for peace at home and abroad. Our city council in recent years passed resolutions against the war on Iraq, against threatening Iran, against drones, and in favor of moving resources from wasteful and deadly military spending to human and environmental needs. Other cities and towns followed Charlottesville's lead on some of these measures. Our voices were heard in Richmond and in Washington.
We now need to be a voice for peace and nonviolence more than ever. Wearing a safety pin is a wonderful way to communicate that one is a safe person not inclined toward bigotry or violence. But we need something more visible as well.
Charlottesville's monuments to wars, including the Native American genocide, the defense of slavery, and the slaughter of 3.8 million Vietnamese, dominate public space. Charlottesville's support for peace is nowhere visible on the public landscape.
Charlottesville has four sister cities, and signs indicating them are visible in Charlottesville. But the motto of Sister Cities International, "Peace Through People," is nowhere to be found. There is no location set aside to celebrate these relationships, as there could be in combination with a peace pole.
A peace pole is of course just one option. Any public memorial to efforts for peace would work.
A peace pole is a popular means of expressing a desire for peace around the world, including in the United States, where peace poles are found in public plazas and parks in many locations.
One idea would be to have 6 sides including English, Spanish, and the languages of Cville Sister Cities: Italian, French, Bulgarian, and one of the many languages from Ghana. Or 8 sides with some left blank to be filled in later.
Please sign the petition so that we can deliver it to Charlottesville City Council. Please share it widely.
The Charlottesville- Albemarle Chapter of Virginia Organizing will host the "Social Justice Bowl" on Friday, November 11th, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, located at 400 Rugby Road in Charlottesville. Enjoy a soup and bread dinner and take home a handcrafted soup bowl. Tickets must be purchased in advance by contacting the Virginia Organizing office at 434-984-4655 ext. 231
The forthcoming book from creative activist and kayaktivist extraordinaire Bill Moyer and his Backbone Campaign colleagues should remake the United States and limit the oncoming onslaught of climate suffering. It's called Solutionary Rail: A People Powered Campaign to Electrify America's Railroads and Open Corridors to a Clean Energy Future.
Here's the idea. There is huge potential for solar and wind energy in vast open spaces of the United States. There is a need for pathways through which to transmit renewable-produced electricity to where it's needed in big cities and small towns. Meanwhile, under-used railroad lines crisscross the country. As coal and oil use drop, those lines will be even more under-used, unless we change something. Yet, trains are more efficient than trucks even now, and would be much more so if electrified. So, we should run electricity lines along newly-improved railroad lines, and use some of the electricity to cleanly power a lot more trains.
By electrifying rail, you make rail less expensive as well as cleaner. With improvements to tracks you also make it faster. More freight and passengers find their way to rail. More jobs are produced in renewable energy. People living near trains get a cleaner and quieter environment. Traffic is lessened on highways, reducing accidents, deaths, injuries, and wear and tear on the roads. Electric trains cost less, take less maintenance, and last longer. Regenerative braking can produce still more power.
This is a solution to air pollution, but its benefits just keep piling up. Electric rail is like the hemp of infrastructure. Faster, more efficient trains would take freight from trucks and planes, and people from planes and cars. Electric trains start and stop more quickly and can run more closely together than diesel trains. They run better on grades. They can run much faster than current U.S. trains on existing upgraded tracks. Restoring or adding double tracks provides three to four times the capacity of a single track.
Unless you're going all the way across the United States, for any shorter distance trip, a fast train from downtown to downtown is going to look mighty appealing when the alternative is a plane ride that involves: traveling to an exurban airport, being treated like a terrorism suspect, waiting hours, flying to an out-of-the-way city to wait additional hours switching planes, never being sure you'll be on time, buying much more expensive tickets, squeezing into a tiny seat with no chance to walk around, airplane food instead of a dining car, lousy internet, obnoxious announcements, and the knowledge that you're contributing mightily to the destruction of the earth's climate.
Solutionary Rail lays out a plan for a just transition to the wind- and solar-topia it envisions, taking into consideration the rights of workers, of those living near the train lines, etc. Also in need of careful study, I think, is the protection of the health of passengers maintaining vicinity to high-voltage power lines. But there are major health concerns created by delaying the move to solutionary rail, and there are ways in which the notion of a just transition might be expanded beyond the vision of this book.
Hundreds of times more U.S. residents are killed each year in traffic accidents involving heavy trucks than are killed by foreign terrorism. Yet the United States uses the threat of foreign terrorism to justify dumping roughly $1 trillion per year into preparations for the wars that generate the threats of terrorism. If electric rail were part of a transition away from treating war as our primary public project and toward treating environmental protection as such, the scope of the vision would be radically enlarged.
Moyer et alia propose starting with a single rail line as a model project to attract more funding. They worry that 500 miles could cost $1.25 billion. They note that an 800-mile high-speed rail project in California is estimated to cost $68 billion. They propose public-private partnerships and incremental advances. Yet they also note that, as with so many other projects on which Europe and Asia now lead the way, the United States was a leader in electric railroads over a century ago. What gave highways the advantage in the United States was primarily a massive public investment in free highways.
Describing 800 miles of high-speed rail in California as "one of the most expensive public works projects in U.S. history," as Solutionary Rail does, needs to be qualified. I would call it one of the most expensive public works projects that serves some useful purpose and is not dedicated to mass killing in U.S. history. The cost of that dinky little project is pocket change for the Pentagon. If you can run renewable electricity along 500 miles of electric train track for $1.25 billion, then for 10% of U.S. military spending (which has nearly doubled since 2001 during a "war on terrorism" that has increased terrorism) you could do 40,000 miles.
That would be a good start. Factor in the wars over oil we could forego. Factor in the reduced oil consumption by the military. Factor in the greater economic benefits of investing in clean energy versus military spending. The benefits just keep coming.
Solutionary Rail is a master plan. The railroad labor unions are already on board. The blurbs in the front of the book, and Bill McKibben's introduction claim both that it is a brand new idea and that everybody's been doing it in Europe for a long time. I think that's accurate. Most of the trains we enjoy riding in other countries are electric. The idea of having such things in the United States, and of using them as a way to harness unfathomable amounts of wind and sun power, is revolutionary.
When I ride the slow, expensive, internetless train up to the U.S. capital from Virginia, it runs on diesel. Then it sits in Union Station for a long time while they switch it over to electric before continuing north. Bringing electric south as well as north would be a very welcome development, in exchange for which I'd be willing to give up two or three or a couple of thousand military bases.
WHAT: Screening of Paying the Price for Peace: The Story of S. Brian Willson, and discussion with the director Bo Boudart and with peace activist David Swanson. See http://payingthepriceforpeace.com
WHEN: 7-11 p.m., Thursday, September 29
WHERE: Commonwealth Room, Newcomb Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.
HOST: Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine
COSPONSORS: World Beyond War, RootsAction.org, and the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Charlottesville Friends Meeting. (More welcome!)
COST: No one turned away. Donation appreciated: $10, or $20 to leave with a copy of the DVD. Donations pay for Bo Boudart's travel. You can also donate at http://payingthepriceforpeace.com
Please sign up on Facebook if you want to come, and please share it to spread the word: https://www.facebook.com/events/1591911061110859
Please retweet this tweet: https://twitter.com/davidcnswanson/status/776406756939399168