September 29, 2006

Commentary:

Do We Want our Children to Create a Peaceful World or Not?

By Ernie McCray

How can our children even come close to creating a better world, a more peaceful world, if those who are dedicated to helping them become change makers lack support?

And who better to support such a cause than a television station? But I was interviewed recently by Channel 10 and I told them how the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice passes out leaflets to high school students, letting them know that Uncle Sam wants them - desperately. So desperately that the military more and more shows up at their community and school events and creates for them “interactive” websites and slick pamphlets and exciting images that show them how they can join the Few and the Proud or become an Army of One. Military recruiters shoot the breeze with them at lunchtime.

And in the face of such bombardment by the Pentagon my fellow seekers of peace and I are committed to letting kids know that they have a right to their privacy, a right to opt out, to say “No” to having their names and addresses and phone numbers given to said recruiters.

So what does Channel 10 do? Well, with a deep tone of “objectivity” they tell the story pretty much from a military recruiting point-of-view.

Carol LeBeau opens the story with a statement about the military’s “aggressive outreach program,” their offers of “more pay” and signing bonuses “up to $40,000,” their “raising the age limit to 41.”

Then a recruiting sergeant who just happened to sign up right out of high school talks about how joining the armed forces “can really impact a person’s life for the better,” not to mention keeping his butt out of Iraq if he makes his quotas.

At this point reporter, Lee Ann Kim, in regards to the military “targeting high schools,” announces: “But peace organizations have a problem with that.” This made me think that they might then do one of my sound bites about how my friends and I were helping students grow as human beings, how we were contributing to the development of their ability to think critically, how we were nurturing ideas of peace in their fertile yet innocent minds.

They could have highlighted my thoughts about how important it is for our children to look at all that has gone into our troops being at war, the lies, the breaking of international laws governing wars.

But the few seconds of air time given to me featured how I share with young people that joining the military is like no other job in that one can’t quit and walk away if one gets sick of the gig. I couldn’t believe that of all I had to say, in behalf of children, that day, that this is what they decided to play.

Then the good sergeant gets the last word: “It’s a volunteer force, We don’t twist anybody’s arm.” Well, you would have thought my house was the Pentagon we got so much military mail when my kids were in school, letters encouraging them not to miss “opportunities of a lifetime.” That’s like arm twisting to me. And making bold promises of money bonuses and schooling, promises over which recruiters have absolutely no control, also sounds like arm twisting to me.

But Carol LeBeau ends the show parroting the sergeant’s comment about our military being an all-volunteer force and then throws out a little editorial aside about how “all positions aren’t combat positions” to which Ms. Kim says: “That’s right. They’re looking for skilled people. Anyone who has ‘dental experience’ to playing a tuba even.”

The military has billions of dollars to spend on their “aggressive outreach program” and KGTV gives them free air, under the guise of a news report? At the expense of the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice which practically has to beg for pennies to reach young people? Boy, that put an end to any pretentions of “objectivity.”

So does this say that our society isn’t up to rolemodeling for our children the kind of sensitivity and intelligence they’ll need to turn their battered world around, that we don’t really care if they are recruited to continue fanning the winds of an immoral ill-begotten war?

Say it isn’t so.

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