December 12, 2008

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Público

Distinguished President Elect Obama:

  Allow me to introduce myself—I am Fernando Suárez del Solar, an American citizen since 1995 of Mexican origin and the father of L/Cpl. Jesús Alberto Suárez del Solar, USMC, who died in Iraq on March 27, 2003.

Prior to my son’s death, I worked hard like every immigrant and I tolerated low wages and discrimination; at least my family was whole and at peace. One day, when we still lived in Tijuana, Mexico, and my son was only 13 years old, a Marine recruiter told him that if enlisted someday he could become an agent in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  My son had grown up in Tijuana and he saw how drugs destroy the lives of innocent children and he wanted to become a policeman.

The recruiter who exploited my son’s idealism promised that he would spend one year in the Marines and then transfer to the DEA despite the fact that he was not a U.S. citizen. We learned too late that none of this was true, but we accepted that in fact he would have to spend 8 years in the Marines. Then, September 11 changed the history of the world. We were proud that our beloved son would be part of the armed forces that would protect us from terrorism.  

Unfortunately, President Bush began to tell a series of lies about WMD and the connection between 9/11 and Iraq. My son was deployed to the Kuwaiti border in February of 2003 and although I opposed the war because I believe violence is never the proper response to international conflict I thought the government of my adopted country would follow the lead of the Congress and the United Nations.

But unfortunately, Mr. Bush led us into war with false reasons, a war against innocent people that even today no one understands. The carnage began on March 20, 2003, and 7 days later on March 27 my son died and my life changed forever. The Marine official handed me an official Pentagon document that said he had been shot in the head by enemy fire, but the reality, as I later learned from an embedded TV reporter who was present, was that my son had stepped on a U.S. cluster bomb.

As of today, I have never received a response to my inquiries to the government about the facts of my son’s death.  

Since 2003 I have dedicated my life to telling my story, denouncing the lies of the Bush administration, and advocating for peace. I traveled to Iraq in December of 2003 to see with my own eyes where my son had died at the hands of our own incompetent government, and while there I learned that thousands of Iraqi children die every day from lack of medicines.

One year later, I returned with $650,000.00 in donated medical aid for the Iraqi people. I have also devoted myself to speaking out against military recruiters who lie to our young people in order to meet their quotas.

And so, because I know that you opposed the war in Iraq, I have taken the audacious step of writing to you directly. 

  Today, our schools are in great financial trouble. In minority and working-class communities, school districts lack the necessary resources, many schools have closed, many teachers have lost their jobs. But the military recruiters have become better funded and so they visit the schools whenever they like hunting for young people who only want to get an education. And so I must ask: “What is our priority—education or the militarization of our youth?

Mr. President Elect, I ask, no I implore, you to put an end to military recruitment in our public schools. Let us put the billions of dollars used to fund recruitment and JROTC back into the educational mission of our schools. Let the American Dream be realized not with false promises and weapons training but rather with books, decent classrooms, well paid teachers, and a pedagogy of hope.

Si se puede Sr. Obama! Yes we can.

Fernando Suarez del Solar
Founder & Director
Guerrero Azteca Peace Project
Traduccion: Jorge Mariscal

Editor

Well that sucks. I often go down to the city council meetings to catch them doing something stupid so I can pencil whip out one of my picky little letters to the editor. I was pleasantly surprised when I had to park a block away because of the crowd already at city hall. This was going to be a fun night. I was even MORE pleased to see that they had several well armed swat team members and numerous firefighters guarding the doors in case the 500 chanting and protesting twelve-year-olds needed to be subdued or tazered if they tried to swarm the chamber and spitball the mayor and council! And in a final encouraging sign the mayor announced that there were over 200 speaker request slips for this hearing.

After several hours of mind numbing staff power point presentations it was finally time for public comments. Unfortunately since they had managed as usual to postpone the public input to the last minute, the 200 speakers had dwindled to 30 or 40. Many of the potential speakers had to get to bed. They were young student protesters impacted by the Draconian cuts and after all it was almost 10 p.m. on a school night. So speaker after speaker took to the podium for their allocated 3 minutes. One by one they lamented the loss of the internationally renown Nature Center, closing of the Eastlake library and restricted days at the two remaining facilities, mothballing the Parkway swimming pool and gym, and dismantling Stretch and DASH, two very successful after school programs.

Now here’s where it starts to suck. As each of the speakers tried to advocate that their favorite program be spared, many of them begin to choke up and several even started to cry and had a hard time finishing their plea. Because the main chamber was full I was sitting watching in one of the small meeting rooms with a TV set. Since it was dark in the room, as they spoke I was able to get away with just pretending that I had something in my eye to wipe away the little dribble coming from it but this definitely wasn’t going to be as much fun as I had hoped to be having at the mayor and council’s expense. Toward the end of the presentations my spirit was revived a little by one of the speakers whom I will paraphrase here. He looked right at the council and said something to the effect that “you folks need to pay attention to what the people are saying. Any moron can balance the budget by just cutting everything but you need to do what we elected you to do, be creative and figure out how to do this WITHOUT destroying the quality of life for the residents of Chula Vista.”

Ted Kennedy
Chula Vista, CA

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