A rare moment
of truth — several of them, actually — occurred at last week's meeting
of the Toledo Board of Education's Policy Committee when school
officials, peace activists and military recruiters assembled to
discuss a draft policy to control recruiters in public schools.
Thanks to the
federal No Child Left Unrecruited Act, kicking the snake oil salesmen
out altogether was not on the table (frankly, I think the vast majority
of school board officials around the country are glad "No Child
Left Alone" gives them the political cover to tell peace
activists "gee, we'd love to ban recruiters altogether, but
the federal law, blah blah blah…").
So before the
discussion fixated on how many pounds of Pentagon refuse per square
foot of cafeteria space would be permitted on alternate Tuesdays,
I asked to speak. Board President, Larry Sykes, who prefers
to go by his first name, nodded in my direction.
I want to explain the depth of my concern and what motivates many
of us here. If you've not been in combat or spent time in
a military hospital, you can't understand why we're so concerned
about recruiters in our schools. I worked as a corpsman in
a Navy hospital during Vietnam for over two years. I've seen
the results of war. And anybody who thinks it's a good u2018option'
for our kids to be recruited into the military needs to spend a
few days in a military hospital and see it for themselves."
not just that young people get killed and wounded in the military.
Even if there was no war, or even if a soldier gets assigned to
Alaska or Germany, they still suffer the dehumanization of the military
in boot camp. How else can we get young people ready to do
what war requires?"
Then I pulled
out a page of march "cadences," those charming little
ditties familiar to any grunt who's been through basic, collected
from members of Veterans For Peace around the country. I wanted
these policymakers to hear what their students would be exposed
to after the recruiters got done sweet-talking them. With
an example of the sing-song rhythm used by the drill instructors
(DIs), I launched into the following.
I want to
go to Viet Nam
I want to kill old Charlie Cong.
I don't know but I've been told,
Eskimo pussy is mighty cold.
little girl with the puppy;
and load another pointed round.
the shot and if you're lucky;
watch their bodies hit the ground.
bird with a yellow bill
sitting on my window sill.
lured him in with a piece of bread
then I smashed his little head.
I went to
where the commie kids play;
out my machine gun, began to spray.
went to McDonalds where the commies eat;
out my machete and chopped off their feet.
I told them, "is what one Army vet, Hal Muskat, wrote about
one day at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, where 1,000 young men were doing
the call and response of u2018What's the spirit of bayonet? KILL!
KILL! KILL!' DIs would pick up megaphones and scream,
u2018See those C-130's landing? They're bringing in bodies of
dead Americans killed by gooks. The gooks murdered our soldiers!
Do you want to be a body on that plane? I can't hear you!
What's the spirit of bayonet?' u2018KILL! KILL! KILL!'"
I stopped for
a moment, looked at the board members and let it sink in.
what our youngsters are exposed to in the military. Is that
where we want 12 years of hard work with these kids to end up?"
the board's draft policy as inadequate, I added that "counter-recruiting"
opportunities did not rate very high on my list of policy ideas.
"The military gets three billion dollars a year of our tax
money just for recruiting! I'll be glad to come to Toledo
Public Schools and talk with students any time about the military,
but don't think that inviting us to come in on our own time, taking
time off from work, printing up our own material — compared to the
slick presentations and Humvees in homecoming parades and climbing
walls on the football field the recruiters offer — is some kind
of equal opportunity. It's not!"
Owens, who later stated he was employed by TPS as an athletic coach
(!) responded, "That might have been the way the military was
during Viet Nam, but things have really changed since then.
Drill Instructors can't run over recruits like they did…they can't
even swear at them any more."
was so absurd it didn't even need an answer.
After a round
of criticism of the board's policy, Owens tried his patronizing
best to mollify us with an "I-just-feel-like-people-here-don't-really-understand-what-the-military-is-all-about-these-days"
speech, to which I almost heatedly objected until he lobbed a perfect
softball right over the heart of the plate.
I just wish I could take you out and show you…"
us what?! Would that tour include a visit to the V.A. hospital?!"
on, we don't address…"
DAMN RIGHT YOU DON'T TELL KIDS ABOUT THE V.A. HOSPITAL!! RECRUITERS
NEVER TALK ABOUT THE V.A. HOSPITALS, DO YOU?"
At this, the
principals' union president tried interjecting, "Well, I've
seen plenty of athletic recruiters lie to kids, too."
those lies don't send kids to a burn unit," I spat.
Trying to turn
the volume down a notch, Larry said, "Now let's not get…"
these guys," I said, pointing to the now-quiet recruiters,
"get three BILLION dollars a year of our money to mess with
the minds of our youngsters, and I'm not going to sit here quietly
while they lie."
a point made for the moment, I watched that portion of the meeting
conclude with Larry announcing the draft policy would be given a
reading at the next full board meeting November 29.
I can't wait.