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Peace and War: Supporting the Troops, Part 22

by Rusty Nelson Monday, May 15, 2017 | 6:18pm | Comment on this

Peace and War, March 2017

Supporting the Troops, Part 22

If you were asked for a practical solution to end war, where would you begin? If you had a solution to one of the most troubling problems of 21st Century America, how would you bring it to the attention of an authority with the resources and connections to implement it?

For me, with decades of involvement in PJALS and Veterans for Peace, these questions are not simple, overwhelming or rhetorical. In fact, I’m planning to burden you with some of the answers and ask for your help in finding more answers and more action.

Consider the “Marines United” scandal. Many of the Marines and former Marines involved in this boys-will-be-boys mass cyber-rape are undoubtedly among the loudest and most enthusiastic supporters of “the troops.” A few ring-leaders have lost government-related jobs, but it’s likely that a military investigation will fail to make anyone understand what the exposed women face as they try to recover from a profound and public humiliation. After all, why would a public accustomed to the horrors of war, and casual attitudes about objectification of women be outraged by these macho pranks? One could hardly expect our Commander-in-Chief to find anything wrong with war-weary Marines having a little locker room fun.

A recent New York Times commentary suggested having men and women Marines go through boot camp together would mitigate this flap, but that ignores the fact that more men than women are sexually assaulted in the military. Besides, boot camp is the first official time for military recruits to be totally stripped of dignity and dehumanized in order that they will follow instructions and commit acts outside previous moral boundaries. For most veterans, boot camp was the first injection of the Traumatic Stress virus.

Any genuine investigation of “Marines United” will uncover a multitude of problems for any apologist for the U.S. military establishment. Most distressing will be connectors to the worst nightmares of the dedicated flag-waver: Rape, known euphemistically as Military Sexual Trauma; Suicide, and; Post Traumatic Stress…disorder is officially added to this term to postpone the widespread understanding that PTS is not a disorder, at all. It is an injury that may be incurred by a civilian of any age or class through accident, natural disaster, or domestic violence, but is certain to be inflicted in military training and/or combat.

These problems are ours. They affect us as a nation and as individuals, whether or not we ever isolate or identify them as concerns of politics, security, health care, or economics. It’s not surprising that we observe, even study, some of these problems without recognizing them as such. Most Americans fail to recognize executions as murder, or counter-terrorism as terrorism. We have been taught to see the actions of our own government as benign, at worst, and the actions of our designated enemies as threatening, at best. This is a major building block of the scourge of PTS.

On behalf of Spokane Veterans for Peace, I invite you to join us in making five demands for supporting the troops and securing the future of our country and its people by reforming key elements of our military culture. Larry Shook, one of our own members, has helped us understand the challenge faced by our country and by those who suffer with moral wounds from military sources. His research, his work as an investigative reporter, and his personal struggle over the past half-century have helped him envision a way forward to benefit everyone:

  1. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) policy of treatment must be reformed in terms of reporting and benefits given to victims.
  2. Military Sexual Trauma (MST) policy must be reformed in terms of reporting and benefits given to victims.
  3. Reported PTSD and MST must be replied to and ruled upon within 30 days.
  4. Upon exit from the military, all personnel must be trained for the return to civilian life and considered for lifelong support.
  5. The draft or conscription must be reinstated and reformed to include all American citizens. Drafted persons holding positions of pacifism or forms of conscientious objection must be given non-combat options within the military.

Some of us have reservations about reinstating the draft, specific ideas for integrating differently-abled, voiceless, and privileged recruits, and caveats about lifelong support. However, we affirm this list as a profound and achievable improvement for a country muscle-bound by its military spending and clueless about real national strength. And I can confide in PJALS people that we fully intend to undermine public, political, and corporate support for war, the primary contributor to most of the world’s ills. (Larry and I have both written about other ways to end our country’s dependence upon war as its default foreign policy.)

Not surprisingly, this plan has been dismissed by Sen. Patty Murray. Almost any member of Congress would find it difficult to comprehend this as something to make our country safer and stronger. Elected officials universally declare their unwavering support for military members and veterans of U.S. armed forces, but when faced with changing violent, sexist, and racist government cultures, or even saving hundreds of millions of dollars, they follow the military dictum, CYA. That doesn’t mean, “Cover Your Allies.”

We are making our demands public to gain attention and respect from status quo lovers in Congress, the VA and Defense Department. Here’s where you come in. Help us mount a compelling social media campaign. Mary Kay McCollum, an emerging voice in this struggle whom you may know from our workshop at PEJAC, will be blogging on her story of MST and stories from other victims and survivors. VFP will have other reports and commentaries to spread. We need your suggestions for placement and correspondence, as well as your messages to our congressional delegation and contacts with their own stories about being set up for failure by the military juggernaut.

You may be ready to act, or you may wish to gather more information or start reading Mary Kay’s blog. Alert! Do not read her blog if you wish to maintain the popular, sanitized image of a U.S. military lovingly staffed by self-sacrificing heroes who have no personal ambition beyond the protection of our diverse and grateful population and carrying out the wishes of our flawless government. Otherwise, feel free to ask any member of Spokane VFP. We have a one-page rationale for the five reforms, resources for a closer look at policies and practices on PTSD and MST, and articles and books we think everyone touched by PTSD should read.

Spokane VFP #035 is a small group, but we cannot afford to think small. We are no longer willing to kill or injure anyone, but we are fighting for our lives and for others who don’t know, yet, what hit them. Most of us support PJALS and other social justice organizations and insist upon having a good time, even if we are saving the world. Find us at spokaneveteransforpeace.org or on facebook at SpokaneVeteransForPeace#35.

Besides this project and preparing to release our second book, Vet Lit 2: So It Goes, around Memorial Day, we are trying to attract new people, veteran and associate members.  We just barely avoid the spectre of being a bunch of old white men, but we’re grateful for members of every demographic, whether they show up every time or faithfully support our efforts from home.  Membership is through www.veteransforpeace.org, headquartered in St. Louis.   – RN


Rusty Nelson on Peace and War: “Making History”

by pjals Monday, Dec 5, 2016 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

Rusty Nelson on Peace and War: “Making History”

Rusty Nelson

Rusty Nelson

For years, I have railed against the wholesale use and abuse of certain inescapable terms in the popular lexicon of American discourse.  Along with certain obscenities that continue to nibble away at my own vocabulary, “The Economy” is one that stands out.  Pundits, politicians and pedagogues seem to agree that the term has the same meaning for me that it does for Matt Shea, Bill Gates, and Domantas Sabonis.  “The Economy,” of course, bounces off me differently than it does anyone else, including my children and their children, and I resent the implication that I’m just another naked chick in a crowded nest, open wide for whatever worm that differently-feathered parent figure dangles above me. Read more »


Our priority areas for 2016-17

by pjals Thursday, Sep 15, 2016 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

As determined by our member priority survey responses and our Steering Committee!

A Just Society: Smart Justice and Police Accountability
Peace: Truth in Recruitment, Consciousness-Raising about Militarism, and Mobilizing against War!
Human Rights Community Organizing: Building collective power with targeted communities.
Ending the Death Penalty in Washington as our top legislative priority.

Exposing & transforming systems of violence & oppression to create beloved community.


Remembering 13 Years of War in Iraq

by Maddie Tappa, PJALS intern Friday, Apr 1, 2016 | 10:10am | Comment on this

resistance of the heart against business as usualThis month marks the 13th year of war, occupation, death, and fear in Iraq. Yesterday we held a rally to commemorate this unfortunate anniversary, with the theme being, “resistance of the heart against business as usual.” As a 21-year-old college student, this theme resonates especially strongly for me. Over half of my life has been spent fighting this war. In fact, I can hardly remember a time when America hasn’t been in war – and that is not how it should be. Our young people should grow up knowing peace and understanding, instead of assuming that war and violence is just “business as usual.” It was a sobering occasion as we listened to speeches calling for action and powerful poems against violence, sang a song of dissent, and let up a dove-shaped balloon for every year of war. As we watched each of the 13 balloons float up into the sky, the number of deaths each year was read aloud. The mood of the event can best be summarized with the lyrics of the song that we chanted together: “We’re gonna rise with the tides of freedom. Truth is the rock that will break our chains. We will stop the powers of destruction. Healing is the fire running through our veins.”


How to ally with American Muslims

by Arsalan Bukhari Friday, Mar 11, 2016 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

How to be an ally to american muslimsLesson: Every one of us has the power to educate thousands through the “power of the pen!”

It was a delight to present a workshop on “How to Ally with American Muslims” with my good friend, Spokane Interfaith Council President Skyler Oberst.

We distributed copies of a Gallup Poll on American Muslims and informative messaging to use (not to be confused with another great document on talking about American Muslims). By the time we started, we had over 40 attendees!

Skyler showed a great video about Spokane-area Muslims. Then, audience members shared their experiences getting to know local Muslims and visiting the Spokane Islamic Center, which welcomes visitors, especially at congregational prayers at 12:30pm every Friday.

We then mentioned the need for voices of allies to be heard by the masses.  Each of us has the power to educate thousands, simply by investing a few minutes to e-mail letters to editors using messages in the documents we distributed (linked above).

A letter to The Spokesman-Review (www.spokesman.com/letters/submit/) could be read by 50,000 readers, and if sent to The Seattle Times (letters@seattletimes.com) could reach 2 million readers!

A study by Media Tenor of primetime news found that Islam is featured more than any other religion, and the coverage is overwhelmingly negative.  Research by University of Hawaii, University of Exeter & National Hispanic Media Coalition indicate that media content can have a direct effect on hate and prejudice. Accurate language can inform readers, while loaded language misleads readers and fuels prejudice. We mentioned that even if a letter is not published, it will motivate editors to use realistic portrayals of Islam and Muslims. Many attendees left motivated to use “the power of the pen,” which we all hold!

 


2016 Peace & Economic Justice Action Conference

by pjals Tuesday, Feb 2, 2016 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

Register now for our 7th Annual Peace and Economic Justice Action Conference on February 26-27, 2016 Once again we will be at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4340 W. Ft. George Wright Dr., Spokane, WA.

Eventbrite - 2016 Peace and Economic Justice Action Conference

 

Read more »


PJALS Receives Fellowship of Reconciliation Local Hero Peace Award

by pjals Wednesday, Jan 27, 2016 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

PJALS received FOR’s Local Hero Award for outstanding service to the community in Nov. 2015 in New York City. The January issue of The Fig Tree features a story about long time PJALS member Mark Hamlin’s trip to NYC to accept the award on behalf of PJALS.

“As part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) in New York City in November, Mark Hamlin of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) was on hand to receive FOR’s Local Hero award for PJALS as one of its affiliates.

PJALS is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015-2016.

Mark not only gave an acceptance speech on the importance of PJALS work for peace and justice in the region, but also learned about FOR’s history at a centennial exhibit at Union Theological Seminary’s James Chapel.”


Humanity is Indivisible: Support Refugees, Reject War & Prejudice

by pjals Monday, Nov 23, 2015 | 10:10am | Comment on this

PJALS members stand against prejudice and war

PJALS members say no to prejudice and war.

On Thursday November 20, PJALS members stood together to say Support Refugees, Reject Prejudice and War! We got lots of waves, thumbs up, honks, and thanks.