An Air Force JROTC student attends the Eyes Wide Open exhibit in Orlando, FL, October 2004.
Photo courtesy Herb Snitzer/AFSC
By Richard Stone, special to Fog City Journal
20 July 2008
In late June I attended a San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education hearing on the abolition of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) as a way to fulfill the educational system’s requirement for physical education. I went in support of the proposal to abolish the system of giving physical education credit for participation in JROTC.
There was a time in my youth when the economy was thriving, just enough that the maintenance of peacetime armed forces was a far more acceptable presence on the American social landscape. And during this time, in the midst of my troubling teens, I attended Howe Military Academy where I learned the supposed merits – and the Orwellian handshake – of the JROTC program that exists for only one thing: to churn out commissioned officers for the armed forces.
The discipline and skills I acquired in JROTC I found somewhat useful in my subsequent service in the Navy from 1984 to 1988, but the skills learned have been largely useless and in today’s modern world.
While attending Howe Military Academy, along came Reaganomics and the NeoCons blindly sailing this sinking economic flotilla like a drunken sailor who staggers in a foreign port after prolonged deployment – getting a stranglehold on the New Deal, chipping away at the social fabric generated during the fervor of the revolutionary 60’s, and tricking away liberal principles that were the cornerstone of the once omnipresent ‘democratic-wing’ of the Democratic Party.
All of this mad PAC-ing & lobbying of the Two-Party Conundrum for a Better America opened the floodgates for a global economy, basically wiping out the once burgeoning well-paying service sector jobs with overseas outsourcing.
And synonymous with all of this was the closing of U.S. military bases domestic and abroad – notably the 1992 closures of Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, once amongst the largest armed forces bases on the entire planet. For it’s easy to pattern economic growth with new military bases and embassies abroad where the US proliferates.
Take for example the soon-to-be opened Disneyland-size U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, where the U.S. will continue to spread democracy like Tinker Bell casting her sparkles through cathode-ray visionary goggles on a Sunday evening Disney Special, only to break to a commercial with ‘a message from our sponsors.’
Magic is as magic does. BubbaGumponian economic reductionism served to you on a searing plate of shrimp under a boiling desert storm.
It is important to note that there are many veterans – like myself who actually saw combat – who realize that the old adage of ‘hindsight is 20/20’ is critical to the development of their own rehabilitation into a society where another’s perception of a respective veteran’s experience could be brought into question by extremely critical or unsympathetic beings who don’t see the willingness of the veteran’s willingness to ‘right their wrongs’ (myself included).
Many of these vets are emotionally and mentally scarred by the effects of PTSD and may be so overwhelmed by these emotions that they easily slip into deep mental depression or psychosis. It is for this reason that you probably see a severe lack of vets participating in the anti-war movement for they’d rather just ‘forget about it’ and ‘get on with their lives’ at whatever the cost may be to themselves or others who may be in their lives.
Before I spoke during a public meeting of the School Board on this topic, I had a brief conversation with three JROTC students (two young men and one young lady), who were to speak on behalf of saving the program. Then, after telling them of my experience as a JROTC cadet and military service in general, the young woman asked me ‘How can I be against something that I once stood for?’ I explained it was all a matter of perspective: learning through hindsight as well as explaining the difference of the times we live in, and I mentioned the fact that they have the distinct advantage of being exposed to the pros and cons of JROTC in order to make objective and critical analysis. They thanked me for my perspective, and I thanked them for there time and we all settled into the room. As I signed up to speak, I noticed that they had made up their minds and declined to sign-up.
When my time to speak came, I went on to paraphrase what I had previously said to those kids. Though I felt satisfied in what I had said, I realized my objective had already been accomplished in reaching out to those kids without uttering a word from the lectern.
And evolution goes on without judgment of the creative minds charting their courses through the troubling neocon mindscape, dodging landmines of deceit that can explode in the faces of tomorrow’s young leaders who then become a statistic listed in a newspaper’s obituary section.
And though I believe everyone should strive to acquire leadership skills, the supposed benefits are far outweighed by the consequences of the social-engineering tactics used by military-industrial complex, which has no merits in teaching leadership as a form of altruism.
So it is here where I draw the line and lend my support for the abolition of the JROTC program in all public schools, in any shape or form.
While attending Howe Military Academy, Richard Stone played as Safety in the NFL (National Forensic League), intercepting the opposition’s arguments before they could be used against him. He also believes (amongst other things) that Israel’s oppressive and threatening tactics in Palestine, Iran and throughout the Middle East are as mythological in theory as their nuclear weapons program. He resides in the heart of the Mission, and serves on the SF Green Party County Council and as an American Postal Worker Union delegate to the SF Labor Council.