Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Militarized Children Are The Canaries In Our Coal Mine

I was appalled to receive a bulletin in my school inbox filled with exuberant plans to "celebrate the military child" in Maine schools. 

I find "military child" an oxymoron -- unless it means actual child soldiers -- and I think children in military families need to be supported and cared for rather than celebrated for their sacrifices.

Some excerpts from the DOE bulletin (full text here):
The Maine Department of Education along with the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3), and Governor Paul R. LePage have declared April “The Month of the Military Child” as a month-long awareness and celebration of military children and the important role they play in the community. 
The declaration is part of a national movement celebrating The Month of the Military Child in April as a time to applaud military families and their children for the daily sacrifices they make and the challenges they overcome.
“We are aware of the struggles and sacrifices children make when they move in and out of different schools as part of the life-style of a military family,” said Maine Department of Education Commissioner Robert G. Hasson, Jr. “Great efforts are taken by MIC3 and local school officials to ensure that military children receive a quality, and comprehensive education throughout the school year, no matter where they live,” he added.

Maine's schools are full of children who live with adults suffering from PTSD; ours is a very poor state with a very high rate of military enlistment. Research has shown that family members of veterans with PTSD can develop it themselves, because it can be traumatically stressful to live with someone whose nervous system is captive to their memories of battlefield trauma. (I co-wrote a teen novel about this with another teacher a few years back, and you can read Buggy as a self-published Kindle ebook here.)

We used pseudonyms. You can probably guess why from reading the first chapter.

That is if the family members themselves survive. I'm reminded of the wife and four year old daughter of a veteran who shot them both before shooting himself. Komel and Raniya Crowley were not allowed to see her sister, the little girl's aunt, who drove all day to knock on their door out of fear for their safety. According to Alec Wilkinson reporting in the New Yorker, David Crowley was a veteran of U.S. imperial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, one of the many victims of repeated redeployments ironically called "stop-loss" by the Pentagon. 

Crowley was also reportedly a pacifist after a change of heart following his battlefield experiences. 

The dystopian film he was trying to make, Grey Statehas become something of a cult flick and many of its adherents believe the U.S. government executed the family. Whether directly or indirectly, his fans may be right about that. His own description of the film was that it depicted "a near future collapse of society under martial law."

Today all U.S. senators are summoned to the White House to receive a briefing on the alleged threat to national security posed by North Korea.

You can sign a petition here calling on the Senate not to go to war in East Asia.* 

If we do, will senate families experience having a parent in the military? Not bloody likely.

Meanwhile, Japan has been steadily remilitarizing under the Obama administration's "pivot to Asia" and famously has students at a right wing kindgergarten swearing loyalty to the emperor using a relic of their failed imperial project prior to WWII.

A video of Prime Minister Abe's wife beaming as they do so reportedly scandalized the nation; many Japanese remember how much their families suffered the last time their nation was militarized.  An element of the scandal is that the ultra-nationalist school was sold public land at a fraction of its market value. The school's deputy principal has also gone on record in a letter to parents stating that he hates Koreans and Chinese people; these were the principal victims of Japan's biological warfare experiments during WWII.

Did I mention that the scientists responsible for those experiments were scooped up by the U.S. and protected from prosecution as war criminals?

Or that the U.S. used biological weapons in the Korean War? A war that never ended, incidentally; the cease-fire only created a "demilitarized zone" along the Cold War-era partition line, separating children from their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins ever since.

What's to celebrate?

* I'm iffy on the claim that Russia is an ally of North Korea in this otherwise worthy petition.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Full Disclosure: I Feel Ambivalent About Science #ScienceMarch

Egyptian clock face from a book on curious mechanical devices published in 1354 before science
fell out of favor with religious fundamentalists in the Ottoman empire.

People are marching for science today and I have to admit I'm ambivalent. Of course I agree that refusing to account for human impact on the atmosphere is a fool's errand and we have an overabundance of fools ready to drive straight off the cliff of climate chaos. They do this for one reason: profit. 

Science is such a large, amorphous thing that it's hard not to feel that it's inherently neutral i.e. a tool, which can be used for good or used for evil.

On reflection, I have to say science has been used much more often for evil. 
Source: Radical Penguin
Mining, the original sin against Mother Earth, was possible because of science. So was fashioning all those weapons that emerged from violating the planet's tender crust.

A short list of other bad things made possible by science:

Nuclear weapons
Nuclear energy
Flying killer robots
Factory farming
Napalm and other chemical weapons
Agent Orange aka Roundup
Rivers so polluted they burst into flames, or run with the colors of dye
Little screens that isolate us from one another
Mass surveillance and the end of privacy
The financial crash of '08, because computing made trading derivatives feasible
Corporate mass media with its vast cloud of propaganda 

The U.S. hustled to harvest the scientists who served the Nazis and imperial Japan at the end of WWII, offering immunity from prosecution (and a coverup) in exchange for what they knew. 

NASA and missile technology was thus captured via the Germans, while biological warfare know-how was the Japanese speciality. The U.S. then tested the biological weapons on Koreans during the 1950's.

The U.S. space program, which is constantly touted to school age children as science at its shiniest and most thrilling, is military in purpose. Controlling weapons via satellites requires controlling space to protect your satellites. 

Why has science so often served elites bent on power and destruction? Because it is an incredibly powerful tool, and elites will buy, steal or kidnap whoever they need to for the expertise they desire. 

I am reminded this Earth Day of something I heard Winona LaDuke say. Her father visited Harvard when she was a student there and told her he was proud of her, but he wasn't interested in hearing her philosophy until she learned to grow corn.

All the wisdom we need to know about how to live on Earth is still with us. Science did not and does not need to invent the solutions to the mess we're in. Native wisdom says: protect the water, the air and the earth because you belong to it. You are part of it, and your life depends upon it.

Only a little bit of your life depends on science. I love modern medicine when it saves someone from dying of a burst appendix but I also know that chemicals and other pollution have caused many diseases endemic to my lifetime: cancer, birth defects, spectrum disorders. 

Computing how many parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere represent a climate tipping point is useless for pulling us back from the edge without the political will to admit how much of the problem is caused by the Pentagon. Science isn't going to fix that.