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.