Tuesday, December 9, 2014

SOY in Cougar Country

Today, we had a great lunch tabling at Crockett HS, home of the Cougars.  Because of that, we had added a question to our t-shirt challenge about cougars: where are they native?  None of the students we asked really knew for sure!  In truth, we had to do the research first ourselves...

Also, because tomorrow, December 10, is International Human Rights Day, we asked students to write down the human rights most important to them.

We added #BlackLivesMatter to the Peace Wheel, hoping students are involved and learning about what's happening all around the country.

We really appreciated all the students coming by and taking on the t-shirt challenge.  Penny poll results:

Environment: 30% of the budget
Education: 20%
Military: 18%
Health Care: 16%
Humanitarian Aid: 16%

SOY tabling at Lanier HS

Last Tuesday, we had a SOY table at Lanier HS and we had a full crew of five!  We had a steady stream of students passing by and becoming curious about the materials and getting interested in the t-shirt challenge.  Penny poll results were:

Education: 42% of the budget
Environment: 24%
Military: 16%
Health Care: 13%
Humanitarian Aid: 5%

I especially liked seeing students clustered around the globe, not only to find the countries we asked them to find, Syria and Afghanistan, but to show us what countries they would like to travel to if they could.  The first countries mentioned were Japan, Spain and Italy.  This made me think about the time in the not-so-distant past when Japan was considered an enemy nation, and it was bombed relentlessly during WWII.  It is the only country to have suffered the horror of two atomic bombings of their civilian population.  Japan has risen from that period of terrible suffering and destruction to become a world economic power and tourist destination.  Today's students are not likely to say that they would like to travel to Afghanistan or Syria.  But, I hold out hope that years down the road, wars there will end and students will name those countries as places they would like to go to witness the beauty and character of the people and the land.

One of the ribbons on the peace sign in the school's lobby

Other ribbons on the peace sign

Monday, December 8, 2014

There is no future in war: a youth manifesto

We, the youth of the United States of America, oppose war. 
We oppose war not because we don’t care about the rest of the world; we oppose war precisely because we do.
We oppose war not because we don’t care about our security; we oppose war precisely because we do. 
We oppose war not because we don’t care about our troops; we oppose war precisely because we do.
We oppose war not because we aren’t concerned with our future; we oppose war precisely because we do. 

There is no future in war.

-- Statement written by Ben Norton, Tyra Walker, Anastasia Taylor, Alli McCracken, Colleen Moore, Jes Grobman and Ashley Lopez

Read the entire statement here

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mayan Day of the Jaguar at LBJ/LASA High School

We had a great SOY tabling visit today at LBJ/LASA HS.  Students in both schools were interested in doing the t-shirt challenge, which keeps getting more challenging.  We added a jaguar question since we were in Jaguar country.  Most students had to do some research on that one.  As is often the case, students voted for Health Care above all in the Penny Poll (Health Care: 93 pennies, Education: 76, Environment: 62, Military: 61, Humanitarian Aid: 34).

We posted these photos from Ferguson on the chin-up bar, asking students whether police armed to the max or unarmed protesters showed more courage

a school hallway poster

hallway poster about LBJ's Early College program

Our list for the t-shirt challenge

t-shirt designs we made for today

Monday, November 3, 2014

A tribute to Jacob George, by Geoff Millard

From the Huffington Post:

Jacob George, Hillbilly Storyteller, Survives 3 Tours in Afghanistan But Not His Road Back Home

by Geoff Millard

Posted: Updated: 

Jacob George described himself as a "hillbilly storyteller." He told the most beautiful tales as he softly strummed his banjo, tapped his bare foot on the ground, and let his long hair brush his smiling face. He was the last person most of us thought would become one of the 22 veterans each day who commit suicide.
Maybe the thought that it would never be him is part of why the veterans community who knew Jacob is grieving so hard right now. But the reality is that deep down, Jacob carried the wounds of war that so many of us bear after experiencing combat. On September 17, 2014, Jacob, just 32 years old, took his own life. It was not an act of cowardice or selfishness on his part, but a failing on ours. We failed Jacob as a community of veterans and a country as a whole.
Jacob was not an imposing figure from a physical standpoint, but his energy captured the attention of a room, whether he was performing from the stage or he'd just stepped in the door. His presence was electric, and it was hard not to smile when he smiled and sing along when he would transition from a soft whisper to a bellowing boom. Whether he had a microphone, a megaphone or just the night's air, every event he was at turned into a show and a Jacob George show always turned into a sing-a-long.
Jacob told me that he joined the army in 2001 to defend our freedoms and thought that was what he would be doing in Afghanistan. His first tour in Afghanistan began in 2001, just a month after September 11. Having grown up a poor farmer in Arkansas, he saw his reflection in the faces of poor farmers in Afghanistan. He saw the will to live free, the struggle of constant hard work, and felt the pain our occupation was causing the people.
When he finished his third tour in Afghanistan and was discharged from the army, his opposition to the war became very personal. He set out to change the world the only way he knew how: to tell people his stories and to listen to theirs. It was how he did it that made him so special to so many people.
A bike tour was the first introduction Jacob made to the antiwar community. He called it "A Ride Till the End," as he set out with other veterans and friends to ride across the country and tell his stories to anyone who would listen until the war ended. That is where his antiwar activism started but not where it ended.
From the seat of his bike with his banjo across his back he went to Chicago where he joined nearly 50 other veterans and threw his medals back at NATO in protest of its wars in 2012. This act -- he explained in his song "Warrior" -- was part of a "right of passage into warriorhood," which he learned by sharing time and energy with many native and indigenous healers and elders. Singing about the difference between a soldier and a warrior, he road to D.C. and New York, to San Francisco and Denver, to Texas and back again to Arkansas. He understood that as a warrior he would always have issues with following orders, but never in following his conscience, loving and fighting for what he believed in.
Returning to Afghanistan may have been the hardest thing Jacob did as an activist, because he expected to find a public dead set against American occupation and Americans, but what he found was a complicated political landscape and a beautiful people with whom he fell in love. Jacob frequently talked so fondly of his return trip to Afghanistan and the youth he met there while working with Afghan Peace Volunteers. He wore a blue scarf for them -- a symbol of peace, solidarity, and his experiences there -- and many times kept it with him even when not wearing it.
He carried all his experiences in his heart and had empathy for all living beings. Ultimately, it was those experiences that were too heavy for even his tales. Jacob talked often of moral injury, and the complicated relationship he had with his deployments, his trauma and a world of people who did not understand what these wars are doing to soldiers and the people who will still live there long after the war ends.
Jacob was as much a product of his three tours in the Afghanistan War as he was the mountains of Arkansas. In addition to his antiwar and humanitarian work, he adored talking about his love for the mountains; the farms of Arkansas that raised him; and the support and love from his mother Robin, sister Jasmin and brother Jordan. His experiences in life before enlistment ultimately created the empathy and compassion he had for those he could not resolve to call "enemy," as his training demanded. So much of his stories were based on seeing himself and those he grew up with in the faces of the Afghan farmers he met -- both during his tours and on his voluntary trip back to Afghanistan as a civilian.
His practice trying to explain war to anyone who would listen left Jacob feeling conflicted and wounded -- emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. He identified most with the Solider's Heart -- the term for what was PTSD during the Civil War. He talked publicly about his experiences as a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and how protest and alternate forms of healing did more to treat his soldiers heart then any treatment the VA could offer him. IVAW is a very different organization then it was when Jacob first found us and we partially have him to thank for that.
He challenged our views on "the good war" and held a mirror of song for us to reflect how and why we fought the war. We are better people today because Jacob graced us with his being and he will always be one of us. He will always be carried in our hearts. He will live on in his songs. He will always be part of our family and the loss of that one hillbilly story teller from Arkansas is a loss to the world.
The Music of Jacob George can be downloaded from iTunes and anyone wishing can make a donation to help his family through the Jacob George Celebration of Life Fund.
Photo credit: Ironside Photography.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bulldogs, whales and monarchs for peace at Bowie HS

Today, four of us had a SOY table at Bowie HS, and it was a great day!  Right from the get-go, students were interested in doing the t-shirt challenge, making their way up and down the table to try the Peace Wheel, name the 5 First Amendment freedoms, find Afghanistan and Syria on the globe, vote in the Penny Poll, try a chin-up, and -  just added - name the largest animal in the world, which insect makes the longest migration, and what are some of the threats to these amazing creatures.  This led to discussion of how Navy sonar hurts marine life - an environmental effect students may not have thought about.

Penny Poll results showed top priorities for Education (101 pennies), the Environment (92) and Humanitarian Aid (92), with 80 pennies for Health Care and 34 pennies for the Military category.  As they could see, their priorities were quite opposite of actual government spending choices.  If today's students could decide, military spending would drop to 8.5% of the budget instead of 45%.

One student, while trying the Peace Wheel, mentioned that he had seen Rosa Parks when she visited his elementary school the year before she died.  That is a special memory to keep.

We appreciated the participation of all students who stopped by the table today!

and when we got home, we were met by this world traveler migrating through Austin

Friday, October 10, 2014

Nobel Peace Prize honors the rights of all children to education

What good news to hear that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 has been awarded jointly to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India.  At 17 years old, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient ever of the Nobel Peace Prize.  She has championed education rights for girls and, even though she is a victim of gun violence, she has taken a strong stand of nonviolence in confronting violence and inequality.  Kailash Satyarthi has focused his work on ending child labor and child trafficking.  Both Nobel recipients share a passion for the right of children to education and the right to not be exploited by adults.

We at SOY also believe that children should not be subject to military recruitment in schools when they are younger than 18 years old.  As Malala has said and proven through her own life, the power of education is stronger than the power of a gun.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Rethinking Schools: feature article on JROTC

An excellent article published in the current Fall 2014 issue of Rethinking Schools:

The Military Invasion of My High School

The role of JROTC

Air Force JROTC students from Buena Park High School, Coronado, California, 2006.
U.S. Navy photo by Hermes Crespo
“Will you please write me a letter of recommendation for the Navy, Ms. McGauley? You’re my best class.” Thanh was enrolled in the recently established Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) at our high school and he, like many of my students, was enamored with the military’s alluring promises of a magic carpet ride away from poverty and uncertainty.
My heart ripped as I listened to Thanh’s plea. I want to do what is best for my kids. I want to support and honor them in making their own informed decisions. But, given the impact of JROTC at our school, I felt very uneasy about the balance of information students like Thanh were receiving about enlistment in the U.S. military. After much discussion with Thanh, I wrote an honest letter, emphasizing his sensitive poetic nature and his commitment to fairness. The Navy eagerly welcomed him.
The sprawling campus of Reynolds High School (RHS), the second largest high school in Oregon, rests atop a ridge at the entrance to the scenic Columbia River Gorge in tiny Troutdale, 17 miles east of downtown Portland. When I first started teaching here 23 years ago, Reynolds was an almost all white, working-class, conservative, sub-rural community, culturally distinct from its larger urban neighbor. As Portland has become more gentrified, lower rents have attracted numerous low-income families—immigrant, African American, Latina/o, and white. Today, the Reynolds School District is a high-poverty, culturally diverse district with two of the poorest elementary schools in the state—perfect prey for military recruiters who win points for filling the coffers of the poverty draft.
During the Vietnam War era, much was written about JROTC’s role in teaching military training; today JROTC high school (and even middle school) programs incorporate a broader curricular agenda and are expanding rapidly. Yet, within the education community, little has been written about the implications and effects of JROTC in schools.
The potent presence of the military at RHS shines a floodlight on educational inequity. One sees college recruiters walking the halls of affluent Lincoln High School near downtown Portland. At RHS, college recruiters are few and far between, but military recruiters, JROTC commanders, and ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) testers clamor to establish daily contact with potential recruits.
All too often I hear the refrain: “Well, the military is a good option—or perhaps the only option—for many kids.” As educators, we must ask critical questions: Whose interests do we ultimately serve by welcoming the military into our poorer schools? Is it really in any of our students’ best interests? What are the qualifications of the instructors? What does the JROTC curriculum actually teach our students?


The National Defense Act of 1916 established JROTC to increase the U.S. Army’s readiness in the face of World War I. The ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964 directed the secretaries of each military branch to establish and maintain JROTC units for their respective branches. In the 1990s, the programs began expanding rapidly throughout the country. Today, there are approximately 3,500 Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard JROTC units in schools in the United States and its territories. Last year, Congress instructed the secretary of defense to expand further and to report on “efforts to increase distribution of units in educationally and economically deprived areas.”
JROTC is not about education. But by housing recruiters and JROTC in public schools and offering them carte blanche privileges, we provide them a cloak of legitimacy. Militarism was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “giant triplets” of societal destruction (along with racism and extreme materialism), yet today it appears as a legitimate component of the educational system—most often at underfunded schools.
At our school, JROTC is an actual school within a school, one that offers four levels of classes for which students earn full credits. It meets state requirements for career training. At RHS and many other schools, it is accepted as a substitute for physical education. Our JROTC instructors have also given make-up credit for writing and study skills classes, using online programs in the main JROTC classroom. The RHS program is directed by Brian James, a retired colonel from the Oregon Army National Guard, who tells me he looks forward to being able to offer health, history, and government credits as well.

Promoting Gun Culture at School

RHS has embraced school-based initiatives, including a commitment to restorative justice and peer mediation, that teach and encourage students to resolve conflicts nonviolently. JROTC’s militarism runs counter to these programs. Schools across the country are employing a variety of methods to curb bullying and violent incidents, create safe learning environments, and teach peaceful means of conflict resolution. JROTC’s introduction of weapons training, its partnership with the NRA to sponsor marksmanship matches, and its modeling of authoritarian militaristic solutions to problems contradict the schools’ stated opposition to violence.
Critics have been successful in getting JROTC to discontinue the use of live weapons in schools on a national level, but units continue to use air rifles for target practice at RHS and numerous other schools. Organizing makes a difference. In San Diego, for example, the Education Not Arms Coalition, made up of students, teachers, parents, and community groups, successfully removed target practice with air rifles from San Diego JROTC programs in 2009.

One School’s JROTC Story

In 2011, a former RHS principal, with the support of the school board and many staff members, laid down the red carpet for JROTC to create a program at our school. The JROTC contract requires the hiring of a minimum of two retired officers for the first 150 students enrolled as cadets. After 150, another instructor must be hired for each additional increment of 100 cadets. James and other retired military personnel teach courses in military science, called Leadership Education Training (LET), during the school day.
Three full-time JROTC instructors lead 13 sections of LET 1, 2, and 3 to 280 students. Last year, a new principal tried to make the JROTC class loads comparable to other teachers’ loads by laying off one of the commanders. Although the effort failed, James says he does not plan to ask for additional staffing at this time: “Even though I won that fight and she’s gone, it’s political. I’m a laid-back kind of guy, but if you push me into a corner, I’ll fight back and I’ll win. . . . I brought in the superintendent and the school board, the mayor of Troutdale, and the commander at Fort Lewis. We’re all still here, and she’s gone.”
James adds that they really should have a fourth officer since their “job is bigger than a teacher’s. We teach, mentor, and coach kids, and we take them on excursions. We take them to Florida and other places for rifle competitions.” Every teacher I know teaches, mentors, and coaches students; and if we had the Pentagon’s money, we would take them on many more excursions.
At RHS today, student loads for most non-JROTC teachers hover between 180 and 220 students (more than twice the load of the JROTC instructors) with class sizes in the 30s and low 40s. JROTC cadets often take LET in place of physical education, and a single PE teacher would normally support 250 or more students. If JROTC were eliminated at RHS, the district would hire fewer than half as many teachers to replace them—although it would be wonderful for our students if we, too, had student loads of 70 to 90. In general, the federal subsidy covers less than half the total salaries and none of the employment taxes or benefits for JROTC instructors. Schools wind up using extra money from their budgets to, in effect, subsidize a high school military training/recruiting program for the Pentagon.
JROTC instructors are not certified in the same way as other school district teachers. In some states they are not required to have more than a GED (although the commander must have at least a BA). Generally, the military decides who is qualified to be a JROTC instructor and then presents them to the school district for hiring. According to James, each of the three JROTC instructors at RHS has at least a BA. He says getting certified to teach in the program is “a double whammy because we have to be certified by both the state of Oregon and the Army.” (There is no required teacher training; Oregon simply requires JROTC instructors to take a test on the history of discrimination in Oregon.)

Teaching Militarism, Not Critical Thinking

The Reynolds LET 1 course description apprises students that they will learn “leadership, follower, and citizenship skills.” JROTC is military training. Instead of teaching toward a just and peaceful world, military training emphasizes dominance and nationalism. In fact, once students enlist in the military, they are no longer guided by the United States Constitution. Rather they are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The Pentagon contracts with Pearson to write JROTC curriculum, including social studies, health, and leadership textbooks. The local school district has no control over their content. No process exists for regular certified staff to review JROTC materials for appropriateness, accuracy, or conformity to educational standards.
Teachers focused on social justice are critical of the historical perspectives of many mainstream textbooks. But, because the JROTC curriculum is focused on developing leaders for the U.S. military, there is a specific danger to these texts. For example, Lesson 2 of the LET 3 textbook is titled “Ethical Choices, Decisions, and Consequences.” The authors compare and contrast the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. They state that the sole cause of the Vietnam War was containment of communism: “American military personnel began deploying to Vietnam in 1954 to strengthen the country against communist North Vietnam.” The authors cite then-President Johnson’s 1964 statements that North Vietnam attacked a U.S. destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin as the impetus for the broader war, ignoring overwhelming evidence from declassified documents that there was no such attack.
The narrative continues: “The United States went to war in Iraq as part of its global war on terrorism.” In the same paragraph, the authors introduce Osama bin Laden and explain the creation of al-Qaeda “to dislodge American forces in the Middle East.” The implication is clear—Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were working in cahoots to attack the United States. To further cement this alleged relationship, which did not exist, they quote George W. Bush: “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.” Nowhere in the case study or various historical timelines do the authors indicate that both Hussein and bin Laden were at one time strongly supported by the United States. Describing the arguments for the second Gulf War, the text notes a “lack of indisputable evidence” (as opposed to the presence of manufactured false evidence) that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
In outlining alternatives to these military invasions, the authors identify the only potential consequences as unacceptably negative. In the case of Vietnam, they cite the “domino theory,” which predicted one country after another becoming communist threats to the United States. In the case of Iraq, they quote then-President Bush without additional commentary: “We cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
Lesson 3 is on “Global Citizenship Choices, Decisions, and Consequences.” The authors discuss intelligence as a tool of U.S. foreign policy: “The CIA focuses mostly on countries it thinks might be unfriendly. . . . Sometimes intelligence agencies have helped overturn the government of a country. . . . For example, the CIA took part in overthrowing the government of Salvador Allende. The United States government thought Allende was not favorable to our national interest. Like defense, diplomacy, foreign aid, and trade measures, intelligence is an important tool of foreign policy.” There is no questioning of the U.S.-led coup against the democratically elected president of Chile, nor is there any discussion of the consequences and implications of the decision.

“The greatest purveyor of violence...”

The sole mission of the U.S. military is to prepare for and fight wars. JROTC in middle and high schools, ROTC in colleges, the ASVAB test, military partnerships with schools, research and development programs—all are designed as tools for fulfilling this goal. Military recruiters and JROTC personnel are notorious for not disclosing the whole truth and for making seductive promises—verbally and in writing—that can be broken at any time. For example, students and staff are often told that undocumented students will receive legal citizenship papers if they enlist. This is false. By law, undocumented immigrants may not enlist in the U.S. armed forces, or even enroll in JROTC. (Documented immigrants may enlist and can receive citizenship status for doing so if they fulfill all requirements. Last spring Pentagon officials approved a policy that would allow a limited number of undocumented young people “with critical language or medical skills” and who came to the United States as children to enlist in the military, opening a pathway to eventual citizenship.)
JROTC is a component of the U.S. military apparatus, what King called the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”—and nothing about the current world situation would encourage him to modify that statement. As educators, we need to teach students to read the world, to question, and to critically analyze the history of U.S. militarism. And we must get JROTC out of our schools.  
In June, after this article had been accepted for publication, an avid (and apparently mentally unstable) JROTC student at RHS armed himself with a semi-automatic rifle and pistol, a knife, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He fatally shot one student and injured a teacher before police cornered him and he took his own life. This tragedy highlights the importance of closing down programs that feed violent tendencies in vulnerable students and contradict school-based efforts to teach nonviolent conflict resolution.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Slate on the Hong Kong demonstrations: "The world's politest protesters"

Great article from Slate for today, Gandhi's birthday:

The World’s Politest Protesters

By  and 

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Hong Kong student protesters help recycle garbage during a quiet moment at the protest site on Oct. 1, 2014, in Hong Kong.
Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
The protest movement that has sprung to life in Hong Kong now represents the most serious challenge to Beijing’s authority since the Tiananmen protests of 1989. Beijing is obviously worried: Earlier this week it banned the photo-sharing site Instagram and ramped up censorship on the popular Chinese social media site Sina Weibo to unprecedented levels. 
But while the threat to Beijing’s power is real, the danger isn’t evident on Hong Kong streets: Rather than presenting scenes of smashed shops or violent confrontations with the police—the sort of images we have grown accustomed to in Cairo, Ukraine, and other sites of popular protests against oppressive regimes—the photos from central Hong Kong show smiling students sitting around doing their homework, passing out donations of food, and meticulously picking up litter—even sorting out the recyclables. What, then, is different about these Hong Kong demonstrators? And how might their almost exaggerated politeness help them against the notoriously severe Chinese Communist Party?
The answers to these questions can be found in the appropriately titled “Manual of Disobedience.” Published online several days before the Occupy Central campaign was set to begin, the document (written in Chinese and English) is part how-to guide and part philosophical mission statement. It details the movement’s tactics, the rules for nonviolent protest, the legal codes that may be violated, and the exact procedure to follow should someone be arrested. It also implores protesters to “avoid physical confrontation, but also to avoid developing hatred in [their] heart,” and explains that the protests must be a model of the values that they are striving to see in their society, namely “equality, tolerance, love, and care.” The protesters understand that these values will not only help win over sympathizers, but lay bare the illegitimacy of the regime if it moves against them with excessive force. These aren’t youthful idealists; these are savvy political operators who understand the secrets of successful nonviolent resistance.
The proof of this fact is playing out in the streets of Hong Kong right now. After the protesters’ first attempt to block the financial district was met with volleys of teargas from riot police, the people in the street did not fight back, leaving society shocked and emboldened by the authorities’ outrageous use of force. The next day, thousands more people turned up with signs supporting the students, condemning police tactics, and calling for the resignation of Hong Kong leader C.Y. Leung. Although it may seem obvious that a protest movement must win popular support to combat oppression, it is no easy feat, and something we have seen movements in dozens of countries fail to accomplish. The staunch adherence to nonviolence Occupy Central has demonstrated takes preparation, training, and discipline—a combination that’s very rare for many movements.
Most of the time, organizers aren’t prepared to handle the crowds that surge into the streets, and with no way to maintain calm and cohesion, too many movements have been derailed by a few thrown rocks or smashed storefronts. Governments seize on the smallest acts of disorder or violence as excuses to crack down. However, Occupy Central’s organizers seem to have come prepared. By issuing the manual and attempting to train their activists, they have maintained a united front and warded off the pitfalls that plague too many social movements.
If, as many people fear, mainland authorities crack down Tiananmen-style, the training and the discipline the protesters have displayed will serve them well, galvanizing support and isolating the Chinese authorities. On the other hand, if Beijing realizes the dilemma it faces, it will have no choice but to negotiate with Hong Kong’s protest leaders, a show of weakness that may ultimately inspire more yearning for democracy and even further protests. For now, while it is amusing to watch the most polite protesters in the world keeping up with their schoolwork and keeping the streets clean, their politeness actually demonstrates why they have become such a powerful force to reckon with.No one has a crystal ball for knowing what Beijing will do next. Right now the government appears to be set to try to wait the protesters out, hoping that their presence and the disruption of daily life will eventually alienate the movement from wider society. However, Occupy Central has positioned itself well, almost no matter the outcome.
Srdja Popovic is the co-founder and executive director of CANVAS, and the author of the forthcoming Blueprint for Revolution.
Tori Porell is a program officer at CANVAS.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jacob David George, our brother

A news story headline from February 2013 that is part of our SOY display reads "VA: Suicides hit 22 per day."  That statistic just hit home in a terrible way when we learned that beloved Iraq Veterans Against the War member, singer-songwriter, bicycle activist, peacemaker Jacob David George, took his own life this week.  I remember meeting Jacob when he rolled into Austin by bicycle to attend the IVAW convention in July 2010.  His energy was contagious.  He crisscrossed the country on his bicycle to speak about his 3 army tours in Afghanistan and the moral injuries he sustained as a result.  His efforts to speak candidly about his pain and about his own views on the war were very meaningful for those who heard him speak and sing.

Jacob tried many kinds of treatment for his combat-related post-traumatic stress injuries.  He said that throwing his Army medals away during the IVAW protest at the NATO Summit in Chicago was one of the most healing actions that he had experienced.  He also returned to Afghanistan on a delegation with Voices for Creative Nonviolence to offer solidarity with the Afghan Peace Volunteers there.   The long term cure for war trauma is preventing war in the first place, and that was what Jacob was trying to do.  We mourn his death and the war that caused it.

Here are the lyrics to his song, "Support the Troops"

  “we just Need to support the troops"
is what they tell me

well, this is from a troop
so listen carefully

what we Need are teachers who understand the history of this country
what we Need is a decent living wage, so people ain’t cold and hungry
what we Need is bicycle infrastructure spanning this beauteous nation
what we Need are more trees and less play stations
what we Need is a justice system that seeks the truth
what we Need are more books and less boots

what we Need is love

for every woman and man
from southern Louisiana
to the mountains of Afghanistan

Now, it's true
The troops need support
the support to come home
they need treatment and jobs
and love for the soul

war ain't no good
for the human condition
I lost a piece of who I was
on every single mission
and I'm tellin’ you,
don't thank me for what I've done

give me a big hug
and let me know
we're not gonna let this happen again
because we support the troops
and we're gonna bring these wars to an end

Jacob’s poem appeared in After Action Review, a collection of writings by vets published by Warrior Writers in 2011. He also transformed it into a song that he traveled around the country singing to the thumping strings of a banjo. With other vets, he did cross-country bicycle rides for peace. He liked to call himself “a bicycle ridin, banjo pickin, peace rambling hillbilly from Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.”

A selection of Jacob George’s songs, from a collection called “Soldier’s Heart,” that he performed with a country band in Arkansas in 2013, was recorded in “Support Your Troops: A Special Report”:  


Thanks to Jan Barry for posting these lyrics on his website

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

SOY launches new semester with tabling at Austin HS

Our first tabling of the new school year was great!  We really enjoyed being able to talk with students at Austin HS today during lunch.  Our list of what to do for a free t-shirt grew longer, as we added another couple of activities, such as asking students to write their ideas for how to help stop and prevent war.

We provided our usual brochures on military realities, alternatives to military enlistment, and an assortment of stickers, paper folders and reprints of the comic book-style story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott that was produced by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  Students were up to the t-shirt challenge and we appreciated their ideas toward International Day of Peace (coming up on Sept. 21).  Their responses to the question, "What could help stop or prevent war?" were these:

Results of the Penny Poll were almost equally tied priorities for Health Care, Education and the Environment (72, 72 and 71 pennies in those jars, respectively), 52 pennies for Humanitarian Aid and 42 pennies for the Military.

It was good to see this poster for a Global Student Leaders Summit on environmental sustainability and the announcement about the Spring 2015 trip to Costa Rica as part of that.  Austin HS has an Academy for Global Studies.  We agree that knowing more about the world is part of the solution!