From the SOA Watch website:
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias vowed on Wednesday to stop sending police to train at a U.S. facility criticized for a history of producing soldiers who went on to violate human rights.
Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, made the promise after talks with Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a U.S. activist priest who has campaigned since 1990 for the closure of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School for the Americas, at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Though U.S. defense officials closed the original school, a Latin American military training facility, in 2000 and reopened it a year later under the new name and with a new curriculum, critics say the change was purely cosmetic.
For those who don’t know about the School of the Americas, here is a brief intro:
The US Army School of Americas (SOA), based in Fort Benning, Georgia, trains Latin American security personnel in combat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. SOA graduates are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Among the SOA’s nearly 60,000 graduates are notorious dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia. Lower-level SOA graduates have participated in human rights abuses that include the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians. (See Grads in the News).
You can take action today to help shut the place down. At the least take your new awareness and be sure to share with others as the opportunity arises.
These words come from a Soldier who has fought in this battle. The news article reads:
Sgt. Mathew Gonzalez said his decal that reads “Lord please forgive me, I have committed sins for our freedom” is a message he created to show that as a Catholic he believes he did sin by killing someone in Iraq.
Today marks four years since our country declared war with Iraq. Noble men and women, innocent children, killed and being killed on both sides of this war. It’s no secret that I think this war is wrong. I think all war is wrong, I don’t believe it is ever the necessary or best option. However, my goal today isn’t to make a case for or against, I believe this is a moment and a time to lament the lose of the past four years. Lament the lose of soldiers, Iraqi and USA. Lament the deaths of children, elderly, Muslim, Christian, brothers and sisters.
- US Troop Casualities – 3,205 US troops; 98% male. 90% non-officers; 78% active duty, 13% National Guard; 74% Caucasian, 10% African-American, 11% Latino. 19% killed by non-hostile causes. 54% of US casualties were under 25 years old. 68% were from the US Army
- US Troops Wounded – 24,042, 20% of which are serious brain or spinal injuries (total excludes psychological injuries)
- US Troops with Serious Mental Health Problems 30% of US troops develop serious mental health problems within 3 to 4 months of returning home
- Iraqi Civilians Killed, Estimated – A UN issued report dated Sept 20, 2006 stating that Iraqi civilian casualities have been significantly under-reported. Casualties are reported at 50,000 to over 100,000, but may be much higher. Some informed estimates place Iraqi civilian casualities at over 600,000.
Please take sometime today to read the names of the men, women and children who have been killed in Iraq. These are not numbers, they are names, real people whose lives have been changed, impacted, and ended by this war. (Download the PDF, about 2.5mb)
My brother put together this provocative piece a while back. I don’t think there is much more needed to begin the conversation:
Considering I’ve worked with teenagers quite a bit, this is something I think more folks need to be aware of. Statistics tell interesting stories, so I think I’ll just leave you with some to get a better understanding on why awareness of this subject is important.
- Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.
- Females ages 16-24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group
– at a rate almost triple the national average.
- Between 1993 and 1999, 22% of all homicides against females ages 16-19 were committed by
an intimate partner.
- Nearly one-half of adult sex offenders report committing their first sexual offenses prior to the
age of 18.
- 58% of rape victims report being raped between the ages of 12-24.
Now that you know some of the facts, let me give you reason to make sure you are raising awareness amongst others about the need to discuss and provide safe places for teens to talk about these things.
- 81% of parents surveyed either believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t
know if it’s an issue.
- A majority of parents (54%) admit they’ve not spoken to their child about dating violence.
- Nearly 25% of 14-17 year-olds surveyed know at least one student who was a victim of dating violence, while 11% know multiple victims of dating violence. 33% of teens have actually witnessed such an event.
- 20% of surveyed male students report witnessing someone they go to high school with physically hit a person they were dating.
- 57% of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually, or verbally abusive in a dating
- 45% of girls know a friend or peer who has been pressured into either intercourse or oral sex.
- One in three teens reports knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked,
slapped or physically hurt by their dating partner.
- In 9 out of 10 rapes in which the offender is under 18, so is the victim.
- When female high school students were asked whom they would talk to if someone they date is attempting to control them, insults them, or physically harms them, 86% percent said they would confide in a friend, while only 7% said they would talk to police.
- 83% of 10th graders surveyed at the 4th Annual Teen Dating Abuse Summit reported that they would sooner turn to a friend for help with dating abuse than to a teacher, counselor, parent or other caring adult.
- Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse
And this, is one of the most alarming pieces of information:
Both victims and abusers attribute the responsibility for violent dating behavior to victims, caused by: provocation by the girl; the victim’s personality type; the girl’s need for affection; communication problems; and peer group influence.
For more information and to find references for all information listed on this post, check out the American Bar Association, Teen Dating Tool Kits.
“The Myth of Redemptive Violence is the story of the victory of order over chaos by means of violence.” It was through my reading of Christ’s teachings to “Love your enemies” and the idea of overcoming evil with good, that I began to realize that there must be another road to victory than violence. Quite simply, I found I could not support a culture of war and violence and still claim to follow Christ’s teachings, I could not rationalize it.
After coming to that conclusion I picked up Walter Wink’s book, The Powers That Be, and my eyes were opened to the myth that our society and myself have been indoctrinated with for centuries. I’ve heard the word’s of others too who have walked this path in an attempt to follow Christ.
Derek Webb sings, in My Enemies are Men Like Me,
peace by way of war
is like purity by way of fornication
it’s like telling someone murder is wrong
and then showing them by way of execution
Dr. King said,
Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time — the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts… Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
You should really take the time to read the short article about The Myth of Redemptive Violence. It describes the Babylonian Creation Myth and how it’s violence-centric story is perpetuated today. I’m not just talking about war here, I’m speaking of primarily the media that we expose ourselves to. Think Braveheart and Gladiator, Batman, Lone Ranger, Road Runner and many others:
The psychodynamics’ of the TV cartoon or comic book are marvelously simple: children identify with the good guy so that they can think of themselves as good. This enables them to project out onto the bad guy their repressed anger, violence, rebelliousness, or lust, and then vicariously to enjoy their own evil by watching the bad guy initially prevail. This segment of the show–the “Tammuz” element, where the hero suffers–actually consumes all but the closing minutes, allowing ample time for indulging the violent side of self. When the good guy finally wins, viewers are then able to reassert control over their own inner tendencies, repress them, and reestablish a sense of goodness without coming to any insight about their own inner evil. The villain’s punishment provides catharsis; one forswears the villain’s ways and heaps condemnation on him in a guilt-free orgy of aggression. Salvation is found through identification with the hero…
As, I think about entering parenthood, I’m struck by the fact that though I have continually acknowledged to myself and others that this myth is a lie and it is dangerous to our culture, I have still chosen to expose myself to plenty of movies that carry this theme. I’ve decided both in preparation, and probably for personal well being, that I’m going to stop watching movies that carry a redemptive violence theme (for at least a year). This won’t be a hard and fast line, but one I want to consider for the well being of my family. Which means Die Hard, Rocky, and Spider Man will be off my movie viewing list for the year.
I watched Cinderella Man a while ago with my wife. It’s a touching story based on the real life events of James Braddock. It’s a heartwarmer and a true fairytale story. But I couldn’t help thinking about the “what if?”
This interaction between Braddock and his wife, Mae, will give you an idea of what I’m talking about:
And when they took your license away, even scared as I was… I went to the church and I thanked God for it.
Cause I always knew… a day might come when it could kill you. I just knew it, Jimmy. And now it’s here.
You just got the jitters, that’s all.
He’s killed two men, Jimmy! What’s worth it?
I have to believe I got some kind of say over our lives. Okay?
You know, that if things are bad, that we can change them… we can make things better for our family. But I need you to be safe…
If you’ve seen the movie, and even if you haven’t (slight movie spoiler ahead), Braddock goes on to fight the guy, against his wife’s pleas (though she gives some approval in the end), and he wins the fight. But, the whole time I was thinking… What If?
What if his wife’s fears proved true and he was killed in the fight? Or more likely he was hit so hard he became disabled or permanently disabled. Then what say would he have over their lives?
I understand why this movie touches us, this man lays it all on the line and he motivates millions through his actions. And we all know people don’t pay to see some one turn in their gloves at their wife’s request so as to be there for their family, it just doesn’t make a good Hollywood ending.
Now, for a minute let’s lay Hollywood and our machoism aside for a moment and consider the options. Men, it’s time to stop drooling over Braveheart and Gladiator, shut-up for a moment, and listen to your wives (or someone else with some common sense). If you love your family, if you want to care for them and provide for them, then do it in a way that shows them and has their interest in mind.
I watched the deleted scenes in the movie North Country a while back. There are plenty of scenes through out the movie that will make the same point I’d like to emphasis here, but there is one in the deleted scenes that struck me.
To give a brief explanation of the movie, Josey is a single mother of a young daughter and a 13 year old son, having left an abusive relationship. The movie is about the horrific way she and others are treated, sexual harrassed, abused. It still happens everyday, and I guarantee happens to someone you know, so pay attention.
The scene that so struck me was when the two kids are playing on the trampoline. The young boy, Sammy, is jumping up and down and the daughter is underneath, playfully yelling stop, but clearly enjoying it.
Josey runs out and starts yelling at her son and pulls her daughter out from underneath.
This is just one tiny point where you can see how abuse has affected Josey and how it comes out in raising her kids. Josey can’t control or take her anger out on the men that have abused her, so it tends to come out on one of the few men she can control in her life: her son. It’s true she shouldn’t do this, she should be more gentle and loving with her son, but I can’t blame her.
Far too often I think we look at someone doing wrong and we tend to place all blame and responsiblity, as well as all anger and hate, on that sole individual. It’s true they are responsible for their actions, but I think very often there are some terrible dark secrets that have affected their lives.
Let’s not be too quick to judge. Let us be more gentle, understanding, and willing to listen. In the end, Love Wins.