David Solnit emailed last year to ask if he could use a photo of mine for his upcoming book about the Army of None Project. It was on my blog last year: Harlem Grandmothers stand smack in front of Harlem's U.S. Army Recruiting Station on West 125th Street. I'm proud to have its message among the many powerful ones he used.
Elderblogger Maya's Granny wrote a fine post this month after watching the first Ken Burns' World War II series. She echoed many of us who know there's something very wrong with the way Americans have disconnected from those now serving in the military. Where do we go with this feeling?
You may be surprised if you read here regularly, but Ron and I had no idea how long hundreds of activists like David and Aimee Allison, his co-author, have been working in this useful way. A way thats an opportunity for people like you and me to use our energy to help young people understand what it really means to enlist. They have filled their book with strong black and white images and much information. They gave a compelling presentation here in NYC that was one of the most enlightening educational encounters we've had in a long time.
[The website, Courage to Resist, lists dates for the national book tour happening now. Army of None will be in Salinas, California on November 14.]
An artist, David started with an engaging puppet show geared to an adult audience. We laughed a little, booed the villains. Aimee was a medic the the Army Reserves till her discharge as a conscientious objector during the Persian Gulf War. She'd joined as a way to pay for college. Ater nine years, she still had to pay her own way to a Stanford education.
Two women were introduced, told how they'd worked with other counter-recruitment activists to produce a four-by-five-inch FREE pamphlet, The New Yorkers' Guide to Military Recruitment in the 5 boroughs. Sixty pages filled with facts and figures-- "Facing a Recruiter," page 14, "War, Combat, & Your Contract," page 8-- of immense usefulness to a young high school student being leaned on by recruiters.
A click on the link makes it possible to download your own copy in digital format. The authors hope, "You'll create a guide like this one (but better) in your own community." That's on page 59, with links to information on getting started.
Possibility filled the room at Bluestockings Books. We were energized by the synergy of presenters and audience--all much, much younger than ourselves. The bookstore has copies of all these materials. "What Every Girl Should Know about the U.S. Military," is available from both the Women of Color Resource Center in Oakland, California, and War Resisters League in New York City.
A thorough and positive description of the contents of Army of None in The Indypendent ends on an ambivalent note, "...as long as most dissenters...remain content [with] ritual forms of activism that prioritize self-expression and asserting...moral rectitude, it will be difficult for the patient, day-to-day antiwar organizing envisioned by the authors to take root. But their book is a valuable guide for those ready to try."
What is this little red hen ready to do-- old lady who inadvertently became counter-recruiter by holding up a Gray Panthers' banner in Harlem, wears Grandmothers Against the War button all times? I seized on opportunity at my doctor's office last week. On the way, the 125th Street crosstown bus passed same Army Recruiting station and I patted my canvas bag, the one with the button.
When M, the lab tech came to take my blood (we've known one another since he was in sophomore year of night school college) I asked, "Last time you told me about military recruiters calling you with their money offers when you were a high school senior." Told him about Army of None, gave him a copy of the "New Yorkers' Guide to Military Recruitment."
"Do you believe they called me again in my senior year of college--how do they get all this information?" M was glad to have the book; it tells how the government obtains just what he'd wondered about. His college education was on full scholarship, but he was pleased to have a way to speak to others in his community of color in Queens. In that moment, two more became counter-recruiters.
On the way Tuesday night to hear Susan Faludi on her latest book, The Terror Dream, I had dinner with arrested-Granny Judy Lear. Talked about how the picture in the Army of None was a time we'd demonstrated together. "Oh, she said, "Barbara, one of the Grannies, does that!" Goes to high school college nights where recruiters always show up. Here's a model for older activists: Barbara seeks out parents of the students to exhange about the realities behind the offers made. I'm waiting to hear more about this from her.
Would you raise your arm into the air the way people in China once did with Mao's Little Red Book...I can see it now: a crowd of us on the Mall in Washington--boomers and our crowd of elders all together, waving copies of local Guides, of Army of None, as we lift each and every voice to shout, "Not with our grandchildren!" Please, Elders, dream and act with me.