Author: Marii Herlinger, WPJC Intern
Too often, the topic of war is framed as either a thing of the past or as a primal activity only afflicting “underdeveloped” countries in places far away. Both of these assumptions are inaccurate. Worse, they perpetuate dangerous illusions of “safety” and “security” at home, while deflecting accountability from superpowers—like the United States—responsible for waging war on so many places. It is no accident how many people think of the military as a distinct and separate entity from their everyday lives. This veil we are under is a result of a grossly manipulated narrative(1) about what America needs defense against—and it has grave consequences.
In 2014, police in Watertown, Connecticut purchased a mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle with a retail price of $733,000 at the meager cost of $2,800. My sister bought her first used car at that price. And yet, a landmine has never been found in Watertown.(2)
Police forces in every state have the ability to procure such items through the 1033 program—or what the government so dreamily calls the Pentagon's Law Enforcement Support Office.(3) The 1033 program enables the Pentagon to distribute military equipment to local police departments per request. Items procured through the 1033 program are not released to the public, nor are the names of the agencies requesting them.
The 1033 program is far from the only example of at-home militarism. Police departments have long prioritized military veterans in their hiring processes, a practice which the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program of the Department of Justice openly permits.(4) Programs like COPS are bolstered by the guise that the military is our “great protector.” They assume that ordinary citizens will not think to challenge the notion of military training as helpful or necessary in law enforcement. The questions we need to be asking are: what kind of threats does the government foresee needing combat-trained officers for? What many atrocities could result from hiring officers with war PTSD? How can we address veteran unemployment without creating a funnel from the military to law enforcement? Programs like COPS fuel the narrative that a militaristic approach proves useful in domestic conflicts. As we are reminded from the long list of lives stolen and communities broken from police brutality, violence is never the solution.
Other examples of militarism at home: the construction of military bases often dislocates entire communities(5), forcing them to leave the land where they once lived, danced, cooked, made homes, raised their babies, and laid their heads at night. Prisons, jails, immigrant detention centers, federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other structures of state violence perpetuate America’s long legacy of family separation and xenophobia. Bureaucratic complexities and high exposure criteria still bar so many downwinders (a term for those who live downwind of nuclear test sites and are thus subject to radioactive fallout) from receiving compensation. And, in the middle of a pandemic which has exposed the inadequacy of the American healthcare system, the Pentagon chooses to “honor” healthcare workers by authorizing expensive military flyovers. Meanwhile, the shortage of PPE in healthcare facilities is such that some hospitals have prohibited their workers from bringing their own masks since they cannot be guaranteed for everyone.(6) This is a serious misplacement of priorities.
How about honoring healthcare workers by supplying PPE and tests? How about replacing prisons and jails with life-affirming institutions? How about not creating populations of downwinders in the first place? How about severing the flow of equipment from the military to police agencies? How about creating a system of restorative justice that centers the needs of survivors of harm and prioritizes the health of the human body and spirit?
When I refer to “the militarization of our lives,” I’m talking about how photographs of the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, could be mistaken for war zones. I’m talking about the reality that in far too many neighborhoods across America, kids can look out their windows and see tanks rolling down the street. I’m talking about the fact that the police can acquire MRAPs, combat gear, and military-grade equipment as if they are on sale at the mall.
We need a narrative shift and we need it now. The antiwar movement must include the constant acknowledgment that war abroad is inherently linked to war at home. Without active resistance to both, violence will continue to inform government responses to conflict across the globe and in our very backyards.
Here are some upcoming actions steps you can take to help fight militarism at home!
Author: Marii Herlinger, WPJC Intern
Students of Western Washington University are calling for an end to the university’s contract with its food vendor Aramark. Beginning with a petition and letter addressed to WWU’s President Sabah Randhawa and Director of University Residences Leonard Jones in May of 2018, students requested that the university move toward a self-operated dining system. The petition, which was drafted by a campus organization by the name of Students for Sustainable Food, garnered more than 1,700 signatures. The momentum, however, did not stop there—the issue gained enough student support to warrant the creation of a separate committee branching off from Students for Sustainable Food: called Shred the Contract.
Supporters of the Shred the Contract movement have cited several reasons for their urgency in dropping Aramark. Most important, as I believe they would concur, is the food vendor’s strong connection to the prison industrial complex. Operating in over 500 prisons across the country, Aramark profits off of the cheap labor found among a disproportionate number of BIPOC* inmates. Those students speaking out against a renewed contract with Aramark understand the need to abolish this system of white supremacy and racist exploitation.
Western’s current contract with Aramark ends in 2021. Students have taken to Red Square with signs and voices of protest this February, and are engaging in university-officiated forums with their sights set on a self-operated dining service to replace Aramark.
As hopeful as 1,700 petition signatures sound, the prison-industrial complex is a deepset institution — it can be difficult to imagine it going away anytime soon. Being only ever one person at a time, we are apt to feel powerless. But I am uplifted by the thought that within our community, young people are recognizing the power they have to demand reform. They are serving up a much-needed reminder that change at a local level is not only possible but crucial in achieving change on a larger scale.
*BIPOC = Black Indigenous People of Color
(Be sure to follow Shred the Contract on Facebook for updates on events and actions.)
Links for more info & action items:
Direct link to the Shred The Contract Petition:
Info alert for last round of university forums (November 2019): https://calendars.wwu.edu/food-justice-forum
Article from The Western Front about the beginning of the Shred the Contract movement:
Community members are encouraged to contact Whatcom County Council members to show support for the Welcoming Refugees Resolution. Members of Amnesty International Group 270 drafted the resolution and spoke in favor of it at the June 18 council meeting. They are now asking for support to get it on the agenda for the July 9 meeting. The agenda comes out next Wednesday, July 3.
“Every day there are more human rights abuses going on that involve refugees,” says Colleen Curtis of AI Group 270. “A resolution will not solve this, and it won't mean the County Council has to incur any costs or other responsibilities, but it's an important statement of support.”
You can view the draft resolution here.
Similar resolutions have been adopted by cities and schools around the country, including Las Vegas and the State of Vermont House of Representatives.
Curtis says that comments or suggestions on the draft are welcome; you can submit them on this contact form: http://amnestyinternational270.weebly.com/contact.html. “Whether or not it ends up being placed on the agenda, I encourage attending the next County Council meeting to show or speak of your support,” she says.
Please call & urge the Whatcom County Council members to address and pass a resolution welcoming refugees:
Letter sent to Whatcom County Council on June 20, World Refugee Day:
We believe our communities should welcome refugees.
We urge the county council to pass a resolution that would be a non- binding declaration of support of refugees, regardless of their religion, race, gender identity, sexual orientation or country of origin. More than 200 communities have already stood up for refugees and asylum seekers.
The society we want to live in is one where we take care of people who need safety. Strong communities help people realize their potential, and welcome others who also want to contribute makes society better for all.
The United States should be the world’s leader in welcoming refugees, but our government has abandoned that leadership. They have decided to meet the world’s worst refugee crisis in recorded time with historically low levels of support. If our national and local officials don’t hear our voices in support of refugees, this will only get worse.
Right now, 25.4 million refugees worldwide are seeking a home, and more than half of them are children. Less than 1% will be resettled each year. Refugees deserve to be welcomed – not demonized. But in the face of the largest refugee crisis in recorded history, the U.S. is closing its doors. The Trump administration capped annual refugee admissions to another historic low of 30,000 refugees this fiscal year, implemented a series of severe restrictions which act as a de facto refugee ban, restricted access to asylum at the southern border for those fleeing violence and persecution, and proposed drastic cuts to funding for refugee programs and humanitarian aid. ICE is currently detaining more than 52,000 people, an all time high. Families continue to be separated from their children, as people are kept in overcrowded and inhumane detention centers.
Seeking asylum is legal under US law, regardless of where or how people enter. The administration’s efforts to curtail access to protection violates both U.S. and international law. People have the right to seek asylum where they feel safe. Refugees leave their homes because they have no other choice, and should be treated with compassion. All countries, including the United States, should protect dignity and fairness, and reject fear and prejudice.
Historic Sailboat Project Supports UN Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons
Golden Rule S/V Crew member and Golden Rule Project Ambassador, Zoe Byrd, will show the 25-minute documentary, “Making Waves: Rebirth of the Golden Rule” about four Quaker peace activists, led by Navy veteran Albert Bigelow, who in 1958 set sail to the Marshall Islands influencing public demand that ended underwater, atmospheric, and outer space nuclear bomb tests in 1963. The historic peace boat later sank, in 2010, and was rebuilt in Humboldt Bay, California. The Golden Rule, a Project of Veterans For Peace, is once again “Sailing for a Nuclear-Free World and a Peaceful, Sustainable Future.”
Zoe Byrd, involved in the peace movement since 1977, and an avid “Peace Walker”, as well as sailor, will take questions after the film, about the Golden Rule, opportunities to crew on the peace vessel, and more. Zoe is excited to present the ICAN Cities Appeal, where all over the world, cities are taking the lead and calling on their governments to join the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Highly regarded guest speaker, Peter Lumsdaine, a member of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR)’s Nuclear Weapons Abolition Task Force and of national PSR’s Committee to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, has worked for over two decades in the nuclear resistance and global eco-justice movements, including on the staff of leading-edge NGOs. This work has taken him from the military conflict zones of Mexico, the Philippines, Korea, and occupied Iraq to the the inner security areas of US Strategic Command bases and the cell-blocks of the American prison system.
Peter will speak about the inspiring heritage of, and urgent potential for, mass nonviolent direct action to push toward nuclear abolition – and about how we can curb the rise of corporate/military Artificial Intelligence systems that are rapidly automating global conflict and the command of nuclear arsenals.
This educational, fundraising event is a call to action and is free to the public
Donations to the Golden Rule Project 2019 sailing season are appreciated
Film screening event in Bellingham
Wednesday February 20
The Alternative Library (Karate Church) 519 E Maple Street, Bellingham
This VFP – Golden Rule Project event is Sponsored by:
Veterans For Peace – CPL Jonathan J. Santos Memorial Chapter #111
Whatcom Peace & Justice Center
Bellingham Film Coalition
The Golden Rule Project is preparing for an epic voyage around the Pacific – to Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, Guam, Okinawa, Korea, Japan and more. The spring 2019 crossing to Hawaii will take about a month.
The Pacific voyage will bring attention to the ongoing effects of nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific, and to the environmental and human impacts of hundreds of military bases in the Pacific Islands. The team plans to be in Japan in August 2020 for the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then sail back to California in the spring and summer of 2021.
With tensions so high between nuclear armed nations, it is more important than ever to bring a message of peace into the Pacific. “The possibility of nuclear war today is all too real,” says Gerry Condon of Veterans For Peace. “It is time to abolish nuclear weapons once and for all. The U.S. can show leadership by being the first nuclear power to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
Come learn about what you can do to support the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Press interviews encouraged!
Registered voters can go to https://weiapplets.sos.wa.gov/MyVote to see a list of their elected officials at every level of government. (If you are eligible to vote but not registered, or need to update your address, do so via the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office: https://www.whatcomcounty.us/1832/Register-to-Vote.)
State government representatives
In addition to statewide elected positions like governor and secretary of state, residents of Washington are represented in the state legislature by three people from their district: one senator who is elected for a four-year term, and two representatives who are elected for two-year terms.
Whatcom County residents are part of either the 40th or 42nd legislative districts.
Representative Debra Lekanoff (D)
422 John L. O'Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504
Email (1000-character limit): https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/memberEmail/40/1
Representative Jeff Morris (D)
436A Legislative Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504
Email (1000-character limit): https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/memberEmail/40/2
Senator Doug Ericksen (R)
414 Legislative Building
PO Box 40442
Olympia, WA 98504
Email (1000-character limit): https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/memberEmail/42/0
Representative Sharon Shewmake (D)
310 John L. O'Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504
Email (1000-character limit): https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/memberEmail/42/2
Representative Luanne Van Werven (R)
419 John L. O'Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504
Email (1000-character limit): https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/memberEmail/42/1
Here are some suggestions on how to contact your state legislators.
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