The conversation went something like this: Jim didn't have money for college. No problem; the Army would provide up to $70,000, plus other expenses. Jim didn't think he'd like being ordered around so much. No problem; his Army aptitude score would quickly put him in a position of authority.
At the end of his pitch, the recruiter turned to Clay, who wasted no time in laying out his opposition to the occupation of Iraq. The recruiter leaned in close and said softly, "You obviously don't know what kind of world it is out there, man. Have you ever read Revelation?"
Clay must've given him a blank stare. "From the New Testament?" the recruiter said.
Clay didn't recall it from Sunday school. "Read it. You'll change your mind."
When I began writing this commentary, more than a week ago, my intention was to remind all parents of high school seniors that Oct. 1 is the deadline for turning in the paperwork that allows respective districts to deny military recruiters access to the name, address and telephone number of their child. Prior to this school year, most TUSD parents--myself included--didn't even know that No Child Left Behind legislation forced schools to open the doors to aggressive military recruitment. But as I watched people's homes and loved ones, jobs and hopes float past me on the screen in the endless coverage of suffering from New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta, I found myself veering towards the bigger picture: the costly militarization of America. And I couldn't get that recruiter's biblical allusion out of my head.
At the time, I told my son the Book of Revelation was only an allegory. But he sensed deeper danger. Ever since Sept. 11, the powers that be have adopted this Armageddon mentality as public policy. Under the Bush administration, the "unthinkable" is back on the table in every aspect of public life. The idea of a common good has been cleaved by a clan of politicians obsessed with defeating evil--aka anyone who doesn't agree with them 100 percent.
How the president prays at night is none of my concern, but when he daily chooses who the devil is and gets away with murder in our country's name, his fundamentalism must be all of our concern.
Perhaps I'm numb from watching corpses eddy through an inundated New Orleans, but I see a direct relationship between the article I was supposed to write and the botched federal rescue efforts in the Big Easy. As of August 2005, the Armageddon policy of the Bush administration has fundamentally changed the face of the country by changing federal priorities: $300 billion spent fighting a war based on false premises; creation of a $333 billion deficit; cutting health care for 53 million Americans; childhood poverty up 13 percent; $15 billion worth of cuts to schools in the coming year; corporations rewarded for sending jobs overseas and polluting air and water here; federal college loans slashed; and on and on, until we get to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which took drastic budget hits in order to pump up Homeland Security.
Here, the neocon rhetoric is finally breached, and truth is flooding down: This is no way to run a democracy.
As Americans, we are blessed with choices which are not limited to the ballot box. Parents of high school seniors can opt their kids out of military recruitment, as well as lobby to have the NCLB law changed so that parents must opt in to military recruitment. All of us can get out on Sept. 24 (a day of national protest) and demand an end to the occupation of Iraq. Anyone can call Congress on the gutting of national infrastructure and the covert War on the Poor.
We can prove that sergeant wrong, and recruit a new era of hope. Or we can sit back and let Revelation run its course.