Engaging military womyn on the land of love and peace
This conversation started very unintentionally. I was doing my 4 hour workshift in the kitchen, weeping behind the cutting of onions. Two of the white womyn also working at the table cutting onions told me they were from Madison, Wisconsin.
I was delighted as I am heading for a 90 mile 8 day walk from the Dane County jail in Madison to the Volk Air Guard military base in order to connect police violence with military violence. Volk is suddenly operating drones, as are 150 other u.s.ofa. bases now - compared to two bases in 2009.
Madison has like a 6% Black population, yet 50% of those imprisoned are Black, and Black people are 10 times more likely to be picked up and arrested than whites in this 'progressive' mid-western city.
I am really excited to see this portion of the anti-war movement connecting in this way: the military violence against brown and muslim people around the world with the police-prison industrial complex violence against Black people and with Black Lives Matter.
My heart did a little skip when the tall, white womon chopping next to me, lowers her head and asks me to name one thing wrong with the drones.
I look more closely at her tall, rigid - altho she continues casually chopping onions - self, verifying her seriousness before deciding to answer her query.
I tell her everything is wrong with drones, so many things but perhaps most egregious is the way in which the military contractors are selling the concept of drones to congress & the people: exploiting underlying belief that u.s. of a. lives are so very much more important and valuable than everyone else's lives, especially those brown, Arab, and/or Muslim people 7000 miles across the earth.
She listened, still bent over onions waiting patiently for my voice to stop, then began reciting earnestly about how, when a (u.s.ofa.) soldier is in the field, drones can fly ahead, site the target and eliminate...I interrupt her as she finishes "without risk to u.s. life".
Normally, I like to hear what folks have to say, without interrupting, unless they're going on and on or using racist/sexist language but I had to disrupt her calm, matter-of-fact monologue not least because I felt like I was going to cover the chopped onions with puke all over the kitchen table.
I couldn't believe she was talking about human beings this way, probably word-for-word from the military shoot-'em-up kill-'em manual, her only expression one of patient condescension.
I should have dropped my knife, grabbed her sleeve, made her look me in the eye, and cried out " TARGET: that's my MOTHER you're talking about" or my brother, my daughter, my father, etc. You know how you think of how much better you could have responded to someone after the fact.
I didn't say that but I did ask her to please stop talking about human beings this way, she was making me sick.
She then owned up to being active duty "intelligence" (more like brainwashed, but I didn't challenge her directly on this) officer - sworn to secrecy no less. I wish she would have been more secretive. She told me she had been in the military 15 years & was actually studying arabic when 9/11 happened.
Thankfully, her friend also from Madison who was still chopping onions across from us, spoke up and strongly echoed how sickened she felt also when she heard her friend talking about human beings as 'targets' and 'eliminating' them.
I asked her to consider becoming a conscientious objector, standing up to the violence we're doing overseas. She shifted quietly, but otherwise pretended I hadn't spoken.
Several womyn at our table had already split for a break when this conversation began but another white womon from our team came back in time to hear this soldier talk about 'intelligence' and 'afganistan'.
She then began to speak about u.s. military womyn and rape in Afghanistan. I thought we were on safer more common ground, for I know womyn in the military are 2-3 times more likely to be attacked and raped than their civilian peers. But that ground quickly vanished with her next words "rape is a problem, and I would never blame womyn, don't think I'm doing that, but... it is true that many womyn bring it on themselves".
At that point I had to noisily throw down my knife and stomp out of there quickly, especially as the womon who was her new captive audience was nodding enthusiastically & slipped smoothly into my former place next to the soldier to hang onto her every word, increasing my nausea. I tried hard to block out her words "tease", and "limited numbers of u.s. females", and "they change their minds after leading these lonely, desperate male soldiers on...."
Later that evening, a young Black womon stopped me, after reading the back of my shirt which says "disarm military, police, all men". She confessed that she was active duty military, working at the airport in baggage, directing coffins of soldiers from the Middle East and Afghanistan.
We had a very long conversation - it was also her third "tour of duty" but not deliberately as she was a reservist called back up, a practice the military was forced to do during the invasion of Iraq in order to meet the necessary quota. She hadn't intended to be in the military for so long but she didn't think she had any choice but to obey this call up.
She hadn't really - she signed up for 4 years but the small print says they own her for 8 years and then they re-upped her for another tour - now she's been in for 12 and has to decide next month if she'll re-up yet again.
I told her about Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against War. I challenged all the reasons she had for joining up: protecting our country, NO - but protecting our corporations rights to exploit other people. Freeing the people of Iraq: no, murdering over 1 million people in Iraq, displacing and destroying over 5 million. Protecting our country from terrorists: no, creating terrorists - there was never a "suicide bombing" until the occupation of a country by foreign i.e. u.s.ofa. troops.
She claims no one every talked with her this way. She was going to google to see if I was telling her the truth.
When she talked about "defending our soldiers in these countries" because terrorists attacked them there, I asked her what if I came into her house with a gun and the intention to take it over, did she think she had the right to shoot me?
She claims she never thought of our troops invading other countries the same way she would someone invading her home. Dah!
I asked her if she thought we should accept or at least tolerate the military of other nations having bases here on our land. She looked startled, pivoting her head around as if looking for those 'enemies', and asked me if there were such bases here - something else she might not know about.
I told her about our 1000 bases (that we know about) around the world in 150 countries. Again, she said she had no idea we had such a huge military presence around the world.
I told her of our 400 years in existence as a u.s. of a. nation, we've been at war against someone for 383 years - only 17 years we've not been attacking or occupying someone's land.
She hugged me several times, promising to think about what I'd told her, promising to google Vets for Peace and IVAW. She even promised to consider becoming a conscientious objector!
What a difference in these two encounters with active duty soldiers.