First watch this amazing Flash preview of Sir, No Sir!
The amazing story of GI resistance to the Vietnam War that you can send by link to friends and family getting preyed on by military recruiters.
Now indulge a personal tangent: By 16 I'd dropped out of school and was casting around 1980s Chicago. Marginally employed, surly, a little macho, prone to vice and mad at the world in a loving way, I was like so many kids looking for a way to get my act together.
Even though the florescent-light distopia of secondary education wasn't for me [my school building looked exactly like the local juvie hall in a Borg-cube kind of way], I loved to read and hungered to understand the ways of the world. I wanted to go to college, but every school of interest cost more money in tuition than my father made a year. I didn't want to go to a "13th Grade" college. I wanted to learn, not just to earn.
The Cold War was wrapping up in the late 80s. For the first time in my life, war didn't seem imminent. Even though I had no love for the government and made the most of my young rebel years, I actively considered joining the Marine Corps. The week after participating in a militant break-away march to disrupt the main recruiting depot in downtown Chicago because of interventions in Central America, where a bad-ass nun handed the youth red paint in styrofoam cups to douse the station with, I discretely snuck back to meet with a friendly recruiter on my own time.
In my mind, the GI Bill was no joke.
My grandfather served in the Navy in WW2 to get out of a jail term related to a hotel robbery -- and it taught him aircraft mechanics, gave him VA benefits until his death and helped him get a home. He went on to work at Boeing and raised three children while supporting his wife on one income. He did learn a real skill, and without a high-school diploma became an engineer overseeing men with PhDs. But that was then. The USA won that war and was building a "stable, middle class" out of the hard scrabble of the American working class.
This is now, or in my tangent the "now" of 1989.
I went to my mother for advice, as I often did. She was tender and tough, and never made me feel stupid even for my most outlandish ideas... like joining the Marines. She knew she couldn't pay for college anymore than she could pay her own medical bills. Figuring out that I, being the little macho shit I was, had trouble taking her wisdom at face value, she mentioned the situation to a friend of hers (I think) who had served as an officer in the Air Force during the Vietnam era.
He told me his story, which ended with a significant act of GI Resistance in solidarity with the people of Vietnam. He told me that I didn't need to fear death from Charlie in the American army, but that I should fear what I would become. That I needed to fear becoming a killer, dull to the horror of napalm death, efficient. Marines are killers with the wrong generals.
He warned me that with my smarty-pants ass, they would smell my spirit -- and break it or break me to set an example for the rest of the grunts. Later I saw Full Metal Jacket and got a taste of what he was talking about.
When he, along with some comrades and a renegade chaplain took a stand inside the service, he as sent to a military mental asylum and drugged up on Thorazine, a chemical straight-jacket. He woke up days or weeks later and thought, "they are going to drive me insane." He didn't know what day it was, or what week. But he did know he wasn't crazy. He had finally found his lost mind.
That same soldier to whom I owe a real, personal debt, was among the many interviewed in Sir, No Sir!, the must-see movie recently released about the unsung heroes of the Vietnam War: the men who refused orders, and learned that righteous allegiance has little to do with a flag and country.
I want to thank that officer for saving me from my own confused dreams of manhood and "getting it together." I want to thank him for one afternoon, almost 20 years ago when he saved my life, or at least my free spirit. I want to thank him for the people I never killed, the years I never lost.
A couple of years later, two months after I turned 18 and would have been inducted, the USA launched its "New World Order" in the first Gulf War. I likely would have been sent fresh out of bootcamp.
Help spread the word about Sir, No Sir! Tell your friends, put on showings at your school, donate money to distribute free copies to active duty GIs. Find a theater near you.
We can win this war for the hearts and minds of a generation. This is a mercenary army, cyncial to the bone and increasingly pissed off with the stop-loss orders and eating sand in the desert. The soldiers know the lie of "democracy" better than anyone.