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Sometimes in life it is important to stop and take time out to reflect on lessons recently learned before moving on. This was one of those times.
Ten Lessons Learned
The recent Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) conference at Marquette University affirmed for me that the militarization of our educational system is at the heart of our American society. How we deal with this issue can determine if, like the great military power of the Roman Empire, we become morally corrupt and fall or if we will start a new American revolution, this one with the weapons of nonviolence and sustainability. Here are some lessons learned from this conference.
- There was strong support from around the country for our message to the host school, Marquette To Be Faithful to the Gospel and No Longer Host the Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force on campus.
- Persons living the lifestyle of nonviolence, especially Catholic Workers, were supportive and understanding.
- Making a fool of yourself like I did in the introductory event by standing with a sign on front and back when my name was called for special recognition is not so difficult when your message is well received. The sign on my front read: “Marquette University Hosts PJSA for 3 days on campus;” the sign on my back read: “Marquette Hosts the Army, Navy/Marines & Air Force 365 days a year on campus.”
- Our sign outside the theater for Sister Helen Prejean’s speech saying: “MU Teach War No More” said more than our flyer to those entering the theater.
- When our message is ignored and rejected in our home university, Marquette, it is nice to have it accepted by persons from universities and colleges around the country.
- I learned from three woman professors from Northeastern Illinois University how they successfully defeated that school’s intentions of hosting a ROTC program on campus by pointing out how incompatible the military regulations, curriculum and teaching were with the standards of the university. They did this without using the moral argument we favor but by using the school’s and the army’s own regulations and codes. Also this group pointed out the discrimination toward gays and the problems with treatment of women that are inherent in the present military.
- A lawyer from this school pointed out the part of the Solomon Amendment requiring schools to offer ROTC programs was unconstitutional on first amendment grounds and may be, in her legal opinion, overturned by the courts in a few years. Freedom of speech gives the college and university rights to create standards and values that need to be upheld in the school.
- The movie Soldiers of Conscience graphically displayed how the teachings in military department classes on campuses like “reflexive training,” killing without thought, were contrary to everything taught in colleges and universities about conscience.
- I learned the growing strength of the high school military programs for recruiting and training, JROTC, and of the outreach the Department of Defense was doing in grade schools with its Starbase program to prepare youth for military service.
- Finally it was brought home to me how closely allied in spirit was Dorothy Day and Mahatma Gandhi. Both believed in the “Little Way” as Dorothy called it, doing little things in an extraordinary way and not looking to government or others for revolution but to the power of God within.