Thursday, December 25, 2008

Letters To Heroes

I was astonished at the sentiments expressed by Mike Root, Angela Bishop and their fifth grade students as related in Callie White’s article in the Aberdeen Daily World, “Harbor Kids Remember Our Soldiers Serving Overseas,” that appeared on Christmas day.

Ms. White characterizes as “overreaching” one student’s fear of being shot on the way to school if U.S. troops were not occupying countries around the world. Ms. Bishop singled out for approval a fifth grade student’s letter that claimed U. S. soldiers are “making a ‘path of peace’ for generations to come. You are out on the battle field fighting for independence of the present and future.” Mr. Root asks, “what better way to cheer a soldier up than with a pack of fan letters from his class. . . .”

Let me take Mr. Root’s comment first. What better way? One thing that occurs to me would be for thousands of citizens in our community to take to the streets, with their children and their children’s teachers, marching, demonstrating, demanding that the U. S. government withdraw all U.S. troops from more than 750 bases in more than 125 countries around the world. Thousands of citizens marching on Washington, D. C. demanding the end to the U. S. empire and the restoration of our republic. Thousands of citizens demanding that government look to the general welfare rather than the welfare of generals.

Where did Ms. Bishop’s students learn that the invasion of another country in a preventive war, a war crime, means that U. S. soldiers are making a “path of peace” and “fighting for independence?” In her class, by writing letters to “heroes?” Peace for whom; independence for whom; at what cost? This is a fantasy land and a disservice to the young people who will one day be called upon to take the place of those occupation forces - - called upon by recruiters in their schools, urged on by teachers who filled them with propaganda about the heroic actions of U. S. troops overseas.

U. S. soldiers are not fighting for liberty; they are occupying countries that the United States invaded. Heroes? Our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 150,000 mercenaries who supplement them, are being used as imperial storm troopers, as occupation forces. Torture. Indiscriminate killing. Secret prisons. Extraordinary renditions. The compliance of citizens in these grotesque actions has been extracted through fear. Of course the “overreaching” student reflects the propaganda being fed to all of us - - we are fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here.

What better way, Mr. Root? How about teaching students the difference between a republic and an empire? How about teaching students that no republic in history has lasted more than 300 years - - that they have been destroyed as they degenerated into empires? Instead of “a pack of fan letters,” how about teaching them to write letters about their inheritance being squandered by the imperial dreams (nightmares?) of their leaders?


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At 7:07 PM, Blogger Stash said...


Mike Root responded to your letter:

Teacher responds to letter writer’s criticism

I feel compelled to answer the attacks leveled by Gary Murrell in regard to the acts of kindness exhibited by the students of An­gela Bishop and myself.

A main goal I have had in over 32 years of teaching is to let the students know my commitment to them is lifelong, not just the nine months they are in my fifth grade classroom. I was honored to have a former student approach me about cheering up a friend serv­ing in Iraq who was lonely, scared and away from his family during the holidays.

I was pleased to help and saw it as an opportunity to talk to my students about doing something to raise the spirits of another — a chance to exhibit empathy, kind­ness and appreciation for another human being.

I wish Mr. Murrell could have been in my classroom to see how proud the students were as they poured their feelings into let­ters and Christmas cards that would bring some happiness to someone serving our country. It is sad to say however, that I feel Mr. Murrell’s political agenda has robbed him of the ability to see kindness as the motive behind our efforts.

As an educator, I feel it is im­portant not to force my own politi­cal views on my students, but to give them a chance to discuss all current events in a non-threaten­ing atmosphere where everyone is free to express their own point of view. We do this on a daily basis and our military efforts and goals have been discussed often.

I will not debate Mr. Murrell about the reasons our soldiers are in Iraq and Afghanistan. He may be surprised to find out how much we agree. However, judg­ing by the tone of his letter and others he has written to The Daily World, when it comes to teaching students about showing empa­thy, feelings for others, kindness and giving of themselves, I will proudly stand on the other side of the fence.

Mike Root


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