While the Social Democrats USA does not have a position regarding the quality of the Obama Administration’s performance in regard to ongoing war in Syria, I do. I believe that the administration’s commitment not to intervene under any circumstances is morally bankrupted.
Enclosed is a link to “Syria Is Not Iraq” an article published in the Atlantic Magazine by Shadi Hamid, the director of research, for the Brookings Institute Doha Center. The article explains extremely well some of the reasons why I believe what I do about this subject.
“Syria is Not Iraq” link – http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/02/syria-is-not-iraq/272815/
On April 4, 2013 the National Committee of the Social Democrats USA passed the following resolution in support of marriage equality, to strengthen its general support of the human rights of LGBT people.
Resolution on Marriage Equality
Social Democrats USA seeks to build a society that affirms the worth and dignity of every human being. We pursue the values of freedom, social justice and human solidarity not only for the distant future but in our immediate and current activities. The many forms of oppression experienced by LGBT people offend the values that we cherish; we support efforts to end all forms of that oppression and to include LGBT people in all aspects of our society, including marriage.
Steve Weiner a current member of the National Committee of the Social Democrats USA was a 15 year old high school student in 1966 and a member of the famous “Students for a Democratic Society” At that time he wrote an article called “Teenagers and Social Reform” which was a sophisticated analysis of SDS prospects for organizing high school students to be participants within the radical movement of the 60′s. The article was published in the “Students for a Democratic Society Regional Newsletter” of February 1966. Its link is http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt1c6001bd&brand=calisphere&doc.view=entire_te xt It is extremely interesting to compare the realistic picture of high school political life that Steve presented in 1966 to that of the present. Enclosed is the article.
Much has been written and debated about the social-awareness of adolescents. Much attention has been given to the social and political aspects of teenage subculture, notably rock and roll. As a high school freshman, I would now like to speak.
To begin with, let me define my terms. In my view, a teenager is a high school (or, in some cases, a junior high school) student. Most teen-agers take some part in “teen-age activities” —rock ‘n roll, dancing, etc.
From my own experience, let me say that from what I have seen, a large-scale, adolescent “protest movement” is non-existent. The number of teen-agers like myself taking part in various radical activities is a very small minority. And bear in mind that my own experience is based largely on the Bay Area, a center of leftist activity. This is rather depressing, for if so few teen-agers are in the movement near Berkeley, imagine what the situation must be like in, say, Kansas.
Why is the Movement to change America such a flop at nearly all American high schools? Well, of course, many teen-agers are probably too apolitical to care. Right, left, Eisenhower, Mao, McCarthy—it’s all the same, just “politics”. Most of my schoolmates come from solid, middle-class, conservative families. If they have any political convictions at all, they are rightist. They have not felt any sense of urgency concerning politics. It is hard for them to comprehend nuclear war, racial injustice, hard luck. Life has fed them well. Why should they be radical? And I, myself, can’t really blame them. It is hard for me, too, to realize that Orinda is totally unlike the rest of the world. We are sheltered, we are blinded. What can we do? And how can you tell the son of a Standard Oil executive to hate big business? How can he reject his food? He is not a Vietnamese peasant; he can’t hate the war. How can John Doe, Jr. be changed?
First, he can be taught. He can realise the extent of the misery of the world’s masses. He can learn that it is more than an empty cliche to say “Money isn’t everything”, nor is social status. He must learn that non-violence and love are not beatnik, Commie, or fairy ideals. The question is, are the schools teaching him this? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Recently, in my history class, we held a discussion on non-violent demonstrations. Most of the class did not participate, and of the members who did, the majority felt that most of the members of the New Left are beatniks, Communists, or both. I was surprized when a slight majority of the class felt that non-violent demonstrations would be legal. However, most of them would not participate—it would “embarrass” them. They would feel like “jerks”.
But what of the politically aware, intellectual students? What influence do they have. Well, many politically active students are rightist. They are a potent force which we must reckon with. However, the sad fact is that the Right-Left battle excite very little interest among 75 per cent of the students. The right-left debate has no audience. We are dueling with one another upon the stage, but the seats are empty. It is almost a pathetic spectable, nearly tragic. Yet, perhaps all the effort is worthwhile, for occasionally students begin to question, to wonder.And then we must try to reach them. And sometimes we may succeed.
In the preceding paragraphs I have outlined rather vaguely the different types of teen-agers involved in our efforts I would now like to analyse briefly the teen-age subculture, and its relevance to our struggle. To begin with, rock ‘n roll: in late summer, last year, there was a craze for protest songs. Barry Mc Guire’s song “Eve of Destruction” reached number one proportions in certain areas of the country. Bob Dylan was a star, so were Sunny and Cher. The Rolling Stones, very radical (however, apolitical) were extremely popular. And the Beatles. However, the fact is that this appeared to be just another teen-age craze. Protest is no longer “in”, nor is Dylan, and Sonny and Cher are “out”. The Rolling Stones and the Beatles, who do no political protest, really are still popular. Of course, the tide could turn and protect could be revived again. One should not exaggerate the significance of this; it appears to have been largely just another fad. However, I heel that the mere fact that these singers were popular at one time suggests that occasionally, we are stirred, something happens, we scream.
Teen-agers naturally revolt. They desire independence. This is the time to question parents’ values. But I do not believe that kids must be taught to despise their parents because their parents are part of the Establishment. Let us not turn our movement into one of hate for the middle class children, as men like Le Roi Jones would have us do. Let children love their parents, even if they reflect their society. This is a very important point. Non-violence must be kept wherever and whenever it can. Let’s change society, not hate its victims. This is a strong plea for the teen-ager who feels baffled by it all—politics, sociology, war, morality. Let’s hurt as few people as possible, including the teen-ager. He has a hard enough time as it is.
Now I would like to offer a basic program for getting to the adolescent, helping him question his parents and their values, without hatred.
We must communicate, first of all. As everyone knows, radicals have had a very bad habit of isol ting themselves from the masses. This is particularly true of teen-agers. The teen-ager is not yet an adult, and cannot communicate with adults on a wholly adult level, and yet, we cannot be talked down to like children. It’s a difficult situation. This is the time when teen-agers would be taught to question parents’ values, to develop some of their own principles. But we are not yet mature enough emotionally to become crusaders. We cannot afford to be arrested, we can’t handle the full moral burden of civil disobedience. Adolescence is essentially a time for learning, not action. The question is, what methods of education do we employ to reach adolescents?
To begin with, the schools are not really doing an adequate job. In school, you work for the grades to get into college, you don’t work to learn for personal satisfaction. The emphasis is still on career training. This is especially wrong, for as we all know, work is going to become less and less important in the future. In the school, the atmosphere is generally deadly dull. Some classes, some teachers are intellectually exciting, but they are exceptions. All of this is really well-known, especially to teen-agers and the New Left. So my question is, isn’t it possible to set up outside-school discussion groups, such as is being done at the college level? However, the point to hear in mind is that teen-agers are not as mature, emotionally or intellectually, as college students. Has this been overlooked? Perhaps SDS members could come and talk to school kids, using the Socratic method. How many kids would respond? I don’t know. Probably a minority, but possibly a very sizable minority. Of course, many would, if the discussions would relate to their everyday problems: sex, parental authority, fear of the future. If this method were undertaken, many teen-agers would open up and respond. Many churches are currently using this informal discussion method but I don’t know how much succes s this has been having.
Since rock ‘n’ roll is such a popular teenage recreation, SDS could sponsor more dances than it does now, and not just for fund-raising for a cause. The dances should not be held at the Longshoreman’s Hall or in San Francisco exclusively, but should be held all around the Bay Area in various neighborhood and suburban dance-halls, auditoriums, etc. These should be for the purpose of having fun, not for promoting causes. Blow mind!
Now I would like to discuss some ways in which I feel that the movement is failing. In the first place, many socially aware teens are making asses out of themselves. I think that wearing offbeat clothes, Ben Franklin specs, and withdrawing into a snotty “hip teen” cult of pot, SNCC, and L.S.)., is a very grave mistake. Teenagers naturally conform a great deal; middle class teens especially. To be different for the sake (it appears) of shock value, is self-destructive. The average teen with middle class hopes and values will despise you if you do this. We can’t alienate ourselves. The most common charge against us is that we are beatniks, Commies. We cannot afford to let our enemies continue to spread this lie. The stakes are too high for playing games. The future of America, and the existence of life on this planet depends on our success in reaching the young—particularly teenagers—who are still forming their ligelong values, whereas in many college students, they have already been formed. If teenagers learn new, humanistic, tolerant values; the course of human history will be changed. Therefore, it is important that those of us with different values be friendly with our more conventional schoolmates and let some of our values rub off of them, and some of their values rub off on us. We can learn from them too.
— Steve Weiner
The Pentagon announced last week that it would rescind the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule for women as a huge first step towards removing other barriers to service for women in the military. This move opens up thousands of jobs across all branches of service that had previously been closed to women. The decision will increase the pools of available personnel to fill positions, thus lessening the overall levels of stress brought on by multiple deployments, at all levels of the military hierarchy and will give female troops a greater amount of experience from which to draw as they transition into leadership positions.
Rules that have kept women out of combat roles have become more and more obsolete in the past decade. Gone are the days of linear warfare, clearly defined front lines and the concept of a rear echelon. The asymmetrical environments of Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to be the most common operating environments in which the United States finds itself as we gird ourselves for the possibility of future involvement in the Middle East and Africa. In these combat situations the lines between front and rear echelons are blurred. The old Marine Corps adage that every Marine is a rifleman first has ceased to pertain solely to the USMC. I experienced it myself as a Forward Observer in Iraq in 2004; no matter what your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was, you trained to kick in doors and perform Infantry tasks. Everybody trained to fight on the front lines, because the front lines were everywhere. Thus far in Iraq and Afghanistan, 144 female troops have been killed and another 853 have been wounded.
This development has not been without it criticisms. I have talked to some veterans and soldiers who worry that this will lead to a lowering of standards or separate standards for male and female troops, as is the case with physical fitness. However, it must be remembered that separate standards exist with regards to physical fitness because of the physiological differences between men and women. Men are, on average, stronger and faster than their female counterparts; it’s just the way that nature happened. Qualifications for one or another MOS or job position, however, cannot be subject to such gender delineation because they are dependent upon combat readiness. If the soldier cannot perform to the standards that allow him or her, and by extension the unit, to be combat ready he or she is not fit for that position and will be removed. This is exactly how it is in Canada, which opened up combat roles for women in 1987 and still has no women serving in its elite anti-terrorism unit because none have thus far been able to meet the challenges of the job (though I have no doubt that will not remain the case forever).
Of course there is also the argument that this move will increase instances of sexual assault within a military that has already seen a sharp increase in such cases over the last couple of years. This trend is truly despicable and every effort must be made to combat it. But this is a cultural problem within the military and can only be addressed by engaging it in a proactive manner, not by denying female troops equal opportunity for their own good. I submit that we cannot oppress a class of citizen in this country under guise of protecting them. This was the same argument that was trotted out all too often during the civil rights movement, that segregation was necessary to keep blacks safe. It was an ugly lie then, and it remains one today.
As a veteran I am proud to see the US military taking a step in the right direction, just as I was upon the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I look forward to a time when the thought of such discrimination against the men and women who serve our country is considered backwards and archaic. I hope that time is soon at hand. But until that day and, forever more, I will stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in arms.