The Billings Outpost

Minister decries spread of U.S. militarism

By JANE WHITE - The Billings Outpost

Eleven people saw jarring images of the atomic bomb hurtling through the air toward Hiroshima in a video shown at a lecture organized by Will Crain of the Peace and Justice Forum last Friday night.

The Rev. Sam Smith, a traveling pastor for Fellowship of Reconciliation Chicago, addressed the rapt audience, composed mostly of Billings Unitarian Universalist Fellowship members.

He said that the military industrial complex, via its recruiters, improperly influences youth, and he played commercials that he said depicted military life as glamorous in order to attract naïve young people to enlist in the armed forces.

Finally, he showed photos of the “Baby Marines,” boys about age 6-8 years old dressed in camouflage and marching in formation, and said that the myth of redemptive violence (e.g., might vs. right) must end.

Although Mr. Smith presented the lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, his presentation was not associated with the well-known Wednesday Evening Community Lecture Series.

Mr. Smith showed other materials that he says trick young people into thinking they are invincible once they put on a military uniform. For example, to demonstrate that military recruiters give today’s youth a sanitized version of military life, he pointed to “An Army of One,” a commercial accompanied by breathtaking classical music and words that promise, “There is no one on this green earth stronger than a U.S. soldier.”

Smith pleaded for listeners to pay attention to youths, who people in the audience said get advice from their high schools that military enlistment is a more viable career path than less risky, more conventional careers.

Statistics about the dangers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the consequential increased likelihood of suicide, exposure to chemical and biological warfare germs and poisons, vaccines soldiers receive, physical disfigurement and other serious permanent injuries are conspicuously absent from the discussion.

Ms. Farnum said the Hiroshima video shocked her. “The thing that comes to mind readily are the views of Hiroshima,” she said. “I don’t think people in the United States have ever come to terms with the fact that we did so much damage with the atom bomb.

“The effect was so much greater than that … the nuclear fallout … the cancer, radiation sickness that followed. The bomb detonated in the sky - not on land – it was like a dust cloud and it went every place.”

Interspersed between flashing images of the bomb’s long journey to earth were shots of a 5-year-old Japanese boy with straight black hair and dressed in a tiny blue blazer, white shirt and striped tie, cringing and covering eyes with his hands.

Violence is inherent in our culture, said Ms. Farnum. “The childhood game, cowboys and Indians … we have John Wayne, we think we can engage in violence for the right reason.”

But Mr. Smith aims to destroy what he called the myth of redemptive violence. The main campaign Mr. Smith encouraged is entitled, “I will not kill,” an initiative created at his Chicago FOR chapter.

In the campaign, students from that fellowship and DePaul University’s peace studies department pledge that they will resist recruitment into the military and encourage other young people to do the same.

Dressed in a black T-shirt, on which was written in both white English and Arabic letters, “I want peace,” Mr. Smith said his back pain and his exhaustion from driving all the way from Chicago, stopping at various locations to publicize the “I will not kill” message, prevented him from standing up to deliver his presentation.

Why is he taking a position staunchly opposed to militarism? “There is a peace component to all theology,” he said. “I just could not see Jesus in a rice paddy with an AK-47 … . I want to teach kids that to join the military is to join a killing machine.”

Will Crain agreed. He said, “Every kid that I get not to join the military, I tell them to join the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, some kind of peace organization.”

The Peace and Justice Forum’s next event is at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 3 at the Frank Little Memorial in Butte.

At the park, peace-minded individuals plan to sing songs, deliver impromptu speeches and otherwise commemorate the accomplishments of the lynched worker and the Industrial Workers of the World, of which Mr. Little was a member.


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