BRANDYWINE PEACE COMMUNITY - P.O. Box 81, Swarthmore, PA, 19081--(610)544-1818
March 20, 2010 Vigil to Mark the 7th Anniversary of the Start of the War in Iraq and to Close the Army Experience Center at the Franklin Mills Mall in Phila.
See the video by Rich Conti here
Read the story By John Grant below. (Photos are also by John Grant.)
Marchers head to the AEC; at right, Peter Lems, left, and Rev. Bob Moore pass Dave And Busters
Tom Mullian sings a peace tune and a woman's sign sums the issue up well
Brandywine's Bob Smith says some final words, and, right, the "Tactical Operations Center" honoring Women's History Month
A nice spring day at the Army Experience Center
About 40 people took a few hours of their day on Saturday, March 20th -- the eighth anniversary of the "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad -- to drop in on the Army Experience Center, located next to Dave And Busters fun emporium in the Franklin Mills Mall. The Philadelphia Police Department Civil Affairs squad was out in force, but everything was cordial and there were no arrests. The AEC was closed to visitors because, as I was told by an AEC officer before hand, there was "a special event for future soldiers." I looked but did not see anyone who fit that criteria inside the $13 million center that utilizes an array of state-of-the-art computer games and shooting simulators with human targets to sell kids as young as 13-years-old on the Army Brand. What the Center does is sell Militarism the same way Disney sells distraction and fantasy. It is noteworthy that counter-insurgency theorists like Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal emphasize how important it is in counter-insurgency warfare to control a culture's "grand narrative." In traditional cultures this involves myth and stories that tell a people who they are and how they fit into the world. In a consumer culture, the grand or master narrative includes aggressive brand marketing like that pumped into kid's brains at the AEC. These days, there is so much pro-militarism messaging going on a kid really doesn't have a chance.
Before the march to the AEC, Iraq veteran Jesse Hamilton spoke to marchers at the Sunoco station at Knight and Woodhaven Roads. He told the group that he had experienced combat in Iraq and the loss of good friends from war violence, and that what the AEC was teaching kids had nothing to do with real "experience" in war. The "experience" in ARMY EXPERIENCE CENTER amounts to games that may jack up a kid's hormones and excitement level, but it tells him or her nothing about what to expect one the contract is signed and the kid is looking at deployment.
It was an incredibly beautiful Spring day, and the stroll to the mall was pleasant with lots of enthusiastic shouts of "Close the AEC" and "War Is Not A Game!" It was good to see old friends in what is becoming a small community of Americans willing to take some time to register how troubling places like the AEC are in today's militarized culture. Of our two hot wars, one is in full occupation mode and the other is in full escalation mode. Our leaders seem to have no clue how to respond to problems other than by the use of military threat or force. It is sucking the nation dry of resources that could be used to re-invest in jobs, infrastructure, education, alternative energy and a long list of neglected things.
Basically, it was 40 Americans calling for a cultural mix that focuses more on life, less on death -- or as Chris Hedges sketches it out using the old Greek terms in War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, a culture with more eros and less thanatos. John Grant
No one ruminates on this theme better than Walt Whitman. This is from "By Blue Ontario's Shore":
Oh I see flashing that this America is only you and me,
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me,
Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, are you and me.
The war, (that war so bloody and grim, the war I will henceforth forget), was you and me,
Natural and artificial are you and me,
Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you and me,
Past, present, future, are you and me.
I now know why the earth is gross, tantalizing, wicked, it is for my sake,
I take you specially to be mine, you terrible, rude forms.
(Mother, bend down, bend close to me your face,
I know not what these plots and wars and deferments are for,
I know not fruition's success, but I know that through war and crime
your work goes on, and must yet go on.)
Links to other AEC resources: