I would like to make just a few simple comments about the Marine Corps recruiting office stand-off. First, the U.S. Marine Corps is a military organization with a long history, dating back nearly to the time of the Continental Army. The Marine Corps has been involved in all of the nation’s conflicts since the revolution. The Marine Corps has a proud record of fighting with dignity that compares favorably to any other military organization in the world. It is an all volunteer force that draws its officers and men from across America and responds and is directed by the elected government of the United States. In other words, the Marine Corps is America and America is the Marine Corps.
It seems to me that the Marines represent many of the finest qualities that we hope to instill in our young people, qualities that we should be encouraging. Qualities such as standing up and being counted; being willing and able to sacrifice for a greater goal beyond just themselves; joining an organization in which the unit and its goals are more important that the individual; helping to ensure by their personal actions that the values and the goals and the safety of the United States is protected and advanced.
And what about the other branches of the military? Does Berkeley also reject and resist the National Guard? Are these brave young people also “stooges and tools” when they are there to help us during an earthquake? What if there is a natural disaster and the guard is called out and there are no young people from Berkeley in its ranks? What if the Marine Corps is called upon to defend America by our government and there are no young people from Berkeley in its ranks? Isn’t it true that Berkeley would be pushing off the duty and responsibility that some of its young people may freely choose onto others – so that other Americans have to do more? Is that right?
Can’t our young people be trusted to make their own choices. Don’t we train them to think for themselves and make their own intelligent decisions? Isn’t that what we are paying extra money for in support of Berkeley schools? Why are the thought police in Berkeley always on the left. The common wisdom in Berkeley is that Bush and the Patriot Act are taking away our freedoms and republican fascism is on the march. The reality of the situation is that the thought police in Berkeley are always from the left, trying to tell us how to think and how to behave and limiting our choices. Berkeley is some times describes as “traditionally anti-war,” I would encourage anyone that thinks that to take a walk by the Veterans Memorial building in Berkeley and read the names of those fine young men from Berkeley who have sacrificed for America. If my son grew up and decided on his own to serve in the Marine Corps I would be proud of him and I hope he could enlist right here in Berkeley. He could follow the path of his uncle, Major William C. Wilson, U.S.MC, who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Finally, it pains me to see Berkeley, my home town, once again held up to national ridicule. The foolish behavior of the City Council, involving itself unnecessarily in divisive issues, only reinforces the image of Berkeley as crazy and anti-American. Perhaps the Council could next decide to take up a proposal to paint the Veterans Memorial building Pink. That would be a fitting capstone to this whole fiasco.
Alan Swain works at UC Berkeley and holds a masters degree from Columbia University.