Trying not to Participate

Two nights ago I got a phone call that went something like this:


Hey Peter! My name is so-and-so and I'm the navy recruiter for Southeast Alaska. Have you seen your ASVAB scores?

Yeah I got the packet thing with the scores...

Peter. You got a 99. That's the highest score you can get.

Of course there were many sections to the test and I only got 99 on one of them, but I guess that wouldn't have sounded as good. He continued:

Peter, what kind of subjects are you interested in?

Umm... language, history, foreign relations...

These are my standard interest answers now that I'm sure I'll keep using through all my college applications. Apparently this wasn't quite what he wanted though.

What's your favorite subject in school?

History, foreign languages.

Have you taken calculus or physics?

I'm taking calculus this coming year.

Have you taken chemistry?

Yeah I took physics... I mean chemistry last year.

(I remember that gaff and I'm trying to be accurate.)

Well Peter, the reason I'm asking these questions is...

The guy went on to talk about a two-year military school in nuclear engineering, and I was thinking of the nuclear submarine base that's on the backside of this island so I thought that would have to do with work around here, but apparently the school is in North Carolina. My mind strayed a bit... Suddenly:

Peter. Have you ever thought about serving your country?

Yeah, of course.

I'm not quite sure why I was so enthusiastic at this point, but I guess I can justify it since it kept the guy going.

Well, you said that you're interested in languages...

He went on to talk about a language defense school in Monterrey, which actually might be a good thing for me to look into. He talked a lot about who learns what languages, where they go etc. It was actually pretty interesting.

So Peter, how do you think you're going to serve your country?

At this point I had to start formulating how to let the guy know that I'm someone who would absolutely never join the navy, army, or any other part of this nation's military. Yes- even the Coast Guard.

Well, I don't really think that I would ever want to serve the country in a military capacity...

What would you do then? Be a politician? [laugh]

[laugh] Sure maybe so. [pause] Truth be told, you might say I'm a little bit anti-war, so thanks for the call, thanks for the information...

Alright, thanks Peter.

Now, for obvious ideological reasons, I have not a thought a moment about having anything to do with the United States military, but the question is how can I not have something to do with it? When I was writing 'I'm someone who would absolutely never join the navy, army, or any other part of this nation's military...' I almost put 'this nation's government'. It is, after all, our entire government that is perpetrating and funding violence. Wait... funding...?

The hard truth is that my parents support the U.S. government's global violence. Every tax payer does. Maybe even I will this year. Even more, my mom works for the government as a teacher, and you might say my dad does as well when he does pro bono work. I've thought about being a diplomat, ambassador, politician, whatever- I still do. For goodness sake, if you vote you are participating in our government, and lord knows I want to do that.

The question is, how can one reconcile participating in and therefore supporting a government whose actions you cannot approve of in the least? The sad truth is that I am already supporting our destructive world war- and that's by doing nothing about it. Inaction is the boon of oppressive governments. Just because I won't fight with guns doesn't mean I won't fight injustice- whether it's caused by our own government or by a foreign enemy half a world away.

Participating in government may mean you contribute in a way to the ills it does, but it's the best way in which you can work to change things for the better, and that is far better than being a critic on the sidelines doing nothing to change the status quo. I've looked up that Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, and now I'm seriously considering doing something there, depending on the requirements after the course is done. I'm never going to be a soldier, but I shouldn't shy from serving my country, even as a part of the military.

Thank you, navy recruiter guy.


  1. Anonymous26 July, 2008

    If you join the Navy and go to the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, you will be a sailor (yes, that means boot-camp), and a member of the armed forces of the United States of America. You will be assigned a language, probably Farsi, and since you will not be an officer, you will have the least impact possible on any of your governments policies.

  2. Hotmail's being weird and not letting me respond to the AcDc email, so here I am saying that I got it. I don't have anything huge planned for after the 16th, so give me a time and place, and you can be sure I'll be there. :)

    (And I'm working on the update thing, I really am! But summer is so...boring and mundane, I find that I don't have a whole lot of things to say. Something should pop up soon~)

  3. sailor ken29 August, 2008

    Hi there.

    I was perusing sites mentioning DLI, and after reading your blog, I just had to throw a different perspective in.

    I am an E-3 enlisted sailor currently taking Arabic at DLI. Being several weeks into it now, I have to say it is one of the most demanding things I've ever done in my life. That said, it is also one of the most gratifying.

    I won't be so naive as to tell you that we won't be fighting this war at some level, but the real focus of what we're doing is saving lives. As linguists, we are tasked to stop death or catastrophe before they occur, on either side of the war. Aside from that, there are also a great many humanitarian missions these days. Many places in the Arabic world need assistance, and we do provide an avenue to speak with the local authorities.

    Quite seriously, this is not your typical military job, but the education is amazing, the job is genuinely interesting, and not a day goes by where I feel we aren't making a difference in this sector.

    Anyway, I'm not a recruiter, but I just wanted to let you know that this is the perfect job for someone who wants to make a difference. We are tasked to be advisors to officers, and if you're good, you can work with policy-makers as well.

    Good luck in life, and if this is a decision you're still thinking about, you won't regret it. Cheers,
    Sailor Ken


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