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A letter to Graduating 8th Graders


By John Heuer

Dear young citizens,
 
            First, I want to congratulate you on your many accomplishments.  Second, I want to counsel you on your roles as citizens.
 
            When I graduated 8th grade in 1960, citizens could not vote until they were 21.  Boys could be drafted into the army and sent to war at age 18, but they could not fully participate as citizens, including engagement in public, democratic decisions about whether or not the nation should send our boys to war.  This travesty was somewhat remedied by passage of the 26th amendment to the US Constitution in 1971, granting the right to vote to 18 year-olds.
 
            I say “somewhat” a remedy, because the issue of the rights, responsibilities, privileges and duties of citizens under the age of 18 have not been addressed.  It is these rights, responsibilities, privileges and duties about which I write today:  Your citizenship.
 
            As rising 9th graders, you are well aware that your education is, as yet, incomplete.  But it will come as a surprise to many and a shock to some to learn that your education has contained deep strains of fraud, about who actually runs our government and how.  Here are three examples:
 
            OLF – The US Navy proposed construction of “Outlying Landing Fields” (OLF) in wildlife sanctuaries near North Carolina’s east coast, in order to practice landings and take-offs for military aircraft.  Public outcry caused the Navy to scuttle these plans.
 
            Sonar Training Field off the Florida—Georgia coast.  The Navy has proposed designating hundreds of square miles of Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the southern US for submarine sonar training, despite opposition of environmental groups which point out that these areas are breeding grounds for whales, and that high frequency sonar is known to drive marine mammals insane.  The US Supreme Court overruled the environmentalists with the judgment that, while there could be incidental injury, there was also a lack of proof that the sonar testing area would threaten any species’ extinction.
 
            $185 Billion Dollars is what our government proposes to spend in the next 10 years to modernize our nuclear weapons arsenal.  It is difficult to measure (or imagine) $185 Billion, but it would pay for a lot of school lunches, teachers’ salaries and school nurses.  Besides, what business do we have maintaining a military arsenal designed to incinerate cities?
 
            When you consider these government programs, you have to wonder if our government has gone mad, and what we, as citizens, of all ages, can do about it.
 
            Why don’t we hear more about these grave assaults on planet earth and this terrible squander of our wealth?  The fact is that the agents that propose these travesties are the same ones that often own our newspapers and write your textbooks.
 
            So, what are we to do?  One of the 1st steps, I think, is for you to understand that the wealth being squandered and the planet being desecrated belongs to you, your generation, your children, grand children and posterity.
 
            The 2nd step is to realize, however painfully, that your parents and grandparents have failed to establish your legacy of peaceful nations living together on an abundant earth.
 
            The 3rd is to exercise your rights, responsibilities, privileges and duties of your citizenship to carefully study your local resources in order to propose a reconfiguration of those resources to meet the needs of your community, and to engage your peers in an earnest identification of those needs.  Start with identifying the military footprint in your district and discuss how much, if any, that investment enhances the security of your community, and how redirecting that investment could improve the security of your community.  Use your networking capabilities not just for socializing, but for building solidarity among your peers.  Use that solidarity to demand a school curriculum that addresses the needs of your community or create your own curriculum.
 
            Finally, a word about citizenship.  Many of you go to school with non-citizens of the USA.  Please recognize them as guests, and afford them as much hospitality as you can.  Remember, your US citizenship may be established by the Constitution and subsequent laws, but we are all world citizens by virtue of our birth.
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