Thursday, November 15, 2007

school of shame

As we're soon moving into Thanksgiving week, we have much to be thankful for. I could make endless lists of things that bring me delight.

On a more sober note, however, I want to draw your attention for a moment to the protest that is commencing in Fort Benning, Georgia, at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. Thousands of people are gathering for the Vigil and the Nonviolent Direct Action to Close the School of the Americas.

If you don't know anything about it, here is a link to some FAQs that can quickly get you up to speed. I'll post just a little snippet that is helpful.

What is the School of the Americas?

The School of the Americas (SOA) is a U.S. Army training school that trains soldiers and military personnel from Latin American countries. Under Department of Defense jurisdiction, this school is funded by U.S. taxpayer money, all of the training is conducted in Spanish, and most of the classes are taught by Latin American instructors. The SOA was founded as a combat school focused on counterinsurgency techniques. Rather than contributing to the development of democracy in the region, the SOA actually taught methods that undermined and destroyed democratic values.

Why should the SOA be closed?

SOA graduates have included some of the worst and most notorious human rights abusers in Latin American history, and for much of the world, the school, under any name, is synonymous with torture and impunity.

Over twenty thousand people are expected at a vigil in Georgia to protest and to commemorate the lives of the victims of the graduates from this "school". The story about how the protest was birthed is a fascinating one. It initially started with just a handful of people from Minnesota who wanted to draw attention to what was happening behind the closed doors of this U.S. sponsored torture-training academy.

The protest actually begins tonight and continues through till Sunday, the last day, when there will be a reading of the names of all the known victims of graduates from the "school of torture". The memorial and funeral process takes most of the day, beginning at eight o'clock in the morning, and finally ending at around two or three in the afternoon.

At a time when we are reminded to be thankful for the freedom we enjoy, it is wise to remember that for people like the murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero, or 14-year-old Celina Ramos and her mother Elba Ramos, or the six Jesuit priests in El Salvador who were brutally massacred, freedom is but a dream unrealized.

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