Monday, January 15, 2007

Someone page Tom Hayden. Or just find his page and give him a message.

Most of you know that one of the main reasons I was incredibly disappointed at being placed in Okinawa was because of the presence of military bases. I assumed that everything would be "American." Well, as usual, I was right. (Ha!) But, with that said, I have grown accustomed to fighter jets landing on my roof and falling asleep to the sound of loud rap music being blared out of a car window. And I honestly do not hold anything personal against these young men and women who have been placed in Okinawa. I think my free AFN TV/propaganda is getting to me!

So, here's the dilemma for you:

I was approached last week to run in some sort of race on January 27th. I was told that I only have to run 0.9 km, but was given no other details besides that. I didn't give it much thought, until I had coffee with another ALT yesterday and she said that she was signed up to run 2.4 km at the end of the month. I told her I was signed up for the same thing, to which she said, "Can you believe why we're supposed to run?!" And I told her I was completely in the dark. Apparently, it is an "anti-base" run done each year by the teachers to protest the presence of military bases in Okinawa. This other ALT said her teachers couldn't really explain why they wanted the bases gone in the first place and what their economy would do without all of the American money flowing into their shops. They told her it is mostly to have fun. We discussed how expecting an American ALT to run around their own base in protest is completely unreasonable. It also explains why the event was not given to me in great detail.

Today, I decide to ask my favorite and most American-minded teacher about the event. I told her that I had been signed up to run on the 27th and wasn't sure if I was supposed to be raising money or where it was or anything. She sort of paused as she began to explain that it is run by the Okinawan Teacher Union and that many schools participate. In fact, almost all schools will run in the race. She said a bus would be here at school in the morning and that it would drive me to the race and then bring me back when I was done. And then, after much beating around the bush, I got it out of her that it is to take place at Kadena Air Force Base. I asked why and she explained that it is used to protest American military bases. I didn't really force the issue, but did get out of her that translated, the name of the race means, "Against War," and that they have been doing it for 30-40 years. She said that today most people don't know why they run it, it is mostly just to have fun and have a big party afterwards. I don't know her reasons, but she told me she does not participate and seemed a bit embarrassed by the topic.

I find it fundamentally wrong to be signed up to run laps around a military base even if other ALTs participate. Like I said, I am not the most gung-ho military person and have made plenty of comments about Okinawa and its bases, but, in truth, they are driving this economy. Plus, the Okinawan people don't have a unified vision of what they will do if the military does leave, why they want them to go in the first place, etc. So, I will be taking part in an event that 20-year-old Americans are going to be watching from inside the base and that is really "just to have fun." I don't agree with the idea that a teacher union should be representing such an opinion publicly. I think that most American teachers realize that they have to present both sides of the story, whether they agree or not. In fact, a teacher protesting anything would probably ruffle quite a few feathers.

Do I participate? That is the question. I don't mind the running bit (although I was a bit insulted that I was only asked to run .9 km when there are longer legs assigned to other teachers...) I've always wanted to take part in a protest (thanks for those genetics, Mom), but this protest just doesn't fit into my personal agenda. I think I will tell my supervisor (as I hand in my "I'm leaving this summer" form), that I am considering not participating because it makes me uncomfortable. Completely reasonable. No need to bring out the banners and Chicago Seven. Just a simply stated refusal.


Kenneth said...

I was part of the Seattle Six, maybe you heard of them. I say: RUN RUN RUN and do it naked with an American flag around your neck! Kent State II.

Carly said...

I think you should run only if you agree with the protest. And if you're on the fence about the issue, remember how they conned you into signing up, haha.

I want to write more - but I can barely put a sentence together... been formatting figures for my thesis all morning....

Mom said...

If you were protesting the war, it would be different. The servicemen and women don't make these decisions. Stay true to the things in America that you grandpa.