"I don't have enough information yet, about the school (School of the Americas)" is the key message of a writer's guest column of July 26. That being the case, I would like to point out that Mary Benson, on the other hand, chose to find out, disagree with and yes, even go to prison for her conviction of belief in the closing of said school.
None of us originally knew anything about the SOA. When news began to filter through, those of us with special interest in Latin America, pursued, investigated and came to a conclusion: We opposed our tax dollars training Latin American soldiers to return home and perform terrorist actions in the name of democracy and peacekeeping.
I was quoted as saying that "She (Mary) was representing us all." Yes, all of us at the farewell party. Not the U.S. at large! During the entire decade of the 1980s, if the citizen on the street were asked if Congress was funding the Contras or the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, most would not have known. Which Latin American dictators were graduates of the SOA? Did you know that the Jesuit priests and Archbishop Oscar Romero were assassinated by folks involved with the SOA? Did you know that many Guatemalan Maya villages (440) were decimated, often by officers taught at the SOA? As U.S. citizens, we can not be expected to keep up with all the world issues, but if we chose to be vocal, I feel we need to be informed. I humbly suggest some research. As a teacher, I assign homework.
Check with the Central Lakes College Resource Center for Cultures and Languages of the America, (RCCLA) There are several 20-minute videos on the School of the Americas (source: Catholic Maryknoll publication). Check out books on the Latin American situation of the 1980s. Ask to be put in touch with local citizens who have traveled and volunteered in the countries affected by SOA graduate practices. (leave message 855-8183 until fall session opens)
The Resource Center of the Americas in Minneapolis is one of the nation's tops on Latin American issues. Go to: www.americas.org or call directly at (612) 276-0788. If in the Twin Cities, visit their bookstore, cafe, educational presentations and library at: 3019 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55406-1931.
Finally, I praise Jodie Tweed's handling of both a human interest and a national interest story and the Dispatch's inclusion of this situation at home. The report needed to include background on the protest in order to understand Mary's choice and conviction. Jodie used terms like "alleged, was reported, the protesters believe" which give a non-committal press statement, unlike some TV reports that simply called the School a "peacekeeping school", making anyone who would protest such an endeavor look ridiculous. A democracy should be pleased, not scornful when people research and then choose to challenge a government. That is part of how we define: democracy.
Yes, as the guest columnist wrote: "Think beyond the sound bitesIt takes courage to slow down and ask questions before coming to conclusions. That's the part of the democratic process that brings about lasting change. Thinking takes time." I invite you to: Take the time!"
(Kurtz is an instructor of Spanish and Latin American studies at Central Lakes College.)
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