Leaked: The Internet must go!

Hey! Are you on the internet right now? Of course you are! Then you should definitely check out this amazing video about what the internet companies are planning. This move could hurt both consumers and content creators--but of course would be a huge windfall for internet providers.

How weathly are Americans?

The disparity in wealth between the richest one percent of Americans and the bottom 80 percent has grown exponentially over the last thirty years — but the video, posted by user politizane and relying on data from a popular Mother Jones post, focuses on the difference between the ideal disparity that Americans would like to see and the reality.

Tax the Rich

So long! It's been fun.

Dear listeners,

In July 2011 I started a new job teaching Italian at Kansas State University. In some ways this was a return to my roots, as I taught English as a Foreign Language for 17 years in Italy. Now I am teaching English speakers Italian. I've come full circle.

This coming full circle also means the end of an attempt on my part to start a new career in my 50s. Sadly, as much as I tried to bring community radio to Manhattan, I was not successful. So I have decided to dedicate my energy and time to my first love, being an educator.

The archive of my shows will remain active - there's a lot of great content in the shows. So I hope you continue to listen and enjoy them.

Once again thank you for your support and encouragement over the five years the show was on the air. I know many feel that my program needs to be on the air and I agree with you that a diversity of voices is sorely lacking in the local media. But alas, it is not I who will bring that diversity. It will have to be someone else.

Christopher E. Renner

15 May 2008

No Converts: Being a conscientious objector in World War II

May 15 is International Conscientious Objectors Day honoring those who for reasons of conscience choose not to take up arms or enter the military.

- by Christopher E. Renner
The victors write history. But often pieces of the whole story are left out or lost to time, especially pieces that don’t quite fit with the legends that arise around an historical event.

World War II was fought between the Axis Powers - Germany, Italy and Japan - against the Allies - the U. S., Great Britain and her colonies along with Free France and other nations as they were liberated. It is often referred to as the “Good War.”

Today the number of those who served in World War II is dwindling, but efforts are underway to capture the stories of those who served so the whole story of World War II can be preserved, including those that don’t quite fit. Charles Perkins has one of those stories.

For 16 years, K-State’s psychology department was home to Charles Perkins. Perkins earned his Ph.D. in 1946 at the University of Iowa. His career included Kent State University, Emory University - where he was department head from 1961 - 1964, and finally K-State from which he retired in 1986.

At 91, Charlie Perkins moves a little slower than he did in 1941. Today Perkins busies himself with grandchildren and caring for his wife of 62 years, Nancy, at their retirement home in Seattle. They moved to Seattle two years ago to be closer to grandchildren and Perkins’ favorite fishing spots in Montana. As such, he was interviewed via telephone for this article.

Perkins’ story of his involvement in World War II isn’t typical of those you will find in the World War II kiosk at the Robert Dole Center in Lawrence, or in the many story projects that have begun to record the tales of heroism and bravery that the men and women who fought have to tell.

During World War II, 34.5 million men registered for the draft. According to records obtained by Nebraska Educational Television for their 1993 film, A Matter of Conscience, 72,354 applied for conscientious objector (CO) status. Approximately 25,000 of those COs served in non-combatant roles while some 29,000 were exempted when they failed to pass the physical exam. This latter number is difficult to confirm given that record keeping on 4-F (physical defects) classifications are not complete. Over 6,000 men rejected the draft outright and chose to go to jail instead of serving the war effort. Also, 12,000 men chose to perform alternative service in the Civilian Public Service (CPS), which supervised these men and the work they conducted. As a CO, Perkins was among these men.

Preparing for War
Missing from some history books is the fact that America has always had COs. George Washington specifically exempted those “of tender conscience” from induction into the Continental Army. Our nation’s principle of religious freedom brought Mennonite, Amish, Brethren/Dunker and many Jews seeking to escape compulsory military service in Europe.

A closer look at American history reveals numerous utopian experimental communities that often included a commitment to peace and nonviolence. But, until World War II, if one was a pacifist or conscientious objector in America, one was usually given only a few options: violate one’s conscience by serving in the military; pay for another to go in one’s place (an option until the Civil War); flee to avoid service (draft dodging); or prison.

Scott Bennett’s Radical Pacifism: The War Resisters League and Gandhian Nonviolence in America, 1915-1963 provides a complete historical overview leading up to the decisions the Roosevelt administration and Congress put in place for COs, following the reactions to imprisoning thousands of men who were COs in World War I.

In the months leading up to World War II, Congress recognized "CO Status" as a legitimate moral stand for the first time in our nation’s history. Under the law, objectors had two choices — they could go into the military but serve in non-combatant roles: the medical corps, food preparation, staff clerks, etc., or they were required to do "alternative service" here at home that was "work of national importance" in the Civilian Public Service (CPS).

The CPS was the product of a unique and conflicted collaboration between the U.S. government's Selective Service and the traditional peace churches: Mennonite/Amish, Church of the Brethren and Quakers. CPS was a response to the first peacetime draft in U.S. history, initiated more than a year before Pearl Harbor. It was also the first time COs were offered legal alternative service under civilian command.

The churches' goal was to prevent the fate COs suffered in World War I - including verbal harassment, physical beatings and death - and allow them to do "work of national importance" as an alternative to military service. The churches funded the CPS program through $7 million in donations.

For the government, their motivation came in part from the fall out caused by the lack of CO status in World War I and a fear that COs would have a negative impact on wartime morale. The government wanted to keep COs out of sight and saw the CPS as a means to that end.
CPS men were not limited to members of the peace churches; they represented over 200 religious groups and others, like Perkins, without church affiliation. Their only shared philosophy was the rejection of war.

“I just didn't believe war works and believed refusal to participate was a way to stop wars eventually,” said Perkins. “I had read Gandhi and Millis’ Road to War which had an effect on my thinking, but the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov probably had the greatest impact in that it showed me that people could do the worst things based on the best motives.”

Becoming a CO
Generally the process for being a CO was pretty straightforward. The candidate had to appear before the Draft Board to make his case. COs coming from the historic peace churches were granted their status based on their religious affiliation. Perkins never met with his draft board in Cambridge, Mass.

“I guest I had to write something stating my position, but I don’t remember. I spent about a year thinking about war and war resistance and it was tough going. It is hard to take a position on a vital issue with which none of your friends or relatives agreed,” he said.

In any case, his status as a CO was approved and he received his orders to report to a Mennonite-ran camp in Henry, Ill.

Perkins and Nancy were married two months before he entered his first CPS camp in July 1942. This was supposed to help him stay closer to Nancy who was still working on her graduate degree at the University of Iowa in his camp assignments, but other than a few months when he was assigned to a state hospital in Michigan, Nancy wasn’t with him.

“COs varied in a lot of ways,” he said. “Some were political objectors. A large number of them just plain refused to serve” and were sentenced to prison as a result. In fact, one out of every six men in U.S. prisons during World War II was a draft resister. “I might have joined those who just plain refused, if I hadn’t received the medical discharge,” he said.

“As far as I could tell just about everyone I knew supported my decision to be a CO, but few if any agreed with my position,” said Perkins.

The life of a conscientious objector was often extremely difficult, especially for those who were not members of the traditional peace churches. Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, and Jews are all among the ranks of COs and often this meant that society, friends and family rejected them.

“I think this depended on the CO,” said Perkins. “If he was sincere and open about his beliefs, he was accepted or at least not hassled openly.”

But it also depended “on the sort of people he had contact with,” he said.

CPS people had about the same amount of leave as military personnel.

“Riding on trains during leave I would bring up the fact that I was a CO, if it could be worked into the conversation,” said Perkins, “and had some good discussions but no converts. The Mennonites guys tried to avoid conversation with strangers for fear of violence.”

During World War I, Mennonite, Brethren and Quaker COs often faced violence for their pacifist beliefs. The CPS was supposed to eliminate such incidents.

Melvin Gingerich in his book Service for Peace, a History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service, reports that over 2,000 COs were imprisoned in World War I because they refused to take up arms. Will McKale, archivist at Fort Riley’s Cavalry Museum, confirmed that two Mennonites were beaten at Fort Riley for their refusal to take up arms, but that “no COs were assigned to the base during World War II.”

CPS camps members found themselves reviled by the communities located nearby. In PBS’s The Good War, World War II CO Martin Ponch gives an example of the resentment CPS members encountered when he tells of how the City of Plymouth, N.H., allowed nearly a third of the city to burn down rather than call on the services of the trained firefighters at the CPS camp outside of town.

Life in the Camp
In early 1941 COs began receiving orders to report to CPS camps. Most expected to stay for six months based on government issued information. An expectation that would prove to be false as most COs would stay in the camps for the duration of the war and others would not be released from duty until 1947, two years after World War II had ended.

According to Albert Keim in his book The CPS Story: An Illustrated History of Civilian Public Service, COs were required to work nine-hour days, six days a week, often at hard labor. In addition they were expected to pay the government $35 a month for their room and board. Those that could, covered this expense on their own, but for many this expense was covered at great cost by their congregations. These same congregations provided an additional $2.50 a month for expenses. The families of married COs had no such support. For them the war years were a time of dire poverty.

Perkins was in CPS service for one and a half years before receiving a medial discharge. Following his first assignment at Henry, Ill., he was transferred to Downey, Idaho, where he worked in soil conservation.

“Soil conservation was done mostly by the shovelful,” said Perkins. “The regular soil conservation men who assigned the work were not permitted to have COs do work that would put them in regular contact with farmers that the service had contracts.” As a result, the CPS members mostly worked on isolated projects.

Finally he was assigned to a state hospital in Michigan where he preformed the duties of a registered nurse, even if he had no formal training as one.

Life in the camp “was a case of culture shock. I had refused to claim religious grounds [for my status as a CO] and almost all the other campees there were fundamentalists,” said Perkins. “Their attitudes were very different from mine. In Henry there was a fair amount of conflict between a small group of radicals and the Mennonites in control. The radicals wanted things to be done democratically.”

Camp life was pretty routine.

“You got up fairly early, had breakfast and then were driven to where ever we would work,” he said. The men had a fair amount of free time, which was spent talking to other COs, or in Perkins case, writing letters home to Nancy.

“The camp in Idaho was a little more liberal. About half were people who thought in terms of the social effect of war and weren’t really religious,” he said.

Such thinking was more in line with Perkins’ own beliefs.

His work in Michigan was an eye opening experience. “The state hospital was pretty bad, but not as bad as some of them,” he said.

Long-term contributions
Beginning in 1942 and following agitation and work walkouts, COs began to take on responsibilities not originally foreseen by the CPS structure. COs began to fill the rank of those working in mental institutions which had seen their employees leave for better-paying jobs in the war industries. According to The Good War over 3,000 COs worked in 41 mental institutions in 20 states, and at 17 training schools for "mental deficients" in 12 states. This work is perhaps the most significant long-term contribution World War II COs made to the national welfare.

Alex Sareyan in The Turning Point discusses how the conditions of these institutions were extreme with patients often suffering cruel and inhumane treatment at the hands of institutional officials. In response, CO's introduced nonviolent methods of patient care, took legal action and won a lawsuit against the state of Virginia for humane treatment of patients, and contributed to the founding of what became the National Mental Health Foundation.

Sareyan points out that the COs most important work was a shocking 1946 Life Magazine exposé that brought national attention to the issue of mental health and treatment of patients. Life reporter Albert Q. Maisel’s exposé was based on first-hand accounts by COs. Their reports shocked the nation as they revealed the squalid and repressive conditions in mental institutions and lead to reforms that continue to the present day.

“I don’t think my time as a CO had any effect on me in terms of people’s reactions. I came to my views very much on my own. Most of my friends volunteer for the military. My brother was a paratrooper who fought in the Philippines, one sister was a WAC and the other lost a husband who was serving in the navy.”

“What it did was make me more committed to social issues,” said Perkins. He was involved in the civil rights movement during his time in Atlanta and in Iowa City where he helped with organization and participated in protests and probably wouldn’t have been had he not developed his CO attitudes.

“The people in my age group that I run into talk about nonviolence, but back then no one used the term,” Perkins said. Nonviolence is how many of his generation are today reaching out to new COs, some of whom have come to their decisions based on their experiences as active duty military and thinking about what they are being asked to do.

The Center on Conscience and War, which advises military personnel on CO discharges, reported on April 14, 2003 that several hundred service members had contact their group for assistance in applying for CO status since the start of 2003--when many soldiers realized they might have to fight in the Iraq war.

The Government Accountability Office report found that from 2002 to 2006 the active and reserve components of all the military reported processing 425 applications for conscientious objectors. Two of the most publicized cases in recent months involve Spc. Jeremy Hinzman and Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia. Like Perkins, they have come to the decisions based on their life experiences that have lead them to conclude that war isn’t the answer.

World War II CO Timeline

July 1 - Congress passes the Selective service Training and Service Act of 1940 creating the first peacetime draft in US history. Signed into law by President Roosevelt on September 16, conscientious objectors (COs) are exempted on the basis of training and belief.
October 5 - Historic peace churches - Quakers, Church of the Brethren and Mennonites -form the National Service Board for Religious Conscientious Objectors.
October 30 - Conscription begins.
December 17 - Civilian Public Service is established to provide COs with the opportunity to serve their country by doing “work of national importance.” The federal government and the peace churches jointly create 151 camps across the country to inter legal COs.
May 15 - First COs receive orders to report to the CPS camp at Patapsco, Maryland.
February 16 - COs walk out of a CPS camp in Merom, Indiana, because of the lack of “work of national importance.”
March 5 - COs begin performing other tasks (as smoke jumpers, attendants in mental hospitals, human guinea pigs) as detached CPS units working outside of the camps.
June - First CPS unit arrives at Eastern State Mental Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia.
June - First smoke jumpers assigned to work in Missoula, Montana.
December 23 - Segregation at Danbury Federal Prison ends as the result of a four-month work strike by 23 COs.
January/February - the Civilian Public Service Union is organized at the CPS camp in Big Flats, New York. The union provides an organized means of communication and group action among the COs nation-wide.
June 24 - COs volunteer as guinea pigs for influenza and pneumonia experiments.
May 7 - Unconditional surrender of all German forces to Allies.
Aug 6 - First atomic bomb dropped, on Hiroshima, Japan.
Aug 9 - Second atomic bomb dropped, on Nagasaki, Japan.
Aug 14 - Japanese agree to unconditional surrender.
Oct 24 - United Nations is officially born.
May - COs who had worked in mental hospitals found the National Mental Health Foundation.
Life magazine reporter, Albert Q. Maisel, writes an exposé based of first-hand accounts by COs that shocks the nation as it reveals the conditions in mental institutions.
April - COs George Houser and Bayard Rustin and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organize the first Freedom Ride though south.
Last COs released from CPS camps - two years after the end of World War II.

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