FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Applauding Plowshares Into Swords

About a week ago I attended a graduation convocation ceremony at the Iowa State  University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Ames Iowa. Within this event there were about 15 department and interdepartmental programs representing various majors from “Agricultural Systems Technology” to “Agronomy” to Environmental Science” to “Genetics” to “Animal Ecology” and beyond.

The majority of the time was spent listening to a faculty member recite the names of  the graduates and a short statement of each individual’s plans for the future as each  graduate present (many were not) crossed the stage to shake the hand of a departmental representative.

Most of the time when a student’s name and future plans were announced there was  mainly silence and generally when members of the audience did react it was in the form of small shouts, cheers, whistles from varied points within the massive, brutalist, concrete Hilton “Coliseum.”

Most of the graduates names were followed by an announcement of where they had  secured a job. Some had statements of ideological hopes for their dream job. Some had statements about continuing to farm. Some caused chuckles when they expressed an  idealism beyond mere employment. Some expressed a desire to, as one graduate put it, “Make the world a better place.” Several stated that they were going into the Peace Corps. One graduate wanted to work for MSF. The majority of responses from the members of the audience was muted and patient.

There were, however, three occasions which were distinctly different and it seemed  as if this convocation transformed into a loud swelling of religious fervor throughout the  audience. The first two expressions of widespread enthusiasm were in response to two different graduates from different degree programs and there was no stated request from anyone for what was, to me, an unexpectedly loud wave of celebratory shouts and  applause. The difference was that these two students were wearing military uniforms and both of their futures involved more involvement in the military. The third (and louder) expression of the fervor of the audience was at the end of the program and it was in response to the instruction of the Dean of the College for anyone who was in military  service to please stand up. In sum, these two graduates, out of at least a thousand  graduates present, both received two overwhelming loud endorsements from the audience.

These loud celebrations for the militarism for these two graduates left me feeling somewhat isolated, downtrodden, and questioning what kind of supposed democracy was I engulfed within. I was initially somewhat dismayed by the obvious corporatism connected to and driving the majority of future jobs for these graduates, but the reaction of the crowd in their earnest, celebratory lifting of militarism above all of the other plans and dreams spiked my sense of hopelessness at what I had previously supposed was going to be an unprejudiced celebration of diverse futures.

It was not the two graduating military students who left me feeling so greatly  dismayed. Their choice or desire to use the military was clearly a minority among the graduates and I have no knowledge of what motivated the military graduates.

It was, for me at least,  the very striking fact that, in the midst of an already very  strongly pronounced agricultural corporatism, that the audience – which was clearly comfortable with that corporatism – would rise, un-prodded, out of their patient confidence and enthusiastically endorse militarism even above their agricultural  corporatism. Then, the fact that the Dean of a College of “Agriculture and Life Sciences” would lead the audience to another, more focused celebration of the militarism of two students over all of the other graduates’ intentions was, for me, pathetic and shameful.

It is highly likely that Iowa State University is not alone in producing such a program for its graduates and their families. I do not want to ponder how many events similar to this may be occurring at this time of the year – every year.

As I reflected on this experience, I remembered the history of one of ISU’s most celebrated graduates. Henry A. Wallace. After years of trying to improve the plight of humanity through agricultural innovations and economic policies  which helped counter the gross abusiveness of Wall Street’s lies and plunder and after serving as Secretary of Agriculture, as Vice President, and as Secretary of Commerce, Wallace, under the rabid efforts of Truman era  bipartisan devotees of Cold War military expansion of hostilities, was gradually pushed out of the government when he tried to argue for less militarism and for  equal justice for all people.

Apparently, that same repudiation of reflective diplomacy and the enthusiasm for unquestioned militarism which ran roughshod over Henry A. Wallace about 70 years ago is now as compulsive at a University level as was the behavior of  Pavlov’s dog.

The so-called “heartland” is bleeding and it is, again, ready to take more blood.

More articles by:

November 14, 2018
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
Patrick Howlett-Martin
A Note on the Paris Peace Forum
Joseph G. Ramsey
Does America Have a “Gun Problem”…Or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?
Weekend Edition
November 09, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
Why Democrats Are So Okay With Losing
Andrew Levine
What Now?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Chuck and Nancy’s House of Cards
Brian Cloughley
The Malevolent Hypocrisy of Selective Sanctions
Marc Levy
Welcome, Class of ‘70
David Archuleta Jr.
Facebook Allows Governments to Decide What to Censor
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry
Nick Pemberton
When It Comes To Stone Throwing, Democrats Live In A Glass House
Ron Jacobs
Impeach!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail