By Emma Kaplan
World Can't Wait has hit three stops of the Warped Tour; Ventura, Pomona and San Francisco in California. This year, the Warped Tour has a variety of bands .... from older political punks who are in their 30's and 40s' to some Christian punk bands. This drew a variety of age groups, including families who brought their kids out, to youth that came on their own. The demographic was mainly white. Many people were either in the military, came from a military family or had recently joined.
These were the materials we had at the "We Are Not Your Soldiers" tables: Orange bandannas that say “We are not your soldiers!", stickers that read “Army Wrong," the What Are They Recruiting For? pamphlet, the Anti-torture leaflet, a leaflet on abortion rights, the fact sheet from IVAW on military recruiting, and orange ribbons and flagging tape.
We went around to some of the other non-profit booths before the crowds came and got bandannas out to the volunteers. Two bands also wore the orange bandannas and hung them from their booths. There were a lot of strong visuals we had, including pictures of people being tortured, dead Iraqis and an enlargement of the poster of the movie "Sir, No Sir!". In some areas, IVAW had a booth next to us which was a great dynamic.
The response to the "We Are Not Your Soldiers" message was positive and we drew the most controversy of any booth at Warped Tour. People who came from outlying areas and small towns had different consciousness than the “urban dwellers”. Some military families were opposed to wars in and but said that they couldn't take up the We Are Not You Soldiers message because it would be disrespectful to the troops. We would get into sharp struggle over how yes, good people join the military, but there is nothing “honorable” about being a troop. This is war for empire, and we made the point there were plans to go into Iraq before 9/11 even happened and people who are in the military are a part of a machine that is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The troops are thinking human beings that can change, but we have to challenge them with the truth.
Other people were saying that they were over there fighting for our freedom and asked us if we support Al Qaida and the oppression of women? We boldly challenged people around this saying, no, the U.S is not fighting for freedom. Al Qaida wasn't even in Iraq until the U.S. invasion and Islamic fundamentalism has increased as a result of the U.S. occupation. We talked about how neither U.S. Imperialism nor Islamic fundamentalism is in the interests of people around the world, and if you uphold one or the other in opposition to each other, you end up strengthening both. We need to bring forward another way. This really got people thinking, including reactionary people. One woman was arguing very vehemently that the wars in Iraq were just and by the end of the conversation gave us a hug, thanked us for talking to her and ended up taking up the orange.
In some cases you had to remind people of basic history, that Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq had no connection with 9/11.
A lot of youth were emboldened by us, walking by the table and saying “There is no way, I would never join that military”. Some had even been trying to talk their siblings/friends out of joining. A lot of the spontaneous hatred youth have for the military was mainly based upon viewing recruiters as predators or having a distaste for the whole “military lifestyle.” One young woman said that she was in a civil lawsuit with the military after being recruited because they told her that she could join even though she had a certain health condition. Her health worsened significantly as a result of joining and she really sees recruiters as scum.
There were high schoolers who came with us and they were talking to other high schoolers about what they were doing at their school to kick recruiters off, which was a a really important contribution to the whole mix. Even though there is hatred for the military life and mentality there is not a lot of consciousness about the war itself. There were some youth that were conscious and understood that the wars weren't about bringing “democracy' and understood it as imperialist aggression.
Overall progressive people didn't argue with us about Obama much, or insist that he was going to stop the war. People said that they were disappointed in him. In fact the people who talked about Obama the most were reactionaries who said that since we voted for Obama and he was continuing the war, that shows that this war is legitimate and necessary. We told them that we didn't vote for Obama and that seemed to surprise them.
There were troops that said we didn't know what we were talking about because “we weren't there.” Some of the guys from IVAW would step in and so they couldn't really run that shit about “ not being there.” One debate with an anti-war vet and pro-war vet got really heated because you had people who had gone through the same experience but had come to understand the nature of the war very differently.
Surprisingly, a significant amount of military people acknowledge that rape, torture and happen all the time and they were for all of these things, because this is the way war is and we have to accept that. We would counter that, pointing out that you get raised to believe that every war is an honorable war, but is this that kind of war, look at these pictures, these are children. Is this the kind of war that you want to support? Many folks were shocked to find out that those who are being detained and tortured have been rounded up at random.
When reactionaries would come up and we would start debating, a small crowd would gather and people would really listen to what we had to say. The most reactionary of the military were the ones that were Christian fundamentalist. One guy truly believed this was a holy war between Christianity and Islam..
We met vets and students who were interested in participating in the tour. We would recruit youth on the spot to flier the crowds and there was a lot of interest in Oct 6, the national day of resistance against military recruiting.
The polarization that was happening in the crowds was also happening between bands when one band bought atheist t-shirts from the Revolution table and this created some controversy among the Christian bands.
Warped tour is definitely the place to be this summer and there is a lot of potential in bringing forward a national day of mass resistance against recruiters. We learned that it is essential to have minimum four person crew to work the table and the crowd...but that we should strive to find more people to volunteer and participate so we can get out into the crowds and spread our message wide and create a vibe We also learned that the more people you have wearing orange in the very beginning, at the different booths, it creates a scene of resistance.We also learned that while it is important to have visuals that show the reality of torture and war, it is also important to have visuals of people resisting these crimes.