|Shutdown of School of Americas is long overdue|
By Andy Johnson, Decatur, Ga.
Thanks for Kate Gurnett's article on Rich Ring and his stand of conscience against the School of the Americas (Sept. 22). I went to college and grad school with Rich, and I can attest that his social conscience wasn't really "awakened" in Guatemala. Deepened, reinvigorated, saddened maybe, but it was always there.
He was always a leader in doing what is right, and I suspect he always will be.
I also have spent time in Guatemala. As a Peace Corps volunteer from 1994 to 1997, I saw some of the horrible effects of the 30-year civil war and the atrocities committed by graduates of the School of the Americas. This story is one small, small, example:
I lived high up on the side of a mountain. About once a week, I would walk up and over a pass and work in the tiny primary school of a tiny indigenous village. The village was so small because it was made up of the remnants of families who had fled after their home villages were massacred by the army in the 1970s.
I taught the kids simple activities related to conservation. We planted a school vegetable garden, and started a community tree nursery. On one of those days with the school kids, I decided we had better organize a watering schedule, as I was about to be gone for a couple of weeks. I asked a couple of the more-involved kids if they would be the leaders.
Their reaction remains with me to this day. They froze up. They clammed up. They wouldn't talk, and they wouldn't look at me for sure. Here were these 8- and 10-year-old kids all enthusiasm and smiles and laughter, and all of a sudden they were almost paralyzed by fear.
The teacher set me straight. In their old village, the leaders were the first to be assassinated. Those leaders were the granddads of these kids. In some cases, their uncles, or even their own dads. It was only later that entire villages were attacked.
The article mentioned that Rich's parents would be picking up the torch this fall at the November protest. He will be joined by many others inspired by his actions, including myself and my family. I am hoping that my 3-year-old daughter will grow up to value the wonders of this country of ours. I am also hoping she will have the courage to call a spade a spade.
We do indeed have a terrorist training camp right here in Georgia, and it's high time it was rooted out. I hope to see y'all in November.
PO Box 4566
Washington, DC 20017