The mission of the Men's Resource Center for Change is to support men, challenge men's violence, and develop men's leadership in ending oppression in our lives, our families, and our communities.

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Voice Male Summer 2004

Co-Directors' Voice

Yes to Men, No to War

By Michael Dover and Rob Okun
MRC Co-Directors

It's been more than a year since the invasion of Iraq. Committed as the Men's Resource Center is to challenging men's violence and developing men's leadership to end oppression, the MRC last year joined the chorus of protest attempting to stop the juggernaut that has to date killed more than 10,000 Iraqis and more than 800 American members of the armed services. Our full-page signature ad in the Northampton, Mass., daily newspaper carried the names of hundreds of men who joined us in saying no to war.

A year later, we feel no different about the war: we believed it was wrong then and subsequent events have only strengthened our belief. No weapons of mass destruction. No links to Al Qaeda. No imminent threat to the United States or any of our allies. No breakthrough in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We believed the war would not make the world safer but more dangerous, and sadly that has come to pass. Even most of us opposed to the war were unprepared for the revelations of torture and degradation that came out of Abu Ghraib Prison, but we weren't completely surprised either: we know that war itself degrades those engaged in it. That revelations have since come to light suggesting international codes of conduct and the Geneva Convention apparently don't apply to the White House of George Bush has only deepened the anger and sadness of Americans of conscience around the country. Since September 11, 2001, the men in leadership positions in our country right now--Mr. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Ashcroft, to name four--have stained the reputation of the United States with an indelible marker of hypocrisy and arrogance, made all the worse by a blind ambition toward global domination. The cost of their plan has been growing not only by millions and billions of dollars, but also by pints and pints of blood shed by thousands of Iraqi women, children and men, and hundreds of U.S. military and U.S. "consultants" who have paid the ultimate price for the Administration's abrogation of the truth.

While we continue our work of challenging violence, we also are committed to supporting men--not necessarily their actions or choices, but supporting them in their humanity. Accordingly, we joined a group of community organizations here in our home community of Amherst, Mass., to welcome home veterans of the Iraq war, even as we disagreed profoundly with the policies that took them to war. We cannot accept the reasons for their sacrifice, but we feel we must acknowledge and respect the men and women who have taken on this terrible responsibility.

It can feel hard to reconcile these two viewpoints. But it helps to hear real stories about real people who are part of this war and to be reminded that they are just like everybody else, trying to do the best they can. Recently, a story aired about a young man graduating from high school in Killeen, Texas, thrilled to know that his stepfather would be watching the ceremony from Iraq through a special video hookup. A picture emerged of this soldier, who had married the young man's mother and became a role model for her children. This was no macho military model--just a guy doing all he can to support these young people in growing up and becoming who they want to be. It could as easily have been about any other good father or uncle or big brother who didn't wear a uniform. The fact that he was in uniform and unable to be at his stepson's graduation in person made the point that sacrifice happens in many ways. This was a man to be honored.

Being reminded of the essential goodness of these soldiers and sailors and marines doesn't diminish our opposition to the war. It heightens our grief every day we hear of another of their comrades dying in a roadside bomb attack or gun battle. As Ted Koppel's reading of the war dead on Nightline illustrated, war is not just an "instrument of foreign policy," it is comfortable politicians playing dice with real people's lives. Hearing the stories of some of those who fell tells us the real cost of this folly: lives lost, families forever changed, communities in mourning. For those of us who stood against this war, the question burns: Why--for whose purpose--did these people die? Coming to know the shared humanity of our brothers and sisters in arms, we also come to understand more deeply why we oppose sending them into harm's way without overwhelming reason to do so. We hate the war precisely because we love the warrior.

The Men's Resource Center is here to support men in becoming more fully human. We deeply believe this means rejecting violence in all its forms, including and especially war. But just as we say of the participants in our Men Overcoming Violence program, Accept the man--reject the behavior, we can say to our country, Support our troops--bring them home!

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