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Escaping the Military: Healing the Virus of Violence

By       Message William T. Hathaway       (Page 1 of 6 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   4 comments

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From the Book

RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War

By William T. Hathaway

Published by Trine Day 2010

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A young Buddhist novice contributed this account, which we then revised together. To protect the people who have protected him, he wishes to be nameless.


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Back in high school I'd been good at languages but couldn't afford to go to college, so I joined the navy for the language training. They have a program where if you pass an aptitude test, they'll send you to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, for an intensive course that's worth almost a year of college credit. Plus they have an active-duty education program that offers college courses. I figured after my discharge I could finish my education on the GI Bill, and with my language skills, I could get a job in international business.


The other military branches offer programs like this too, but the navy seemed the best way to stay out of the fighting. I was hoping for a major language like Chinese, Russian, or Spanish, but they assigned me to Pashto, which is spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan. After training, I'd be stationed on a ship in the Arabian Sea monitoring phone calls and radio broadcasts, listening for key words that might give a clue about where the Taliban were, so the planes from the aircraft carriers could bomb them. I didn't think about this last part, though. I was focused on my future.


The study itself was a real grind -- drills, exercises, and vocabulary all day long and a couple of hours at night. But no classes on weekends, so we could take off.


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I couldn't afford weekends in San Francisco, but in a bookstore in Monterey I saw a poster for a two-day retreat at a Zen Buddhist center nearby. It sounded weird enough to be a good break from the military, and the price was right, so I signed up for the first of a two-weekend introductory course.


The place was beautiful, deep in the mountains and forest. The course was called Buddha Breath, Buddha Mind and was led by a bald-headed woman. Instead of an orange robe she wore blue jeans and a sweatshirt. She said first we were going to learn how to breathe. I thought, What have I got myself into?

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William T. Hathaway is a refugee from the USA now living in Germany. His environmental novel, Wellsprings: A Fable of Consciousness, tells of an old woman and a young man working together to defeat the corporations that control our shrinking (more...)
 

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