De-cruiter wins Long Haul Prize
This article from the San Francisco Chronicle strikes me for a couple of reasons. What a great idea to have a Long Haul Prize for dedicated peacemakers! And I love the term "de-cruiter."
May we all find ways to struggle against empire within us and around us,
for the long haul,
one day at a time,
one breath at a time.
On Earth Peace
San Francisco Chronicle
De-recruiter wins Long Haul Prize
Meredith May, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, September 16, 2006
When military recruiters set up a table at a high school in Sonoma County, chances are Elizabeth Stinson is taking a seat right next to them, to try to urge youngsters not to enlist.
The director of the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County counts at least 400 people she's "de-recruited" from the military, a statistic that helped her win this year's Long Haul Prize, given to the most active activist in politically active Northern California.
"Teenagers are trying to separate from their parents as individuals, so they're vulnerable to a recruiter," said the 57-year-old Forestville mother of three, surrounded by posters of Malcolm X, Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. in her Santa Rosa office.
"It's only fair we show them there are other alternatives," she said.
Stinson has trained task forces of teenagers at five Sonoma County high schools to set up their own counter-military recruitment tables.
She will receive her $750 award Thursday from the Agape Foundation for Nonviolent Change in San Francisco, which has given $11.3 million to grassroots advocacy groups since 1969.
"When I called to tell her she won, she cried," said Agape Executive Director Karen Topakian. "When you do this kind of work, it's often outside the public eye, and you do it for decades because it needs to be done, but it can really feel like you are alone."
Stinson was chosen for her lifelong commitment to human rights causes.
From 1990 to 1996, Stinson served as a liaison between the Sioux Nation and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization -- an international group made up of indigenous peoples, occupied nations and independent states not recognized by the international community.
As a human rights observer from 1988 to 1996, she helped American Indian communities document deforestation and uranium pollution on their reservations.
At the same time, she became a "sanctuary mom" and took five El Salvadoran children into her home after their father was killed by death squads.
She earned a master's degree in psychology from the University of San Francisco, and is studying to become a licensed therapist.
Lately, Stinson has been spending most of her time answering calls from those who want help leaving the military.
"She gave me unconditional support after I was arrested for refusing to go to Iraq and serve as an interrogator at Abu Ghraib," said Edward Walters of Clearlake Oaks (Lake County), who served 13 years with the Navy and was then called back in 2005 as a reservist for prison duty.
Stinson worked with the military law task force at the National Lawyers Guild to get Walters discharged last March.
"She didn't have to work that hard for me," Walters said. "You don't see that anymore. It's rare."
Stinson's development into a human rights activist was an organic one, she said, cultivated by a childhood spent in the native culture of the Southwest and coming of age watching friends get drafted for the Vietnam War.
"As activists, our job is to perturb the system," Stinson said. "We are on the outside of this big messy balloon full of muck, and we have to keep pushing on it to eventually cause a shift."
Stinson doesn't give in to activist burnout because she believes the shift happens one person at a time.
She has plenty of examples. A favorite is the kid with the military crew cut who crossed his arms and stared at her while she "de-recruited" at Casa Grande High in Petaluma last year.
As she was leaving, he finally approached and asked if she remembered him from an anti-war protest that got out of hand on campus.
"I was the one who spit on you," he told her. "I'm in the Marines now. I need your help."
E-mail Meredith May at email@example.com.
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