A letter to the young people I yelled at about JROTC

POOR correspondent - Posted on 06 July 2010

Tony Robles Friday, November 14, 2008 I was a kid when my father threatened to “ship my ass off to military school”--a threat that has been used by so many parents for so long that it is now cliché; even comical. But to my 10 year old mind, the idea of getting shipped to military school scared me. My father thought that scaring me with military school would make me disciplined. He wanted me to wake up early and eat all the food on my plate and get good grades. My grades were average and I had trouble getting out of bed. As for eating all the food on my plate, I did because—if I didn’t—he’d “knock me upside my head”. The military school threat was merely part of his disciplinary arsenal. A few days before the election I saw you on the corner of Fulton and Funston Streets holding signs in favor of Prop V—which called for the reinstatement of JROTC to San Francisco high schools. I was riding my bike home from work. I saw your faces—all Asian, all young. I had seen your faces before in the faces that I had seen in JROTC when I was a student at George Washington High School nearly 30 years ago. We were full of energy and we wore our JROTC uniforms for various reasons—my reason was to get out of PE—I didn’t want to “mess up my hair”. Others were involved for various reasons—patriotism, to explore what the military might be like, etc. I too wore that uniform. You probably thought I was yelling and I was. In these times it’s difficult to be heard—to get your point across when there’s so much misinformation out there. I looked at your faces knowing that you were doing what you thought was right. Your parents probably think that JROTC is a good thing—something that instills discipline and builds character. Perhaps your parents are immigrants, which make it even harder. I stopped to talk (and yell) at you because you are our young people, not the military’s. When I told you that we need you, I truly meant it. We need you much more than the military. In this American culture of independence, we are taught to be separate from our elders, from our community. This is something we need to fight. I had said that you should have been standing on the corner with signs urging the passage of Prop B—which would have given millions of dollars to build affordable housing in San Francisco; housing that is needed for our elders, the disabled and low income people—many of whom are immigrants who work two and three jobs to just to survive. I told you we needed you—we still do. We need your energy to fight for affordable housing for San Franciscans. We need you to walk with our elders and hear their stories. We need you to help our elders carry the rice and the fish to their rooms and guide them across the street in the blind madness of traffic that says that we must be concerned for only ourselves and not our elders and our commmunity. We need you to sit and laugh with our elders over a plate of rice that you’ve helped carry over that myth called the American dream. We need you to sit and listen to their dreams and see your dreams in their faces and stories. We need you to stand with us—on our side. Prop V won and prop B lost. We need you.


Sign-up for POOR email!