"Questioning authority, as a soldier, is not easy. But it can, at times, be honorable." Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
I Ain’t Marching Anymore: Soldiers Who Dissent, From the Boston Massacre to Bradley Manning Upcoming from University of California Press
“Soldiers.” “Dissent.” Those are words we don’t usually hear together. Years ago, when I was on staff at a nonprofit that founded the GI Rights Hotline, I talked every day with active-duty servicemembers: soldiers, sailors, Marines Air Force personnel. Answering the hotline with me were many veterans from the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. I came to believe, and said as a joke: “If we’re gonna have a revolution in this country, it’ll come because of veterans like you.” I Ain’t Marching Anymore is about such brave women and men throughout history.
What does “soldiers who dissent" even mean? Dissent = disagreement, which is why that word is used frequently in arguments from academia to the Supreme Court. Expressing that discontent is our constitutional right — but for people in the military, that right has its limits. Orders are orders. For over 200 years, there have been Americans in uniform who served their country by speaking out against its government's policies, sometimes disobeying orders. They’ve spoken out against injustice even when military authority told them not to — sometimes at great risk. In 1779, people were starving in Philadelphia — so on October 4, soldiers marched to confront the nation’s top moneyman, James Wilson. As a result of what came to be called the Fort Wilson Riot, bread prices eased.
In the War of 1812, the U.S. tried to invade Canada. Some some troops refused to cross the border; others deserted, sometimes whole platoons at a time. Every war that came after has had its dissenters — some private, others making quite public acts of conscience.
Even the Civil War and World War II had those who refused to fight — and produced the most passionate critics of the wars that followed. Frederick Douglass’ son Lewis, of the famous Civil War unit the Massachusetts 54th, 30 years later spoke out against the Spanish-American War.
In World War II, William Kunstler was an army major in Asia — long before he was the top lawyer for anti-Vietnam War protesters. The soldiers who helped end the Vietnam War were among the first to question the wars after September 11, 2001. And those wars have produced their own greatest generation of dissenters, both active-duty soldiers and veterans. The latter are busy making change as we speak.
From each of these eras there are hundreds of individual books and testimonials on the shelves. But there has never been a single, comprehensive history of soldiers and veterans brave enough to question authority when the truth demanded it. Until now.
I Ain’t Marching Anymore: From the Boston Massacre to Bradley Manning is the product of years of research, including immersion in historical documents and hundreds of interviews with soldiers, veterans, scholars and activists. I have hundreds of pages of material, including 4 completed drafts. And I have a contract with a university press: this will be a book.
Writing something this comprehensive takes time. For the first five years, I did all the above while working full-time as a journalist and Web editor. Like many authors (look it up!) I’m now on my fourth deadline. That deadline is September 2013. Between now and then, I need to only work on Ain’t Marchin till it’s in full production. That includes digital and Web extras to make this a resource for the 21st century and beyond.
Base goal: $10,000
Living and healthcare expenses for 7 months
Art and custom cover by Alex Eckman-Lawn (see his Archaia graphic novel above), which will become a reward for some Kickstarter participants (see at right).
Reach goal: $25,000. Includes:
Further support as I revise
$9000 for a freelance consulting editor, who can help me ensure the final product is ready for prime time before it hits my editor’s desk and help me develop the digital side to its fullest.
This is not a book likely to make a lot of money. But as soon as it’s on the shelves, I plan to direct 20 percent of my royalties to organizations such as the GI Rights Hotline, Warrior Writers, and Service Women’s Action Network. I decided long ago that this was the most important story I could tell as a journalist, but this story doesn’t end.
(Many thanks to Brian Siano for the project image and for the video, with music by BioGreen).
Risks and challenges
The main challenge is the one I need time for: to ensure that *all* the stories entrusted to me are given voice, while stopping the book from being a "Victorian novel" with too many names and events jammed in. Ethical concerns: I may need to triple-secure the consent of folks I interviewed years ago, which is important given such emotional (and sometimes legally fraught) issues.
In addition, full disclosure: I've been living with a disability— multiple sclerosis— for 25 years, which means I don't have the boundless energy and ability to work 80 hours a week that the project might otherwise demand. MS won't stop me from finishing the book, but means I'll need every bit of support and focus I can possibly secure.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (45 days)