war Archives - The Jose Vilson


Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, Hugging After Re-Election

Dear President Obama,

You’ve won. Congratulations. Honestly. As an independent, I had no initial horse in this race, but as a Afro-Latino, I’m proud that you’ve once again managed to claim the White House as yours, in a country where the bones, blood, and sweat of African slaves and Native Americans sit under the House you now occupy. Your re-election came at a high cost, specifically your dreams of a bi-partisan transcendence. If anything, it solidified that the country civilly lives in three spheres: one that wants to push its party a little farther right, one that wishes its party would push a lot farther left, and one that sits square in the middle, lukewarm to the politics of the current day.

My family and I watched your sincerest video to date a few hours ago, awed at the humanity you showed in victory, inspiring those of us who do work in the public sector for those less fortunate and / or privileged. Our son will never know a world where a person of color can’t reach the highest post in our government, and the personal sacrifices you made to make that happen might have brought a weaker man to his knees.

But, your work is far from done.

We thought you would bring fair trials to the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and close it in your first year. The gates remain open.

We thought you would bring about actual peace in the Middle East. You might have killed Osama bin Laden, but you are equally responsible for the drones dropping on innocent civilians there, and the perpetuation of the Green Zone in Baghdad while babies die right outside its gates.

We thought you would reverse the reprehensible education policies set by your predecessor George W. Bush, and, instead, you may have enhanced the testing machine in many ways, even as you speak against it.

We thought you would push for a single payer piece in a more comprehensive universal health care bill instead of what turned out to be the health care reform we ended up seeing. It’s saved thousands, and most of the bill’s effects will hit in 2014, but our medical bills hurt now. Sadly.

We thought you would pass the DREAM Act, giving a clearer path of citizenship for those children whose parents came to this country for an opportunity, just like so many other parents have over the last few centuries. A simple memo won’t satisfy Jan Brewer nor Joe Arpaio in Arizona, so it won’t satisfy us either.

We thought you would walk with us when our unions came under attack in Illinois, Wisconsin, California, and in so many other states. I even laid out one of my most comfortable pair since we wear around the same size. Alas, you never came to pick them up.

We get that politicians generally don’t fulfill their campaign promises in full, and compromise constitutes our imperfect union as much as the general public despises compromise. Yet, those of us who see these glaring issues will hold you accountable. We need to set a more progressive agenda, one that places more importance on the poor and working class in this country than the wealthy. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work because if it did, the income gap wouldn’t keep spreading the rich and poor apart ever so slightly every second of every working and non-working hour.

Without the risk of losing the presidency four years from now, you have another opportunity to do what’s right. Again. But this time, your base won’t wait or hope. We will continue pushing for a better America, one that pushed for candidates who promoted marriage equality, women’s rights, and a truer sense of democracy. While your administration contemplates nuclear weapons in Iran and war in Syria, I worry that some of your current policies will only push the term “Democrat” into right-center.

We can’t afford that.

So I’m hoping you receive this with the knowledge that, yes, I do have some obligation to call out the racist and bigots. You are Black despite people’s misgivings about what Black ancestry means here, and you don’t have to show your transcript to irrelevant losers. You do have a cool factor that affords you the right to mention Jay-Z and Abraham Lincoln without skipping a beat.

You don’t have to listen to people who say that you were only elected by people who prefer government handouts. As demonstrated by your bailouts in the early part of your tenure, the very rich like their handouts as well. As a person, I admire the love you and your family have for each other, and the image of a popular person of color embracing the idea of “family” symbolically for the country, and that I do think Michelle, Sasha, and Malia rock in their own ways.

However, as an educator and father, I want to see you leave this country better than it currently stands for years from now. Too many people all over the country are suffering, and some of that falls squarely on your shoulders.

By the time my son has the wisdom to ask me about you, I’d love to say, with context, “Mr. Obama did right by us …” I won’t be quiet about everything else, but, as demonstrated by your re-election, this is far from over. For either of us.

Thanks in advance,



Let’s Agree on This: Bring The Troops Home

by Jose Vilson on May 28, 2012

in Jose

This post won’t serve as an anti-war post. I haven’t changed my pro-peace stance on any level, and firmly believe that our presence in so many foreign countries has less to do with actually promoting peace and more to do with increasing wealth for a handful of powerful individuals. My radicalism doesn’t mean I somehow hate America or want to jump to Cuba; it just means I conscientiously object to sending more and more of our young men and women to countries under ambiguous and imperial means. I respectfully do the pledge at Yankee game seventh-inning stretches, but does doing it absolutely every day of the year make me more patriotic than the next? Nope. Absurd.

But you can disagree with me. That’s how discussion works.

One thing that often strikes a chord with even my worst dissenters is this: let’s bring the troops home. I don’t care if it happens next month or within the next year (I prefer the latter); let’s get them back home. I think to all the families still yearning for the chance to hug their husbands, fathers, daughters, mothers, cousins, best friends, and colleagues. I hope their soldiers come back to their homes to defend their homes against the things happening right in their neighborhoods like bad economies and the scary monsters under their beds. I wish those soldiers the mental fortitude to stay alive knowing that their main objective is to kill another human being for a purpose they can’t quite fully understand.

I don’t approve of what the troops often do, protecting the interests of companies like Halliburton and BP, sometimes killing innocent civilians in the process. I don’t approve of the carved-out spaces Allied officials have made for themselves in countries where families can barely make it to the next meal. I don’t approve of our current president’s vicious airborne drone missiles and the current stalemate with Guantanamo Bay (I haven’t forgotten).

And I still want the troops back home.

Some of my friends might think there’s no reason for them to come back. I on the other hand believe that if we refocused our dollars on domestic issues like re-bolstering our national infrastructure, creating jobs in places we forgot, and assuring that our troops get the mental help they need once they come back to their families. If this country is under the belief system that public servants make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, then we ought to consider our recompense once they do arrive at the shores.

Let’s remember thus.



This Means War For These Educators, Too

by Jose Vilson on June 1, 2010

in Jose

The commenters to my blog simply rock. Bivey’s whole response to my posit about education’s ulterior motives is a must read, but here’s a snippet just for you:

I mean finding the right balance between acknowledging the power you and others have (e.g. at the end of the road, you still get to write the progress reports that go in their permanent record), figuring out how far you can go in sharing that power, helping kids decide which battles are worth fighting, helping kids decide how best to fight those battles, helping kids learn the difference between having your say and getting your way, and helping kids learn how to judge when it might make sense to push beyond merely having their say until they actually get their way.

But here’s the deal. If you don’t engage in that struggle to find the proper balance, you’ve got a bunch of students who feel powerless and that they have no voice. That is simply unacceptable – the reality even more so than the feeling.

NYC Educator adds a little perspective about the purpose of charters:

With all their posturing about charters, charters on the whole don’t outperform public schools. With all the advantages of charters, 100% proactive parents, the ability to require things public schools can’t, the ability to “counsel out” troubled kids, the ability to dismiss entire grades that don’t work out, and in the case of Geoff Canada’s schools, the ability to involve ourselves with the parenting of prospective students–public schools and public school teachers would kick their asses. The notion that these folks could deal with 100% of city kids is laughable, as is the notion that these hedge fund folks give a golly goshdarn about the welfare of the kids real teachers serve.

Chris Lehmann ends this beautifully.

Or as I like to say… it’s the difference between education and training. We’re real interested in training the students in the bottom half of the socio-economic spectrum, but I’ve never been sure that we’re really that interested in educating those students.

That’s the problem with teaching kids to think… they just might do just that. And if you’re coming out of the South Bronx, and you learn a lot of critical thinking skills… and you are taught economics and sociology and history… you may come to some conclusions that other people don’t like.


Three comments in the whole post, and three worth acknowledging.

Jose, who’s seen fire and rain …

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Unless They Don’t Want To Give Kids an Education [This Means War]

May 31, 2010 Jose
Kareem Rashad, the Soldier

A few months ago, I was privy to a conversation my fellow colleagues were having about the state of education, and how the government doesn’t evenly distribute funds to ensure a proper, equitable education for all. One of the colleagues then reasons, “Well, they may not really want to give certain kids an education. Someone […]

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Book Giveaway May 2010: War by Sebastian Junger

April 27, 2010 Book Giveaway
War by Sebastian Junger

Welcome to the first ever The Jose Vilson book giveaway! -applause- I’ll be doing a few of these giveaways over the next couple of months. The rules are as follows: 1. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post with the words: “It’s not about a salary; it’s all about reality!” 2. Subscribe to […]

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Somewhere Between War and Peace

November 11, 2008 Jose
Kareem Rashad, the Soldier

Only a few years ago, I was so vehemently anti-war, I often got into verbal jousts with ex-US military men of all stripes, giving them side-eyes whenever they’d try to offer me positions in their corps. I remember when I was unemployed for a good 5 months, my cousin, an ex-Marine who just did a […]

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