Letter Sent via Facebook
March 15, 2014
Ms. Rives Meier,
I’m guessing that you have been having a few bad days lately. As a former Marine, a long-time civil liberties activist and someone who has worked in human resources for a long-time, I am a bit disgusted by your comments that collectivize veterans as poorly educated, incapable of learning, and paint us all as potential rapists. Since you also identify as an activist, I will give you some detail on my own work as well as my professional background.
I served six years on active duty, to include time spent as a caseworker on Capitol Hill in the Navy and Marine Corps House and Senate Liaison Offices. I’ve conversed on a (sometimes) first name basis with many Members of Congress, Senators, Administration officials, cabinet secretaries and even a head of state (Albania) who personally invited me to sit at his table at dinner while working as a military escort for Congressional delegation trip to Eastern Europe.
Since leaving the Marine Corps, I have worked for a former Senator, Representative, Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner, future head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and saw a former colleague elected to Congress from Pennsylvania. Clearly, I am at least intelligent enough to pass as a human being in civil society. I have also hired hundreds of people in all of my combined human resources roles. Many of those new hires were veterans and several were disabled veterans of varying percentages. I’ve never regretted hiring a fellow veteran.
As someone who is interracially married and the father of two multiracial children, I am quite familiar with the damage that can easily be caused by those who harbor hateful stereotypes. As a male rape survivor, I deal with other ugly stereotypes on a daily basis.
Over the years, my activism has covered many issues, starting with the right of multiracial individuals to self-identify on the U.S. Census and other forms that collect racial data for government purposes. I am the individual who took down Bob Jones University’s ban on interracial dating and marriage among students by waging a very ugly media war with them, starting with securing and then posting the actual text of their policy for the whole world to see. That earned me no shortage of hate mail and scorn from racist evangelicals and white supremacists.
Since then, I’ve opposed multiple administrations as part of non-partisan coalitions on topics such as illegal detentions of Arab and Muslims; domestic surveillance; REAL ID; PATRIOT Act; non-compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act; Military Sexual Trauma and many others. I’ve been maligned by both the right and the left depending which useless politician was in the way on a given issue at the time. I marched with a large group of veterans to protest the annexation of Iraq by the Bush Administration and for the proper care of veterans by the V.A. I was interviewed live by Free Speech TV as a representative of Veterans Against the Iraq War along with well-known Veterans for Peace activist David Cline for one of those marches.
I spent six years as a volunteer GED instructor in the South East quadrant of Washington, D.C. At the time, that literacy center was respected as one of the best in the nation. I started teaching there while still on active duty and later joined the board of directors. Clearly, I was at least intelligent and articulate enough to assist the District of Columbia with some of the failings of their public education system.
At present, I toil away in workforce development, assisting mostly women who have been out of work and in need of educational and emotional support. It is not a glamorous job with a lofty title, but I get to change lives and I believe it to be an honor to share in their success. My activism continues and I have added sexual violence issues to my toolbox.
I am a male survivor myself and have spoken on sexual violence topics before audiences as varied as a local church to a class of medical students at a well-respected medical college. My activism over the years has been covered by media such as NPR, CNN, C-SPAN, The Atlantic, HuffPostLive, Sat.1, Associated Press, and many others. In addition, my own work and many articles from my online publications have been added to syllabi by colleges and universities in many countries. My own publications have been cited or mentioned in approximately 50 books on racial and social issues over the past 15 years.
I am currently on the board of directors for an organization that is working to assist and protect male survivors of rape in the military. Given what I understand about the prevalance of rape in military organizations and the number of male survivors who have received no assistance or been shamed into silence, I find the “barrel” comments particularly repugnant and dismissive of those of us hurt on active duty.
Given your comments on military men and your attempts to paint us as a “barrel” of rapists, I thought you needed to hear from a veteran, rape survivor and fellow activist. Assumptions and stereotypes are dangerous weapons. People acting on such assumptions and stereotypes have done more damage over the years than all the combined rifles and tanks of all the militaries of every nation on the planet.
With as much respect as I can muster for a person who clearly doesn’t view me or other veterans as human beings for wearing a military uniform at one time in their lives, I wish you sudden enlightenment and the gift of tolerance.
James A. Landrith
United States Marine Corps