An Open Letter to JAMRS

About a month ago I received a large envelope in the mail from an organization called JAMRS.  It looked a little spammy, but I tend to be a bit on the curious side, so I opened it anyways.  Inside I found a scantron survey, which whisked me back in all of its bubbly glory to my high school days; a letter that explained the purpose of the survey; an envelope that I could use to send the completed survey back to JAMRS and a two dollar bill, neatly glued onto the letter.

The letter read as follows (I cut off the header because my address was on it and cropping is faster than blurring):

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Now, I don’t know about all y’all, but I am a little bit disappointed with the education system in Ye Olde US of A.  Each grade level claims to be merely a preparatory course for the next, instead of working to shape the students as people in their age group, college has become the new (debt-laden) high school in that it is a prerequisite for most (non-minimum wage) jobs, and most people seem to graduate with a burden of financial obligations that will follow them for years, if not decades.

Consequently, this letter struck me as a breath of fresh air.  The government wants to know how to help its young citizens ACHIEVE THEIR (the young citizens’) GOALS.  And in order to do it they are reaching out specifically to those people.  How novel.  How intelligent.  How, dare I say, good.

I started the survey.  The beginning of the survey asked pretty standard questions.  Age, employment status, how difficult is it for someone your age to get a full-time job, education level, GPA, did you take AP classes in high school, etc. 

And then on the 17th question, the survey derailed.  It started asking about the military and did not stop.  All the way until the end, five pages and fifty-nine questions later, the survey, which introduced ITSELF as being about “education and career plans” essentially became a very poorly disguised enlistment questionnaire.

I didn’t make it past question 22.  I read the whole thing, but I took my $2, put it in a good will offering when I went to my niece’s baptism a few days later, and wrote the following open letter to JAMRS on my flight home a few days after that.

I have been meaning to post it since then, because I found the survey profoundly disturbing on many, many levels and thought that a good old fashioned rant on the internet might make me feel better.  So, JAMRS, here’s to you:

Dear JAMRS,

I received your survey and was excited to participate because the enclosed letter made it sound like JAMRS  was interested in taking a survey about education, which I believe the US desperately needs to reform.

However, after just over 15 questions it became obvious that JAMRS was more interested in gauging my interest in the military than how my education had shaped my pursuit of any career that was not the military.  Despite this I may have continued to fill out the survey if it were not for the fact that none of the questions included space to express that joining the military is not something that I want to do. Rather, I was asked simply which branch I preferred to serve in (because serving is evidently inevitable) and what I would like about the experience (travel, self-esteem reasons, or to escape my local gangs, perhaps?), whether or not certain people in my life would approve of “my choice” to join the military, and how much I valued each of their opinions.
ImageAs a female, I recognize that the military can be a dangerous place for me and that many of those dangers are internal to the system.  As a decently well-educated person, I recognize that even those who go into the service with the best of intentions can only do as much (or as little) as they are told. I know that sometimes soldiers are persuaded into doing things that they would never have imagined themselves capable. As a moral person, how could I join an organization that has been routinely shown to throw its soldiers into brawls over resources, rather than fights to achieve equal human rights?

I want to make it clear that I have the utmost respect for people who join the military.  I strongly believe that most people do so because they want to make a positive impact on the world, because they want to fight to defend their country and because they want to fight for people in other countries who do not have the ability to do so for themselves.  I am not blaming individuals, but our military is very broken, as noted above, in a lot of ways.  I shouldn’t have to worry that if I joined I might be raped by a superior officer, I shouldn’t have to worry that my morals would be compromised, I shouldn’t have to worry whether the institution that is supposed to defend and protect is defending and protecting people or financial interests.

In a survey about the military, because that is what you sent me, those are the questions I would like you to ask, not my height, weight and my ability to do push-ups.

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The letter enclosed with my survey said that “by understanding young adults’ plans and aspirations, public officials can do a better job providing services and allocating resources”. If that is genuinely what you want to do, why did you not ask more about my education, my debt and alternative futures? Why do you instead focus on my tattoos and asthma? How does my opinion of “the current situation with the War on Terrorism” influence any job other than the ones you are clearly looking to fill?

As has hopefully become clear by now, I don’t think you sent me a survey about my “education or career goals”.  You sent me an application to the military.

Luckily I turn 25 in about a month [it’s about a month later and I’m 25 now, suckas], and, since it sounds like you stop being interested in my future once I’m a quarter of a century old, I probably won’t hear from you again. But I sincerely hope that you stop prowling for young people to turn into bodies. I sincerely hope that you, or, I don’t know, the Department of Education, sends out a survey asking what they can do to create an intelligent, inspired work force.  Because for a moment, you fooled me into thinking that that was the country I was living in. 

And that was a beautiful fucking moment.

Sincerely,

Holly