California has played a central role in many military and cultural aspects of American wars, from building weapons to being the birthplace of most anti-war groups. The Cal Poly Pomona Veterans Resource Center (VRC) and the California Center for Ethics and Policy (CCEP) will use a $65,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant to support five community conversations about the “American War Experience through California Voices.”
Led by student pairs from the VRC, the series will include chapters on World War I, Word War II, the Cold War, Iraq/Afghanistan/War on Terror, and the future of war. Each will be supported by texts that could include academic histories, novels, graphic novels, documentary films or theatrical productions. The first event will focus on World War I and be held on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 3 p.m.
The series will cover a broad range of experiences from the battlefield to the home front, from veterans and dependents of veterans to those working in defense industries, political activists, and members of refugee communities. Given the diversity of the military population at Cal Poly Pomona, student veterans and military dependents will be able to give voice to both military and non-military perspectives, said Elke Azpeitia, coordinator of the Veterans Resource Center.
Each conversation chapter will also be presented at both on- and off-campus venues. Confirmed partners include:
- Chapman University’s Center for American War Letters, hosting the discussion on World War I on Sept. 24
- Japanese American National Museum, hosting the discussion on World War II on Nov. 14
- Richard M. Nixon Library hosting the session on the Cold War on March 3, 2020
All off-campus events are open to the public, and there is no cost to attend (except for venue parking).
Currently, nearly 1.7 million veterans, about 8.5 percent of the national total, reside in California. With nearly 200,000 active duty personnel stationed in California, the state has the largest active duty, reserve, and civilian personnel presence in the country. California is also second only to Virginia in receipt of Department of Defense funding and has the highest number of federal military installations (32) in the nation. More individuals from Korea and Vietnam settled in the state than any other following U.S. military conflicts in those countries.
The discussion series will complement CCEP’s 2019-2020 theme on War and the Military Experience in California’s Culture and Economy. Related activities include a student seminar for CCEP’s Student Ethics and Policy Fellows and a student research conference.
“Our project aims to address the panoply of such war experiences, thereby enriching the understanding of how war in the modern age is a multifaceted undertaking which leaves very few unaffected,” said Michael Cholbi, professor of philosophy and director of Cal Poly Pomona’s California Center for Ethics and Policy.
Some of the intriguing questions he hopes are discussed throughout the year are:
- Can there be moral conflicts between duties to one’s nation and duties to one’s community in wartime, and how should these conflicts be addressed?
- What is the responsibility of non-combatants with respect to the waging of war? How should we understand, for example, the ethical role of military industries in making war possible?
- Within a democratic society, what is the proper relationship between civilians and non-combatants on the one hand and military personnel and decision makers on the other?
- What is war’s effect on attitudes toward citizenship and inclusion, especially in communities where military institutions, culture, or industry predominate?
- Can war be a catalyst for positive social change, opening up new vistas for community and solidarity, or does war primarily function to tether individuals and groups to past animosities and conflicts?
The university’s VRC provides comprehensive services that support the success of 476 student veterans and 631 military dependents annually.
For dates and times of the on-campus events, and locations and times for off-campus sessions, visit https://cpp-nehdiscussions.eventbrite.com. For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Veterans Resource Center at 909-869-6994.