A peace delegation with representatives from North Country Peace Group, Pax Christi LI, Veterans For Peace LI, South Country Peace Group and Conscience Bay Friends Meeting visited the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage, NY Sunday, November 19th to express concerns about programming there that appears to glorify war. ‘Ground Patrol’ field exercises give the public (including children) the sense that they are on the battlegrounds of World War II France, complete with replicas of tanks, uniformed, rifle-bearing “soldiers” and “skirmishes” between American and German patrols. While the museum does not view itself as part of the military’s recruitment efforts, we believe that young visitors can take away the message that if the instruments of war, like these tanks, are “cool,” maybe war is “cool,” too. (It is definitely not.)
We had a long and productive conversation with the museum’s docent during which we asked that the museum include in its tours and ‘Ground Patrol’ the harsh realities of war, possibly presented by Veterans For Peace. We requested a follow-up meeting with a museum trustee.
Further follow-up communications (thanks to Bob Keeler) have led to potentially helpful info which may inform LI peacemakers’ future efforts to make a greater impact on the agendas/programming of not only the American Armor Museum, but also these related LI Museums: Airpower, the Cradle of Aviation, the Holocaust Center in Glen Cove and the Michael Murphy SEAL Museum which highlight wars and their devastating legacies. Additionally, we learned that the Armor Museum has an education consultant on retainer – Gloria Sesso, the president of the LI Council for the Social Studies, reportedly a frequent critic of NYS’s retreat from having WW II history taught in the classroom, though it remains the seminal event of the last 100 years and gets about 90 minutes in the course of a class year.
VFP LI Chapter 138 Coordinator Camillo ‘Mac’ Bica noted in a message shared on 11/19:
Thank you for organizing and participating in our trip to the Armor “museum” today. I fear some may have been disappointed by our not “protesting” the place with our signs and more “actively” expressing our disapproval, perhaps condemnation is better, of their perceived mission and the impact they have on children. I do think, however, that we made our concerns known and provided some insights, food for thought, that perhaps will influence how Kevin and others conduct their tours, etc., in the future. I am hopeful that by not creating an immediate antagonistic relationship with those folks [we] provided a good first step to possible future discussions that will make all concerned sensitive to our perspective on the importance of ensuring that war be more accurately portrayed.
Thanks again for inviting me to participate.
In peace. Mac