"There is an international movement of Stephen Funks out there"
Payday statement at the public meeting with Gloria Pacis, Stephen Funk's mother
Philadelphia, US - 20 October 2003

Hi.  My name’s Dean Kendall.  I’m with Payday, an international network of men working with the Global Women’s Strike. We have actively supported Stephen Funk in his public objections to this war and his refusal to kill, including by ongoing publicity on the  refusingtokill.net website which we operate, interviewing him, writing as individuals and as organizations to the prosecuting authority demanding his acquittal, sending out an appeal for support in our network in __ countries.  Payday is honored to cosponsor this event, and to share this platform with Stephen’s mom, who -- like mothers (and sisters and partners and wives) everywhere always take the lead in opposing wars and killing -- is an example not only for Stephen, but for each and all of us.   It’s a delight finally to meet you.

We first met Stephen when he came to Phila for the July 4th protests this past summer in order to continue speaking out against the war in Iraq, even as he awaited trial   As a gay man myself, it is not surprising to me that an avowed homosexual should be among the first US soldiers to openly oppose the war and refuse to take part in it. But Stephen, a trained marine, has also called very publicly for other soldiers to do likewise.  It was the act of a person with a deep sense of social justice and courage, no doubt learnt from his mother, part of the work she put into raising him, and which he is not now ready to abandon on the alter of the corporate greed now so much in evidence in Iraq. 

In an interview we did with Stephen, he related to us a bit about his experiences at boot camp.  He told us how homophobia was encouraged as a sort of macho template for dehumanizing others, in order to make it ok to kill them. And that in glorifying machismo, his training similarly dehumanized women, so that rape is implicitly made to seem ok too – with apparent success, as some of Stephen’s fellow trainees and officers openly bragged of rapes they had committed as if it were a badge of honor.  Which confirms what Payday and the Global Women’s Strike have concluded from our own  experience, that ‘Machismo begins with the military’, as does therefore rape.  And indeed there has been some reporting from Iraq about what is happening to women beyond the killing. 

Stephen is part of a world wide movement of soldiers and their families refusing to participate in the killing orgy now going on on behalf of oil and other corporate interests everywhere.   Our website, Refusingtokill.net, documents that international movement, by pointing to Stephen’s case, the cases of refusniks in Greece and Israel (5 of whom are on trial today Oct 20), police refusing to guard military installations in Ireland, parents of conscripts going on hunger strike in Bolivia, Latino mothers in Florida threatening an indefinite hunger strike until their children are brought home, civilians in Scotland and Italy blocking military shipments, Swiss guards refusing to repress G-8 summit protests, troops who listened to their mothers and their sisters and turned on corrupt generals to reverse a US-backed coup in Venezuela, and many others.  One of the most moving documents I have seen in a long time is a letter to Stephen from Israeli Refusenik Matan Kaminer. There are copies out on the table or you can read  the whole letter on the refusing to kill website.  

Bolivia has just shown us another example. Internet reports mention conscripts refusing to fire on the men and women across the barricades – despite that some have been executed for it by their officers (up to 15 according to one report). 

But in the belly of the beast, as in Bolivia, times are changing.  The Bolivian officers who murdered conscripts refusing to side with US military-backed multinationals against their own people, may no longer be beyond the reach of justice.  The international outcry in support of Stephen Funk held off the greater penalty attached to the charge of desertion.

That international outcry helped cut Stephen’s sentence in half.  But our support for Stephen and his mother must continue.  Part of our job is to keep up our support for those providing that example and making sure that everyone including their jailers know they have not been abandoned, and that mistreatment will not be tolerated. Thus all of us must write to Stephen in prison!   [direct them to a piece of paper with an address]

You know, the other side thinks they are making an example of Stephen.  But they are too late. There is an international movement out there of Stephen Funks.  THEIR example, and that international movement, are the surest guarantee that we can win.

refusing to kill