By CHANTALLE CARLES
The death and destruction he witnessed as a soldier in the jungles of
Vietnam and the political and social unrest he lived through in the
1970s shaped Scott Camil's perception of democracy in the United States.
"This country was forged and was founded on revolution," he said.
"These days, though, revolution carries a negative connotation, when
in truth it's something to be proud of."
A well-known Gainesville activist and fierce opponent of the Vietnam
War, Camil led a discussion among students and Gainesville residents
at the Civic Media Center on Monday night, following a showing of the
documentary "Protest: The Story of the Gainesville Eight."
The documentary, produced locally in 1996, profiled the defendants in
the 1973 trial of Vietnam Veterans Against the War activists - Camil
among them - who were charged with conspiring to disrupt the 1972
Republican Convention in Miami. The defendants, who came to be known
as the "Gainesville Eight," were later auitted.
Camil urged those present to rebel against the current government's
repression of minorities, who he said range from Muslims to antiwar
protesters. He also urged the audience to demand access to
information relating to government actions.
Making such demands and taking an active role in civil discourse are
the only way, Camil said, for citizens to take back control of the
nation from an administration that led the country into another full-scale war.
"I would have thought we had learned from Vietnam," he said. "But we
really haven't learned anything, and it hurts to know that we haven't
been able to keep these boys from going into a needless war."
Contending that the Iraq war has been motivated and supported by
profit-driven corporate interests , Camil said, the real fault lies
in a complacent society.
"But people don't seem to care they're being spied on or that we're
torturing people all over the world," he said. "In my time, we would
have been raising hell over that. It's not like that now."
The reason for such an inactive citizenry is a lack of education and
knowledge about American government and democracy and, most
importantly, a lack of knowledge about the civil liberties set aside
for each citizen in the Bill of Rights, he said.
"People forget that we employ the president. The Congress and the
government in general to work for us," he said. "But this generation
doesn't understand its place in a democracy, and because of that,
they don't know they have the right and the duty to take back control
of the country."
A vigorous youthful movement may be what is needed to stop the
assault on the U.S. Constitution, he said.
"If no one raises hell and no one speaks out, then this country is
going to ruin," he said. "It will get worse if this generation
doesn't get up and do something about it."
CMC cofounder Joe Courter said he hopes the documentary and
discussion helped students realize it's their job to spur change in the system.
"Students can play a huge role in their future and organizing within
the community can have large impacts and can shape that future," he said.
To shape that future, Camil suggests students congregate and voice
their opinions. He also wants students to get involved in a push for
a constitutional amendment prohibiting corporations from making
profit off any supplies needed by the military in times of war.
Instead, the amendment would require these companies to produce
at-cost equipment for the armed forces.
"If they're not going to be making money off a war, then they won't
support the war," he said. "This one change alone would have
significant impact on this country and what it does around the world."