Source: In These Times
In an interview, Rapone explains how he went from a proud teenage Army private to an anti-war activist and member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
The so-called “Commie Cadet” was anything but a communist at the start of his military career.
Spenser Rapone was like a character who stepped out of a Bruce Springsteen song. He was an idealistic teenager from the rural Rust Belt town of New Castle, Pennsylvania (literally the “Fireworks Capital of America”), who embraced patriotic jingoism and enlisted in the army straight out of high school.
But after being deployed to Afghanistan and seeing the violence his unit was helping to inflict, Rapone grew increasingly disillusioned with the military. He studied political theory, radicalized, and eventually turned to socialism. Inspired by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who famously took a knee to protest police violence, Rapone wore a Che Guevara T-shirt to his West Point graduation in May 2016 and turned his cap over to reveal the hand-scrawled message, “Communism will win.”
Photos from the graduation posted on social media earned the vitriol of many his fellow soldiers and a vocal cadre of right-wing politicians and media—even death threats. Sen. Marco Rubio caught wind of Rapone’s protest and demanded that the Army boot him from the service. In June, Rapone resigned and now he’s out with an other-than-honorable discharge.
In an interview with In These Times, Rapone tells his story of his journey from GI Joe to an anti-war activist—and why Rubio got him wrong.
Why go into the army in the first place?
At a young age, you’re inundated with propaganda and patriotism, and I thought I could make a difference joining the Army. But then I got deployed to Afghanistan, and my experience overseas showed me that if anything, I was making a difference for those with power and wealth. In fact, I didn’t really find what we were being told in America to be reflective of what was really going on in Afghanistan. In the simplest of terms, I felt like we were the big bully and the purveyor of violence. I was just using all of this expensive equipment in one of the poorest places on earth to serve the interests of a capitalist class.