It is with some sadness and disappointment that we at the Appleseed Project read the New York Times article this evening. When the NYT originally asked us to host their media team in order to better understand what we do, we welcomed them. When they wanted access to our students, programs, and instructors, we acquiesced without hesitation.
We did so because we have nothing to hide and no secrets in our program. There is no reason whatsoever to restrict or fear an open and honest press.
We spoke with happiness and excitement about the stellar growth of our program over the last four years and our mission to bring every American to a greater sense of responsibility for our nation and to live out that feeling through civic involvement.
Frankly, we opened ourselves up and said our piece in trust that it would be conveyed by the press to its readers.
Sadly, today's article is not about us. It is not about the Appleseed Project. It is about militias and about anecdotal gun owners who are not members of our program. The constant focus on the militia movement, the Tea Party, and Mr. Faire are at the center of this article and as a result this article is not about us, since those things are not, and never have been the Appleseed Project.
Frankly, there are among us those who feel that we have been poorly described and treated in this article, and I will return to that point in a moment.
The real tragedy here, however, is a complete failure of the press to see the real story: Why does Appleseed double every year? Why are people of all races, genders and ideological affiliations drawn to the Appleseed Project? What is going on here?
In its rush to cover the desired story, that is, scary militia groups, the NYT simply misses what is really important. Therein lies its disservice to both its readers and our program.
Now, with respect to specific themes in the article that we feel incorrectly describe the Appleseed Project, let us simply address each in turn:
Inaccuracy #1: Appleseed is Militia
Appleseed is not a militia or interested in militia training. Appleseed teaches only in individual marksmanship skills and the history of April 19th, 1775. Appleseed does not provide training in military tactics or unit operations. Rather, Appleseed uses marksmanship as a way for modern Americans to reconnect with the Founders through a shared, traditional American skill. No more. No less. Appleseed does not see our government as an enemy or force of arms as a solution. Rather, our enemies are laziness, ignorance and apathy. Appleseed sees education and lived history as the means to get people to the real solution: Personal involvement in civic processes to ensure a better future for our nation. Our ancestors fought so that we would not have to; all we have to do is get off our couches and get involved.
Where militias offer a dark haven for people with concerns about an unwelcome future, Appleseed offers reason for hope and sees bright, happy days ahead. That is the real reason we are not a militia nor associated with any such like-thinking group.
Inaccuracy #2: Appleseed is White (and thus Racist in some fashion by extension)
Appleseed is filled with students and instructors of all races, creeds, genders, and identities. We make no distinction for color, religion, sexual preference, political beliefs or any other discriminatory category. Our program is comprised at all levels of all Americans, and we explicitly urge all Americans to come. We have no patience for those who would take this great nation and divide it up by race, or who would single out someone else for ridicule or derision. There is no place in our cadre, among our students, or at our events for those who would put petty distinctions above unity and our joint past and future.
Inaccuracy #3: Appleseed is Anti-Government, Anti-Military, Anti-Law Enforcement
Appleseed is not anti-government, anti-military, or anti-law enforcement. Among our volunteers are people who work in law enforcement, the military, the government and nearly every civilian trade. We teach students who work in law enforcement, the military, the government, and any civilian occupation precisely because we are all Americans and inheritors of the same heritage and history. And together we must make our joint future.
Appleseed has zero tolerance for anti-government, anti-military, or anti-law enforcement attitudes, comments or advocates. To the contrary, we offer free spots on our shooting lines for active duty military personnel and have been called onto military bases to teach troops deploying for overseas duty in combat theaters. Elected officials at any level of government are invited to participate in Appleseed without charge. Finally, it is our goal to get each and every participant involved in the body politic, which means we are always clear that we hold our government, the government given us by the Founders, in the highest regard.
Soldiers, police officers, and government officials are not our enemies. They are our neighbors, friends, and protectors. At Appleseeds they are our honored guests.
Inaccuracy #4: Appleseed is Right Wing
Appleseed is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization with no interest in partisan politics. Appleseed volunteers and students come from all political parties, economic classes, and ideologies. We have no place for left wing, right wing, or any "wings" at all. Our program could not function that way, nor do we want it to.
Our only interest in politics is with the political details that led to and followed from the events of April 19th, 1775. From our retelling of those events we find that students are often motivated to move into civic involvement themselves. We do not frame the prospective involvement of our students and look forward to the day when we see two Appleseed graduates from opposite sides of the political spectrum running against each other in a national election.
Our goal is civic involvement across the ideological spectrum.
Inaccuracy #5: Appleseed has a Secret Plan
We wish we had a Secret Plan to get more people involved but we don't. There is no inner group, no special level, no wizard behind the curtain. There is only this: Our ancestors were left with two paths: submission or bloodshed. They chose the latter so that we could be left with a third path: citizenship and civic participation. To take this third path we must get off the couch, turn off the TV, and get involved in our communities. Those who would blather about a "choice" between submission and bloodshed in modern American do not understand what American was meant to be, or is.
Civic participation is not our secret plan. It is our openly stated mission.
In conclusion, it is my hope that the NYT and its readers continue their search for authentic information about the Appleseed Project so that they learn for themselves exactly what the Appleseed Project is, and what it seeks to create: a more active body politic. The current article is simply woefully lacking in that regard.
If anyone has any interest in continuing this conversation or attending an event, please be sure to contact us through our website http://www.appleseedinfo.org
or via our email firstname.lastname@example.org
and we will be happy to meet you.
We are open to all inquiries and harbor no ill-will toward the NYT or the author. We are certain that what lies behind this unfortunate description of our program is a deep-seated concern about firearms, marksmanship training and heritage programs. It is our stated mission to change that through the hard work of education and apparently we are right where we need to be.
Thank you for your time, and thanks to your readership as well,
The Appleseed Project