Interview with Benito Miller Deale
Peace, Justice, & Conflict Studies
GC Graduation Year
Why or how did you choose your field? Were there specific experiences that influenced you?
In complete honesty, I chose the field because once I arrived at Goshen College, I found that there was not an international relations major. As a non-Anabaptist, I had no conception of peace theology, rooted in a Christian tradition, nor what I was getting myself into by declaring the major. (Reflecting back on the experience, I realize that something larger than myself was guiding my path through this realm of studies.)
I fought a lot of resistance within myself, and struggled to connect to the material my first year; in fact, I nearly left GC at the end of my first year. Yet my participation in the documentary Fuerza, was transformational, as was attending several SOA vigils at Ft. Bennings in Georgia. I began to understand my own agency in the world, and how I could be complacent with huge systems of injustice, or declare myself against it and work towards educating myself and my community about a given issue and work towards a solution together.
What’s exciting about your job or this field?
The field is exciting because it is gargantuan in scope. I jokingly tell people I will always have job security, because the human experience is always woven in conflict. But it can be overwhelming because as you begin to deconstruct the false truths we have been sold, and begin piece by piece to connect the dots, you realize, first, how insignificant and small you are in the great scope of things, and second, that your life’s work(s) will be difficult, endlessly difficult, that you will probably lose more battles than you will win, and that clinging to hope will become ultimately a matter of survival.
What has been a challenge in your career journey?
I have no career journey. I do not aspire to one. It has been challenging to challenge the very idea that permeates this society and the neo-liberal, euro- centric ideologies that makes us believe that we are only as good as our labor. That we live to work, and not work to live. Since graduating, I have held a vast variety of jobs, none for a period longer than four months, and this looks unlikely to change in the near future.
Looking back, would you do anything differently?
I don’t believe in accidents, and most of what I regret in my life happened long before I attended Goshen College. However, I wish I would have been more of an outspoken ally to the LGBT students and staff of the college. Also, that I would have aided in a campaign for a new cafeteria ood service provider way earlier than happened, and that I could continue to pressure Goshen College to accept and give scholarships to more undocumented students.
How did your liberal arts education assist you in your journey? Are there specific examples you can offer?
Life is the largest liberal arts education we can have, if we are not risk averse and are willing to challenge authority, read between the lines, and actively work to quench our endless curiosity to get to the matter of it. The major and the wide range of coursework I took while at GC definitely helped equip me with intellectual frameworks through which I can challenge the status quo. GC also allowed me to travel to Mexico, SST in Tanzania took me to the continent of my mother’s childhood, and support from the PJCS department allowed me to conduct in-depth, on the ground research for my undergrad thesis.
Did anyone offer you some memorable advice that you’d like to pass on? Or…what advice would you give to a young person just starting out?
Don’t bother with PJCS if you are interested in stability, security, and a steady income. If career building is your goal, pursue some other field of study.
One of the most meaningful learnings during my time at GC was from an adjunct professor by the name of Phil Thomas. In a Mennonite subculture that values and seems to push (unspoken rule-like) humility, he challenged me to be real. To speak out, to share my unique perspective with the world, because the mundo is no better off in our silence. (This is an inadequate explanation of how meaningful the lesson was to be certain!)