|The Children's Crusade
||[Jul. 24th, 2006|08:56 am]
Stop me if you've heard this one before. A country is gripped by religious fervor, a true belief in the principles and ideals that govern their lives. They set out to the Holy Land to rescue it from the darkness that grips it. The soldiers of the righteous country, many come straight from their mothers' tender care, go forth with joy to fight and possibly die to bring light into the darkness. When they get there, they realize they can't understand the people into whose midst they've been thrust. Many are hostile, some even murderously so. Many seem friendly and fatally polite, but you can't read the cultural cues well enough to know whether come nightfall, they'll be the people shooting at them out of the dark alleys. A man might serve you tea and figs one day, and behead your bunkmate and burn his body in the street the next.|
I try not to talk about the war much because I don't really have anything original to say. But one thing I don't hear as much about is the way we send away idealistic, motivated kids and drop them in a hell of our own making. Anyone who has ever had kids has an almost muscular desire to keep them innocent of the world's ugliness for as long as you're able, to let them 'be kids.' This isn't a wholly successfuly project, because kids seem inborn with the feeling that the world is a frightening, unforgiving place. You might comfort them by arranging things to try and give the opposite impression. But this innocense never seems to greet gruesome experience with any real surprise, because every new awefulness is just proof that the menacing shadows in the bedroom corner were real after all.
But many Americans reach their majority with this last shred of innocence left: We think that Democracy works, and that our country's role in the world is of a concerned benefactor seeking to raise the rest of the world up into the light. As a parent, this is real, hideous nut at the root of my horror at the war: All the children we send over with the best intentions who may die with their last thought being how disillusioned and betrayed they've been by the flag to which they've pledged allegiance since kindergarten.
These are a few of the Iowans who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan: Michael Deutsch, Richard Gienau, Antoine McKinzie, James Kearney II, David Rice, Aaron Sissel, Kurt Frosheiser, Robert Jason Gore.