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the girl with violets in her lap [userpic]

May 6th, 2010 (01:15 pm)
thoughtful
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current mood: thoughtful

On my way in to the library today, I passed a Marine Week display in the park across the street. There were three tanks on the opposite part of the park and a bunch of soldiers milling around. Near the sidewalk, as I was waiting for the light, I saw a wide-eyed little boy hanging onto his mother's hand, chatting with a couple of the soldiers. He was clearly entranced, and the soldiers were really enjoying him, laughing and talking kindly. And I smiled, because the kid was cute and the soldiers were nice and it was a nice scene.

Then I noticed what was right behind the kid: a machine gun on display, propped up on a tripod-like thing next to the sidewalk. The machine gun was bigger than the child, if you'd laid one next to the other. My smile faded.

It's not that I got angry about this, precisely, or onto an anti-Marines kick. I don't bear resentment towards individual soldiers. I have a vague sense of the variety of reasons that a person might join the military. Many believe wholeheartedly that this is the only way to keep their country safe and are willing to put their lives on the line for that. I know some of those people and I respect them. Others join the military because they need the opportunities that it affords them to better their lives and the lives of their families: money, education, and so on. I know some of those people, and I respect them, too. There are plenty more reasons, I'm sure, just as I'm sure that sadism, or a desire to kill other people carte blanche, is among the least common.

But it was an emotional experience nevertheless, seeing this tiny child standing next to this big gun, seeing his face lit up with excitement and visions of what it could mean to be a man, a soldier, in America. Perhaps it's contradictory to what I said above, but I don't like guns. Not guns that are designed with the specific intent of killing other human beings. And seeing this little boy standing next to a gun bigger than he was, my mind couldn't help but drift to other children in other places where the guns are bigger than they are: kids looking down the barrel of a gun at a soldier who isn't smiling, child soldiers toting guns heavier than they are in several senses of the word. Small children mangled by bullets, made even smaller in death.

Point fingers at the guns, at the military, at the culture that teaches children that war is both a game and an aspiration. I don't know the answers and wouldn't know how to implement them if I did.

I wish things could be different, is all. But wishing won't change anything. And somewhere, a little boy is talking about how cool it is to be a soldier.

Comments

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: May 6th, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC)

You're not putting words in my mouth - or if you are, they're the right words.

Partly I think it's the rules that appeal to me. It may be, as shaysdays says, overmanagement - but I think I'd do well in an environment where everything was clear, where I didn't have to feel like I was always trying to play catch-up in a world where there were all these complicated expectations and no one gave me a rulebook.

And partly - my pacifism is, well, complicated. It's not that I find violence distasteful. It's not that I don't think I'd like it. It's that I know my own inner demons well enough to be pretty sure that I would, even with the risk of getting injured or killed. And military service would give me the perfect excuse - doing it for all the "right" reasons, honor and duty and serving my country and following orders. That's what being a soldier is, right? Someone else worrying about the ethics for you? But that's why I draw my own personal line at absolute pacifism - because if I start letting it slide and making excuses, I'm afraid of where that road would lead.

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: May 6th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)

I'd do well in an environment where everything was clear, where I didn't have to feel like I was always trying to play catch-up in a world where there were all these complicated expectations and no one gave me a rulebook.

Man, does that ever resonate with me. I've sort of turned 180 degrees from where I was growing up: almost all the way through college it frightened me intensely that I never got the rulebook the rest of the world seemed to have gotten*, and the idea of having a literal rulebook and structure to live by would have been so appealing. Then something, or somethings, shifted, and now I balk completely at anyone else's trying to tell me what to think or what to do. I don't really know what accounts for the change, but they're definitely flip sides of the same coin. It's just that it used to bother me that I didn't have the internalized template for socially acceptable other people seemed to have, and now it bothers me if anyone acts like I should have one. Or something.

*I used that exact phrase many times when I was growing up. Exactly.

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: May 6th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I'm on both sides of that same coin too - and I think what flipped it for me (not entirely, I still crave rules sometimes, but partly) was the realization that no one else got the rulebook either. Yeah, there are all these expectations for how I'll act, but most of the time there's no actual solid rules, and even when there are rules, they're mostly just ones that society pulled out of its collective ass. Most of the time, when you find one of the rules and try to figure out why it's a rule, the best answer you'll get from anyone is "because that's how it is." And if you dig a little deeper and think about it, what that means is "because that's what works for a lot of people." And that's great as far as it goes, but I'm not a lot of people, and what works for them doesn't always work for me, so fuck that.

I think people like you and me, having spent additional time and effort really trying to figure out the rules, have maybe seen through them to a degree - most people take them at face value because they never think about them, but having thought about them, we've realized that a lot of them are bullshit and not worth subjecting ourselves to. Or something like that. But now I'm the one putting words in your mouth.

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