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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: Nathaniel Wolfthorn (ganimede)
Posted at: May 6th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)
smeg

The last time the UK had a Tory government, they were in power for 18 years and it was horrendous. There was high unemployment and taxes, lots of strikes and we ended up going to war to defend one of our territories. Not a pleasant time. So yeah, it's pretty nervewracking right now.

I'm not sure if this is ironic or what, but there's just been a report of a bomb scare at one of the counting places in Northern Ireland. A hijacked car was abandoned in the car park and it's been evacuated.

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