Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Shouldn't We At Least Care?

This CNN iReporter article documents the feelings of loss and separation felt on the homefront over deployed soldiers in Iraq. One 19-year-old Marine, John Schroeder, is preparing for deployment to Iraq in the imminent future. His mother describes him this way:
"He doesn't care if you do or don't understand his choice; he isn't concerned with political views, religion or race. His greatest concern is doing the job he is asked to do with skill and pride, protecting those abroad and at home and standing up to the standards he has set for himself."

All of which is completely honorable, as far as it goes. I've had this discussion with a mother who has two sons in the military, one deployed in Iraq. She wanted to tell me that questioning our country's political motivations was tantamount to aiding the terrorists and destroying her son's morale, mocking the job that he's doing there.

I defy anyone who reads this blog with regularity to find a single example of me mocking the troops or the job they do. But I willingly agree that I argue, and will continue to do so with every fibre of my being, that this war is not a war of honor, but a war of oil. It was based on a lie, it continues to be based on lies and half-truths, and no amount of flag-waving or "God Bless America" will change that. 935 lies, folks. Count 'em. (No, wait, don't bother.... It's already been done for you, here, and here, and here, and... well, hell... look 'em up yourselves, folks... my carpal tunnel is acting up). The mother I spoke with came just this close {--} to telling me that I was a traitor for protesting the war and speaking out against my President -- that by doing so, I was denegrating all her sons were fighting for. The last two men I've loved have been ex-military, and I have nothing but pride in their service and their call to duty. But it doesn't mean that everything they did while in uniform was honorable or righteous.

This mother and I don't speak anymore, because, really... what's the point? It's not like I'm ever going to see the error of my ways and realize what a couple of military geniuses Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were back in 2003, or that I'm going to believe a single word coming out of the mouths of David Petraeus or Dana Perino, all of which they've been spoon fed from the Oval Office, or that we're ever going to actually find the weapons of mass destruction or the bin Laden-Hussein connection that were both supposed to justify this war. This is mostly because I -- unlike Hillary Clinton, apparently -- wasn't just launched from the tube last week. I know a few things. I read a newspaper or two -- or, rather FOUR a day (some of them -- GASP! -- from other countries). I learn. I listen. I watch.

I care.

This is, I believe, what separates me from 19-year-old Marine John Schroeder as he so willingly prepares to lay down his life for his country. Make no mistake. I admire this boy. I am awed by his bravery. And I'm sure there are a myriad of things he does care deeply, preciously about -- his family, his friends, and, yes, his country. But it doesn't stop me from being concerned about his decision to blindly sally forth with little desire to learn of the political or global ramifications of this war. It concerns me that he's making this sacrifice, but doesn't care to know the whys and wherefores. I worry that he heads into this major conflagration, which isn't only about one soldier and his weapon, but about a big country invading and having its way with a smaller country, and all the international, political, socio-economic and cultural aspects that that entails. I am gravely troubled by young Schroeder's lack of curiousity about certain corporate interests that have asserted themselves in Iraq, which was hand-delivered to them by the current Administration.

My heart goes out to Samantha Schroeder, whose position on the rightness or politics of the war don't seem to enter much into her post (nor should they, I believe). It is only two paragraphs, but they are mostly full of pride and admiration for a son she raised who has made this very grown-up decision on his own. I do not presume to know what she thinks about the war itself, except that I'm sure she is now hip-deep in it and determined to survive. As the mother of a 19-year-old, I am all too aware that, once they make up their minds, you no longer have the ability to control them. You can advise, you can confer, you can cajole, you can plead, you can guilt (yes, I said it -- guilt... we use it, and I don't deny it), but in the end, your 19-year-old is going to decide what he or she will do, and you have little say over it. Were I in Samantha Schroeder's position, I -- yes, even I -- would be thinking less about politics and more about prayer as my child prepared to leave for war. As a parent, I feel Ms. Schroeder's pain and empathize with the extreme difficulty of her position. And I see her love that she carries for her son in her heart.

As a blogger, a reader, a political being, though, I worry that we are sending teenagers to fight this war -- this very complex, political, esoteric, multi-dimensional, the-likes-of-which-has-never-been-seen-before war -- with the attitude that they don't care; that, in fact, they'd just rather not know. He goes because of his sense of duty, of obligation, and this is not a bad thing in the slightest. However, if you're going to pick up an M-16, click a loaded clip into place, then point it at another human being, shouldn't you at least care why you're doing it? Shouldn't you at least want an answer as to whether it's justified or not? At 19, the world is a very "black and white" place. At 49, to paraphrase Simone de Beauvoir, it is more shades of grey, tinted rose -- more subtle, less sure, less controllable, collapsable, definable. Complexity lends itself to study, to investigation, to discovery. And what we learn can alter where our passions burn. As de Beauvoir also said, "I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth - and truth rewarded me."

I hope with all my heart and soul that John Schroeder comes home, whole and healthy, from his deployment to the waiting arms of his mother, and that during his stay there, he learns a thing or two or three about the world and how we all fit (together) in it.


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