I tried hard the other day, but I just couldn’t find the words to comfort a young mother whose son had announced several months ago his decision to join the military service upon his graduation from high school. Well, he graduated last month, said his farewells and went off to basic training. His mother is still tearful, pausing often in her conversations to cry.
There is no way that I can ignore the mounting death toll of U.S. troops in the war zone. I’m aware that some people have a fixed answer for these kinds of situations. I’m not there yet and don’t look forward to the day when I will be.
Not everyone, of course, views this as a sad occasion. There are those who feel that the mother should be bursting with pride that her son is performing his civic duty by serving his country. Some people, of course, are better at handling the tragic news reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. They don’t take the incidents personally. War, after all, is hell, so they say.
And with the abundance of war movies on television, it’s easy for people to romanticize the horrific events that are going on before their eyes. Constant violence has a way of deadening the senses to the realities of pain and suffering.
I try to make it a policy not to discuss the war publicly. I’ve decided that because most folks have apparently made up their minds about how they feel about current events, there just is nothing to be gained by the further troubling of the waters. I make it a point to try to find noncontroversial issues on which most of us can agree. Some of us believe that whenever and wherever it all ends, our world will never be the same and we have sadly accepted that.
I have to admit, though, that although I’ve never been as patient as I would like to be, I think I’m losing ground when it comes to that virtue. With the historical knowledge available in books and online these days, there is simply no excuse for people to be unlearned about what the country’s foreign policy has been in the past and what it is today. I’m not particularly understanding of those who make ignorance a personal choice.
I believe my friend’s dilemma concerning her son’s action demonstrates again the importance of families discussing their ethical and religious values with their children at a young age. It’s not a good idea to wait until they are teenagers to discuss civic responsibilities. And it’s another example of the necessity for civic lessons in school, so children can learn of the many ways individuals can serve their country. Although some people approve of ROTC programs in schools, many do not. In some cases, families feel that youngsters are unfairly influenced at an impressionable age by such programs.
What those of us who are sick of violence and would prefer to place before children are more true depictions of events in which peaceful resolutions have been successful in preventing conflicts. How about more emphasis on the peace talks that go on around the world all the time? Children need to know that there are people in the world who work diligently to find peaceful means to settle disputes. Instead of violent video games, wouldn’t it be marvelous if companies could provide games that help children learn strategies to outwit bullies and disarm drug dealers by using collective bargaining tools to band together and pursue nonviolent self-defense? What the world needs are people with imagination, who dare to forsake old methodologies for new ways of looking at circumstances and devising revolutionary solutions to age-old difficulties.
For a country whose citizens have developed world-class technology, we seem to have difficulty in knowing how to use that technology to correct social ills that threaten to destroy the moral fiber of our culture. We have to learn smart ways to deter violence rather than escalate it. We have to find a way to instill positive parenting skills into young men and women before the child leaves the womb. We have to find the means to assure our elderly of a decent and productive life. We have to find a way to humanize our economic system so that people come first and profits come last.
What seems to me to be impossible is to continue to perpetuate the idea that might makes right and it’s OK for big people to pick on little people.
I guess what puzzles me is how parents and grandparents can hand out mixed messages to the younger generations and believe that they understand why the rules only apply to people “like us and people we like.”
No matter which side of the issue you’re on, I’m sure you look forward with me to the day when all the troops will be back home safely with their families.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org