Manly Decision

Another ninny of an “adult” who mourns for her son–her son, who makes a more adult-like decision than her own mother ever made.

My take on this article:

My first beef with this article is the title. “Portrait of a Son at War, Though a Mother’s Eyes.” The article certainly is not that. Rather, it’s self-absorbed sorrow that her son made a manly decision and didn’t buy into his mother’s narrative of events. We don’t hear anything of admiration for her son’s decision to support and defend. We instead see narcisistic laments of unfairness–that sons of other parents go to UCLA or Berkely, and her son’s lot in life is to merely soldier.

She snides, “This was definately not the way things were supposed to work out.”

The Twin Towers weren’t supposed to fall. The bombing of Pearl Harbor wasn’t supposed to have happened, nor the Bolshevik Revolution, nor the Iron Curtain, nor Hitler’s attack on Poland or gobbling of Czechoslovakia. Nor the bombing of the USS Cole, nor the Iranian Islamic Revolution, nor the Beirut Barracks Bombing. Shit happens, and sometimes men have to make decisions to volunteer to right to wrongs. Some men have outs–medical, religous, or even knowing the guy on the local draft board. But at the end of the day, it takes men who sacrifice their freedom or their lives for the sake of others. Freedom will be manifest not because of Berkley or UCLA, or UW Madison, or Harvard. Freedom will be manifest because a 19-year-old man with a rifle stands a post.

She continues…

“When I tell people that Evan has joined the Army, their reactions are almost always the same: their faces freeze, they pause way too long, and then they say, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry for you.” I hang my head and look mournful, accepting their sympathy for the worry that lives in me. But as it dawns on them that Evan wasn’t drafted, as Vietnam still clings to my generation, their expressions become quizzical, then disbelieving. I know what they’re thinking: Why in the world would any kid in his right mind choose to enlist when we’re in the middle of a war? I begin telling them the story, desperate to assure them it wasn’t arrogant patriotism or murderous blood lust that convinced him to join. What finally hooked him was a recruiter’s comment that if he thought the country’s role in Iraq was so screwed up, he should try to fix it.”

What kind of Americans are these, who feel sorry that others volunteer on their behalf?

Arrogant patriotism? I don’t know anything of the sort? Patriotism is sublime. It is a connection we have to what is. It’s between realization that what we have is worth living with, and consequently, worth dying for. It’s not just apple pie–it’s apple pie as you remember it, or the pure enjoyment of coffee on a brisk fall morning. It’s fellowship at Thanksgiving. Above all, patriotism is intensely personal, and yet communal. How is it boastful? Do tell!

Murderous blood lust? This comment is undeserving of response.

She continues:

“And on a deeper, personal level, he signed up hoping that after, somehow the Army would help him find what young men these days often try to fill with alcohol, drugs and video games: a sense of purpose.”

Isn’t that the job of parents? Though discipline, ethics, and morals can be learned from the military, I think this statement says more of the state of society and the state of parenting than anything else.

“A teenager when his father and I divorced, he’d never had anyone to teach him what it meant to be a man, he told him when he explained his decision to join the Army. He couldn’t concentrate on college courses, he was resisting promotion at his job, and he not only wanted but needed challenge and discipline, he said. The only way to get it, he’d decided, was to pit himself against drill sergeants, armed insurgents and Improvised Explosive Devices. If he could do it, he told me, he’d have the self-assurance he hadn’t found in his old life.”

There you have it: A boy with no male role models actually looks for them. How sad.

As though drill sergeants, insurgents, and enemy ambushes are the worst things in the world. Trust me–there is worse: A selfish sense that the burdens of freedom and life should be carried by others, and when I mean others, I mean kids, probably Republicans, who don’t go to UCLA.

“Evan volunteered for this, I remind myself. He’s promised to defend his country at all costs. My son may hesitate before he pulls the trigger, but he’s trained to shoot to kill. He’s donned the uniform, so whatever happens – ambush, rocket-fire, mortar attack, IED, an insurgent’s sword-he must face the consequences. Now I must accept that the son I raised to be a gentle, caring soul is somewhere in the Iraq desert, a loaded M3 in his arms. At this very moment, he could be exalting with his buddies that he killed the enemy, ending the life of another mother’s son. If, God forbid, another mother’s son kills Evan, will I share the same empathy “he was only doing his job” that I’m willing to extend to my own flesh and blood?”

It’s an M-4 or M-16, not an M3.

To the mothers of the world: Why don’t you get together and have some nice chai with that Syrian woman whose son is about to die because he picked the wrong convoy to attack. Think about how you’re repudiating your son’s actions as he allows you the freedom to think such thoughts.

She finishes the article saying that we raise children to leave us. Indeed. Thank God that we do. Were it not for the sons who lived by the sword, and died by the sword, there wouldn’t be men today. Some of those men of yore stood posts, carrying a pike, sword, or sling. Some carried a longbow, a musket, a Lee-Enfield, or a 1903 Springfield. Some had a BAR. Others carried an M-16, M-4, or an M-9. One generation passes the torch to the next, and in passing of the torch, they pass responsibility to protect the free.

Even is one of those men who protects, and we are indebted.

Suggested Further Study:
AWOL, by Shaeffer and Roth-Douquet
Carnage and Culture, by Hanson.
The Soldier and the State, by Huntington
Constitution of the United States
Violence Without Context: No True Glory


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