A son in the army…

A friend’s son, having been inducted into the army, has experienced several months of training in the North prior to being stationed with a peacekeeping unit in the Middle East.  My friend is terrified for her son’s prospects, and wishes he could be here working quietly and safely at a dull, uneventful job.

Like many other young men of his age, he has been weaned on Nintendo and MuchMusic. What, possibly, could he know of the history and culture of a Middle Eastern country, let alone his own, so that he may be aware of the reasons for which he finds himself transported there to tote guns and ostensibly help keep peace between warring factions? In my opinion, he is merely unwitting and unaware cannon-fodder, a sort of plastic pawn, placed there at the whim of political leaders who are playing Global Chess.

So, this young man, who could be any of our sons, will be housed in tents or Quonset huts, drive around in armored vehicles, tote weapons in a place so unlike the place he calls home.  All, with whom he comes into contact, who are the “others”, and whose allegiances he could not determine by simply looking at or talking with, he will face with an unbearable and foreign-to-him paranoia. The harsh desert light will reveal everything in high contrast to him – safety/danger, friend/enemy, good/bad. The inevitable shadings of truth will not so easily be available for his discernment.

What kind of reasoning permits him to undergo this experience willingly?  Surely, that he is intellectually, emotionally and experientially green is the primary factor.  For certain, the lure of Romance and Adventure is embedded in the idea of a career in the armed forces, more so than, by way of contrast, in a warehouse job or plumber’s apprenticeship.

It may never occur to him that he is unwittingly an agent of hubris. Does he possibly think about the fact that democracy, a foreign construct in oriental cultures, may, instead of being desired by people living there be actively and vigorously resisted?

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