My son joined the Marines. I don't know what to think about that, except that I don't like it.
That feels almost hypocritical, but there it is. My father was in the Army, and his father before him. I spent 21 years in the Air Force. I carried a gun for the entire time (except for the last year, when I got a nice cushy office job). I was in the Security Forces, which are, to the Air Force, what the infantry is to the Army. We guard planes, we guard nukes, and we train to kill people.
I helped set up an elite Terrorist Response Force, using specialized weapons and tactics to kill anyone who might take control of one of the missile silos, or a nuclear convoy rolling between them. I went to various ground combat schools, and learned entertaining ways to make people stop living. I spent two tours in the Middle East, waiting to kill someone before they tried to kill us.
I never had to shoot anyone anyone, although I spent long periods looking through my sites, waiting to see if I was going to be gunning down somebody. And I trained to kill. I waited for the opportunity, thought about doing it, and knew that I could when the opportunity came up. "Deadly force" (the nice, clean military euphemism for putting a bullet into another human) is supposed to be the last option, but it always needs to be an option. If you think about what you're doing (and I did), you have to make peace with that.
I think that the problem is a matter of motive and opportunity, more than anything else. I trained to keep people from stealing our engines of war. To keep terrorists from getting a nuclear weapon. To defend lives. I trained to kill for a reason.
But if my son, the boy whose diapers I changed, who I helped through skinned knees and broken bones, gets sent to Iraq or Afghanistan as a Marine, he will be there because George Bush invaded a country on false pretenses. Took us to war on a lie, and made people hate us enough to want to kill us.
There were terrorists before – 9/11 was proof of that. But there weren't as many as there are now, and they weren't as well trained, and they didn't have this hot, burning hatred of us that comes from the people of a land looking at their invaders.
Some of them wanted to kill us for our religion, some because of various reasons, but when George Bush lied to us and we invaded Iraq, he created a whole new game. He created people who wanted to kill us because we invaded their land, killed and tortured their people, threw their lives into chaos, and destroyed everything that they had built up over their lifetimes.
They don't hate us for our freedoms, as he so incoherently said; they hate us because we took away theirs. Their way of life may have been different from ours; their government may not have mirrored ours; but it was their life, their government, their civilization, and we destroyed it.
George Bush has bred generations of people who will want to kill us, not for any tenuous, inchoate philosophy, but because of what we did to them. They want to kill us in exactly the same way that I would want to kill them if they invaded my country, destroyed my life, tore down my government (flawed though it may be).
And now my son, if John McCain wins this next election, is going to have a good chance of being sent to a country where he will have to kill people, who are doing exactly what I would be doing in their place.
Luke explained that he “wanted to make a difference,” and felt that the Marines would allow him to do just that.
He's always been pigheaded that way. He gets a thought into his brain, and you can't get it out with a crowbar. I thought I'd taught him about the world, but apparently I didn't teach him enough.
I didn't teach him that if there was one thing he didn't want to do right now, it was join the Marines.
I didn't teach him (I thought I did) that evil people have taken over our government, and have done evil things for worthless reasons.
I never pressed him on how he thought he was going to “make a difference.” I should have. I should have yelled at him. I should have screamed. I should have talked to him until I was blue in the face. It wouldn't have made any difference, but that's what I should have done.
He's 22. I couldn't stop him.
I have another son. Somehow, that doesn't help; I don't feel better that I have a spare in case the first one blows out (or in this case, up).
Luke may easily be killed. He may be injured in ways I don't want to contemplate. He may only have to do things that will haunt his dreams for the rest of his life, like gunning down children who might be carrying bombs, or women who hope for a better life for their children (having given up on getting one for themselves).
He might not. He might easily spend his entire enlistment far away from any danger. But he might just as easily be sent right into the worst part of the world. And if John McCain is elected, with his mindless worldview and neocon advisors, the “worst part of the world” could easily expand to include Iran, or Syria, or the entire Middle East.
Don't get me wrong. I'm amazingly proud of my son. He's doing what he thinks is right. But I hate that he will be doing it for the wrong people and the wrong reasons. That he's going into a tunnel that he might never come out of, or might never walk upright again if he does.
Apparently, I have very strong feelings about ambivalence.