Friday, October 22, 2010

On Second Thought: Kill

Here's an idea. Let's have children. Let's cuddle them, kiss them, love them, provide for them, teach them gentleness and kindness. Let's watch them sleep as we wonder what sort of people they will be some day. Let's teach them to respect their neighbors and life in general. Let's comfort them when they are afraid and tell them that God loves everyone.

Then, let's teach them to have aspirations -- to do well in school and to plan for a rich future with kids of their own to whom they can pass the same values we hold. Let's send our kids the message that they can be the architects of their respective futures. It is important for them to believe that they can do anything they want to. Dreams are theirs to snatch at speed, like those shiny rings on old-fashioned merry-go-rounds.

Above all, let's teach them that the worst thing they can be is a bully. "Do unto others" and all that. Live and let live. Let's teach them to make their own choices -- be an individual -- and to allow others to choose for themselves and to respect those choices of religion, lifestyle, moral codes, standards of dress, etc.

Ultimately, let's smile as our children bring forth children of their own -- new little ones to bathe in the warm waters of love. Let's be happy grandparents because the circle is complete. Let's give our kids a little speech on their children's birthdays about how the kids need to come first -- how family is everything.

Then, to wrap it all up, let's take one of the boys, jam an M-4 rifle into his hands and tell him it is his patriotic duty shoot other people with it and send him in to a brutal desert somewhere where he can get his brains spattered against a rock at the very moment his little baby loses her first tooth and puts it into an envelope so she can show Daddy that night when they talk on the computer.

Or maybe Daddy gets lucky and comes home one day, if broken to pieces by the horrors he has seen -- horrors he wasn't ready for, because we loved him so much. Because we taught him the opposite of what we eventually made him endure.

And they all lived shattered ever after.

This little fable is not a statement against patriotism or the military. It's not an evaluation of war, either. It's about a conundrum. Our kids, with very few exceptions, do not grow up preparing to fight. Basic training does not cover the gap: ours is not a warrior culture, high school football notwithstanding. Daddy is not Odysseus or some clan-leader drinking blood out of the skulls of the vanquished. He is a teacher or an accountant, or a carpenter or the owner of a store or a guy who loves to take care of his lawn. Our kids are not ready for carnage and the stench of death. None of them are really tough enough. That's the tragedy. That's the conundrum.

Even the survivors don't completely survive war. So, there are two options: revert to making killing machines out of our kids or figure out a way to end war. This middle ground is not acceptable. We can't go on asking common teachers, accountants and carpenters, owners of stores and cutters of lawns to blow other humans apart. It's inhuman and cruel to everyone involved. Casualty tallies would be even higher if we would remember that a young person can die without dying.

We need to figure out whether, as Bono says in "Peace on Earth," the lives of our kids are "bigger than any big idea." I think they are at least as big.

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