Saturday, December 13, 2008

Armed Forces

It’s no secret that I am against the war in Iraq. I have been since the beginning and my opinion has not changed. It fact, it has been reinforced. It is also no secret that I am, and always have been, an ardent supporter of the brave men and women who serve this country. Contrary to what the neo-cons would have us believe, the two positions are not mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite - it is because I support the members of the Armed Forces that I want them out of Iraq - now. This little pet project of the Bush-Cheney machine (or is it Cheney-Bush?) has proven to be an unmitigated disaster on so many levels, the most profound of which is the senseless loss of so many lives.

In the past year, I have also written about another of Bush’s “accomplishments,” the No Child Left Behind Act. I’m not going to go into all of the intricacies of the Federal government meddling in the states’ affairs again, save one. Part of NCLB requires high schools to provide student information to military recruiters. Well, they don’t actually have to - the Feds cannot force the states to do anything of the kind, but they can withhold NCLB monies (another rant I won’t get into today. Hint: What money? The act is seriously under funded…). Regardless, my problem with the whole idea is that recruiters were given access to my son without my knowledge or prior approval. His options, whether it is to join the military or otherwise, are ours to discuss - I resent my government undercutting my parental influence.

But all that is history now. My (youngest) son has graduated high school; he is a legal adult, making adult decisions. Although Bush, Cheney and the entire neo-con machine had my attention and my ire for some time, that too, is nearly history - I can’t wait to see how historians document these past eight years. The very idea that questioning my country’s leadership makes me less than “a real American” is laughable. Patriotism has nothing to do with blindly following our leaders’ lies and everything to do with speaking out against their follies. I can support our military men and women in Iraq without supporting the idiot who sent them there. Period.

But there is change in the wind. It doesn’t mean the world will be less dangerous overnight and it doesn’t mean fanatics of all sort will not try to kill in the name of whatever the cause of the day is. It just means hope. Hope that we can again establish more than just a military or police authority in the world - Bush didn’t create that, we already had it - but a moral authority as well. It is hope that we will use our might wisely and not needlessly risk the lives of those serving to keep us free. It is hope that the world will become a better place from intelligent, open-minded leadership. I hope that we have turned the corner.

I am glad those recruiters were not able to influence my son to do something we had not discussed. Not because I am fearful for his safety if he enlists - I am. Not because I am against the military - I am not. And not because I somehow believe that I get to dictate this young adult’s direction in life - I don’t. But because we have a relationship today that is based on mutual respect, he seeks my opinion. And he is thinking about enlisting in the Army or Navy. It came from him, not my government and he came to me with it, not the recruiter. We are talking about it - I have no intention of talking him out of it. But we will speak of the reality of what his proposal entails. Not just the bad stuff, but the benefits as well - there are many.

I just don’t want him fighting Bush’s war… and I am hopeful that will soon be over.


mw said...

I like that you insist on letting your sons decision be his own - not yours, not the recruiters, but only his. That strikes me as the best of parenting. I suspect that your son is willing to discuss things with you simply because he understands your principled stand. Excellent post - thank you

Snaggle Tooth said...

Troops being sent where ever needed is always an integral part of the military experience.
Alot of people I know enlisted recently due to the lack of available employment. One of the girls I grew up with is career military, went to Germany, and Iraq.
As with everything, there are risks, n there are benefits.
Good for you remaining neutral in your son's descision!

David Edward said...

maybe the people of Iraq might want to voice their opinion as to the value of all the work we are doing there.

I am glad you support the troops. we can agree to disagree on the "other stuff"

carmilevy said...

As a parent, I found myself nodding along to your every last word. As an interested observer of the political state of the U.S., I similarly nodded along.

Sadly, such cogent, well thought-out perspectives would be lost on Bush and his ilk. Thankfully that won't be an issue before long.

Beautifully put, Mike.

Anonymous said...

this got me nodding too... my boy is only 5 and the other day we had a very honest conversation about 'when i grow up daddy' - he figured that i would be the one who made the choices for him (bless - i can't even get my own choices right!) - i told him i would support whatever life choices he made... as you say mike - his own choices, decisions.... though I pray it's not, well, you know.

as usual - poignant and profound