(Inspired by the war fanboys on MSNBC last night….)
War changes you, this I know. I know it from my brother-in-law, whose job it was at 17 to crawl under barbed wire and disarm the bombs attached to the bodies of U.S. troops by the Viet Cong, and then carry those bodies back — because “we don’t leave our people behind.” He still jumps at loud noises.
I know it from the old men I interviewed who were part of the Normandy invasion, especially the one who looked me in the eye and said, “You don’t really want to know, and I don’t want to talk about it.”
Or the young Iraq vet, the neighbor across the hall, who pulled a gun on me in full military stance when he heard me enter my storage unit at night. (I could tell he wasn’t quite sure where he was.) But even if he’d never pulled the gun, I’d know war changed him because I could hear when he woke up screaming in the middle of the night.
Women always know, because we’re the ones who end up cleaning up the emotional mess – or become targets. (Or we run, because it’s too much for many people to handle.) And those women tell other women, until it becomes common knowledge. We’re the ones who see the walking wounded, and know how much it takes for them to get through another day.
I don’t know that women are naturally pacifists. I think it’s that they take a long look at the human wreckage and make an informed choice: This isn’t worth it. Because it usually isn’t.
But the really strange reaction to war, the one that bugs the hell out of me, is that of the men who didn’t go to war. There was a spate of essays in the 80s and 90s from men who confessed how sorry they were they got out of the draft, or didn’t see combat — because “that’s what makes you a man.”
And the outgrowth of that? The George W. Bushes, the William Kristols, the Karl Roves, the Don Rumsfelds, the Robert McNamaras and other assorted half-wits who like to prop up their own inadequacies by sending other men to die for the causes they select.
War is death and destruction, not a glorious cause. If we’re going to send people to die in wars, we need a damned good reason.
It really bothers me when people say women “won” the right to vote. It wasn’t like buying a winning lottery ticket. We had the right to vote all along, it was just finally, officially recognized — just as any right is.
One abiding trait of conservatives is the idea that you can control human behavior by … censoring information about human behavior! Book censorship is always a prime example:
Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook have been abuzz in the last 24 hours with news that four YA authors have pulled out of the annual Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Tex., a Houston suburb. The authors withdrew in support of writer Ellen Hopkins, who announced in a blog post last week that she had been disinvited from the festival, which is organized by the Humble Independent School District, and is scheduled for January 2011. In the post, entitled “Censorship Bites,” Hopkins announced that her invitation had been revoked after a middle-school librarian and parents approached a superintendent and the school board about her participation.
Hopkins’s novels in verse deal with gritty subject matter: her Crank series, which concludes next month with Fallout, centers on meth addiction, while her 2009 novel, Tricks, was about teen prostitution. “We all feel badly that we’re making this stand,” Hopkins told School Library Journal. “We don’t want our readers to feel like we’re punishing them. But this is about having the right to read our books, and these people don’t have the right to say you can’t.”
In the last few days, four authors who were also scheduled to appear at the festival—Pete Hautman, Melissa de la Cruz, Matt de la Peña, and Tera Lynn Childs—announced in quick succession that they were also withdrawing. “What is important is that a handful of people – the superintendent, the one (one!) librarian, and “several” (three? five?) parents – took it upon themselves to overrule the vast majority of teachers and librarians and students who had chosen one of the most popular YA authors in America to be their headliner,” wrote Hautman in a blog post. “That is a form of censorship as damaging and inexcusable as setting fire to a library.” And on her blog, de la Cruz wrote, “I believe that as a writer, we have to stick up for each other, and against censorship, and against people who want to tell everyone else what to think, what to read, what to watch.” Other authors scheduled to appear at the festival are Sharon Flake, Brian Meehl, and Todd Strasser.
Like all parents, my mom had her flaws. But one thing she never, ever did was censor my reading material. After a nun complained to her about my third-grade book report on “The Cardinal” (a then-popular potboiler about a priest who had an affair and also let his sister die rather than approve an abortion), my mother said, “If the book is too adult, most of it’s going right over her head. But if she does understand it, then she’s old enough to read about it.”
Think about that. I was eight years old. I have always thought that was the single most awesome thing my mother ever did.