Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Our Boys

I have been watching Ken Burn's "The War" on PBS. Many people who lived through WWII talk about their experiences. And all of the ones who were civilians refer to the men in the military as "our boys". They watched our boys in the Movie Tone news. They read about our boys. They mourned when they heard of the loss of one of our boys. They followed the news daily, marking the progress of our boys on maps. One woman from Sacramento, California who was a prisoner in an internment camp in the Philippines from the time she was 9 until the camp was liberated when she was 13, talks about knowing that our boys would come and rescue them.

As I watched the sixth episode, it suddenly hit me. We don't call the troops in Iraq our boys, and I don't think it's because some of them are women. There seems to me to be a difference in how we think of them. Partly because the troops in WWII came from all walks of life and, as it says in the documentary, there was no one in the country who didn't know one of them, no one who didn't know someone who lost one of them. There was no block that hadn't sent one of our boys to the war. Partly, perhaps, because the civilians also were fighting that war. With rationing and women becoming Rosie the Riveter and victory gardens and war bonds and the entire manufacturing might of the country being turned to producing for the military and blackouts on the coasts and seeing the blue star in the window that meant there was a soldier in the family turn to the gold star that meant he had been lost -- with the entire country aimed at this one goal, to defeat the Axis, the civilian population was committed to this war. And just as they knew that their boys were overseas fighting for them, protecting them, they also felt protective about their boys.

I don't think that enough of us feel that way. That it is up to us to protect our kids, to sacrifice and commit ourselves to them as they have committed themselves to us. Because it doesn't matter whether we think this war is necessary and just or we think it is the biggest mistake our country has ever made, the fact is that the individual soldiers in Iraq are there to protect us; even the ones who no longer believe that being in Iraq does protect us, went to protect us.

And it concerns me greatly that we don't seem to recognize them as our children, because they come from so few of our families. Because they are mostly working class and brown. We don't see them as our children and we don't see ourselves as needing to do anything for them. That more of us don't feel that protective concern for them. That we never refer to them as our kids.


naomi dagen bloom said...

wanted you to know that some of us are concerned even though we do not have a personal connection to any soldier in iraq. spouse and i have tried to volunteer to do counseling with veterans. there is no way to get through to the VA. our congressman (who opposes the war)has not responded to our interest.

it is threatening to current administration for people to get involved on the homefront. would be harder to demonize us peace people.

J at said...

Does this mean that our going to the mall and living our lives just as we always have, and pretending that there's nothing wrong going on, except to say, "We need to bring them home..." between bites of buffalo wings, and put a yellow ribbon on our car somehow isn't enough? Really?

Imagine that.

Rain said...

I watched the last 3 episodes and will see the rest. I had a lot of thoughts while watching it also. Yours are interesting. I think the difference is citizens today are discouraged from personalizing this war. Don't sacrifice. Don't know the names. Don't see the caskets. Keep the news coverage positive. The generals in WWII were interested in strategic goals and from what I can tell that's what this current US government want us all to do-- strategic goals and everybody there volunteered; so their suffering does not count. Never mind the lies in that. It's all about keeping Americans content and ignoring any real cost-- including not even paying for the war. as your commenter said, it's yellow ribbons and buy more at the mall. What a difference.

Betty said...

How right you are. Maybe it's because we don't consider this a real war.

Chancy said...

During WW2 we were encouraged to take part in the war effort by buying war bonds, using our ration books responsibility, observing the black outs at night,sacrificing whatever it took on a personal basis to fight the enemy.Our sons,brothers and fathers were called upon to sacrifice. There was a draft so most every family was affected.

Today,those in power would like nothing better than to keep us ignorant of what the true cost of this Iraq misadventure is. In human lives and treasure, both Iraqi and our own. We never see the coffins coming home to Dover Delaware. The national news covers the latest celebrity gossip and minor unimportant happenings. We are lulled into indifference. I feel for all those who are fighting for us in Iraq. Those lives lost and those terribly maimed who make it back.

I do not think we are callous. Just misinformed by government propaganda

gawilli said...

You are right. I watched it in my own community. Until one came home in a casket, nobody knew who he was. Then they brought out the flags and marching bands; the fire trucks draped in black. It was then that he became a hero. That's not when he needed us.

Deja Pseu said...

Maya's Granny, I've been thinking about this since you posted it, and your words have motivated me to finally get off the stick and sign up to send care packages to our men and women in harm's way via . Soldiers volunteer to coordinate and distribute the letters and goodies among those in their units who aren't getting mail from home, and they provide lists of the items they need most.

ally said...

Excellent point. They aren't "our boys" anymore. That's a huge shift in sixty years in the way that America defines itself. I remember knowing boys who went to Nam, but have no knowledge of anyone going to the Gulf War or this one. Something has changed. When did we become so disjointed and fragmented in our sense of self?

mars said...

When did we become so disjointed and fragmented in our sense of self?

When this country became more and more a nation of polarized extremes--the ultra wealthy vs. the homeless. What's missing? a strong MIDDLE class, with middle class values like they had in WWII. Where are the sons and daughters of the CEO's? Too many enlistees come from homes of the working poor. Families stretched too far to make ends meet. The only opportunity for a college education is to enlist in the armed services. And so they do. And so they become fodder for this *war*--which bears NO resemblance to WWII whatsoever. It is not a global imperative, it's the whim of a mad man who seized his power illegally and then sent thousands and thousands of young American *boys and girls* to their deaths so his greedy war monger friends could further line their pockets.

I take issue with the idea that American soldiers in Iraq are there to protect US. Or to protect *freedom*--that's exactly the rhetoric Bush uses to defend his unconscienable actions. Tell the Iraqi people that the US military is protecting THEIR freedom. See if that heals the enormous misery our actions have brought them.

Maya's Granny said...

You say:
"I take issue with the idea that American soldiers in Iraq are there to protect US. Or to protect *freedom*--that's exactly the rhetoric Bush uses to defend his unconscienable actions."

I agree that Bush did not send them to protect us, but I believe that they went under the impression that was what they were there for.

mars said...

I agree. That illusion of protecting our freedoms is the way the military sells service to its recruits. They indoctrinate not only the recruits but their whole family into believing this. Without that illusion, who would serve? There must be something noble in what they're doing.
Unless a country is threatening to invade the US, or invade enough of the world to pose a threat to us (as in WWII) the armed services are no more protecting us than they are men on the moon. This is the bitter lie veterans discover when they lay horribly wounded and neglected by the military that wanted them so badly.