We knew our childhood days were done
And I watched my friends go off to war
What do they keep on fighting for? Lenningrad- Billy Joel
I remember the day I signed up for Selective Service. It was a sunny day in May of ’87, might have been my birthday or maybe a few days afterwards, I don’t really remember.
Some of the boys and I kidded around about whether we’d have to fight those Commie Bastards and talked about how our grandfathers had helped to kick Hitler’s ass and told Japan to go suck it.
Hindsight and age makes it easier to look back and say that part of me was nervous. I didn’t really expect to be called up and sent off to war but I was certain if I did I would go fight the Russians because the Cold War was still in effect and we knew the Soviet Union was our biggest threat.
We remembered the joy of beating the Russians in ’80 and hearing the stories about how Reagan wasn’t going to take any crap from Brezhnev.
School Yard Memories
My parents were registered democrats which is why in first grade I voted for Carter over Ford. Can’t say that I remember them saying much about Reagan beating Carter but I definitely remember talk about the Hostage crisis and a conversation we had when John Hinckley tried to assassinate President Reagan.
My dad worked for L.A. County for 38 years. Mom stayed home until my baby sisters went to kindergarten and then she went back to work.
Dad didn’t serve in Vietnam. He was in the Peace Corps, came home, got married, started grad school and when I showed up became a father.
Dad sat me down in kindergarten and told me that I had to stand up for myself and that if another boy hit me I was allowed to hit them back.
There were two rules:
- They had to hit me first.
- If I chose to hit them back I was to hit them as hard as I could.
He made it clear that he wanted me to avoid getting into fights but that if I couldn’t I was to defend myself.
You’re Cannon Fodder
I am about almost 20 and I am thinking about enlisting in the Marines. Girlfriend has broken up with me, college seems endless and I am restless.
Dad catches wind of this and tells me that boys my age are cannon fodder and talks about how the people who control wars aren’t the ones out on the battlefield.
I am furious for a million reasons not the least of which is I don’t like being told I am a boy. I am a college student and have spent so many hours in the gym I am all muscle.
I choose not to enlist because I don’t want some 18 year-old boy screaming at me. I don’t tell dad his words are bouncing around my head.
Not so long afterwards I attend more than a few goodbye parties for guys who are going off to fight the first Gulf War.
September 11, 2001
I have blogged about this many times. My son is ten months old and is playing with blocks. He builds towers and knocks them down.
In the background we watch the planes fly into the Towers and see them collapse. It takes the news a moment to stop showing the people jumping out of the building but there is no doubt that things are bad.
There is no doubt in my mind that in the very near future the U.S. is going to go to war, but I don’t wonder if I’ll go. I am 31, it is not going to be me this time.
I look down at the boy playing at my feet and hope that by the time he is 18 things have calmed down.
Iraq isn’t completely settled down and Afghanistan is still hot. Syria is using chemical weapons on its own people and the world can’t decide what to do about it.
I spent a chunk of Tuesday night helping my son with his Bar Mitzvah lessons and working on 7th grade homework. He told me about his day and made me laugh.
We’re two hours ahead of L.A. here in Texas so 9/11 has started and I can’t help but think about the day. Like I said, I have blogged about it plenty of times so I am not going to rehash it all today.
But what I know is tomorrow evening an almost 13 year-old boy will call me and ask questions about what it all means and what I think. And I’ll have answers for him, but I won’t share everything I think, wonder or worry about.
A lot can happen in five years, but that is what I said when he was a just a baby playing with blocks 12 years ago.