Sara Whitman

Back To Reality

Filed By Sara Whitman | January 05, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: airport, child care, iraq, israel, military, palestine, parenting, pregnancy, war

I have to be honest- I did not read the paper or watch the news while I was away. In the airport, CNN was reporting on the mess in Israel.

At the same time, as we waited in Atlanta for our flight to Savannah, there were many soldiers walking about, obviously going back to work after a break. One in particular caught our eyes.

He was young, only 18, and looked scared. I'm sure he wouldn't like that description of himself but he did. Walter couldn't stand it and went and struck up a conversation with him. He had just finished basic training and was going back to base after a short break.

He was from a small town in Florida and the army was the only way out. The army recruiters did a number on him and he took it, hook line and sinker. He did not think he would see any combat and if he didn't like his deployment, he could transfer.

Well, we thought, you could ASK. Doesn't mean you could change.

In the meantime, Israel's ground forces were moving forward. Rocket attacks were being reported on the television just over our shoulders. It broke my heart, this young man's belief he could pick and choose.

Would he be alive in a year, I wondered.

I have three sons. People have always said to me that boys are easier than girls. Sure, they're rough when they are young but then they tend to mellow and you never worry about them getting pregnant.

No, you worry about them being drafted.

I don't believe this country can enter one more conflict without having a draft. Our military is stretched to its limits. Young, poor kids will continue to sign up as a means to get out of hopeless situations but not in the droves needed.

Not even Obama will be able to fix that. Bodies are needed. Period.

Six years, he said. The last two are cake, just on the reserves. I wondered if he had any idea how many reservists are on their third and fourth tour in Iraq.

Catching up on the news has been hard. The Rick Warren debacle is nothing compared to this nightmare brewing, again, in the Middle East. My hope for the end of war is gone.

And my fear for my boys renewed again.

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I wish I could tell you that you never need worry about your sons being injured or killed in a future combat. We both know that no one can honestly make such a guarantee.

Just as there will always be people who hate and kill lesbians, gays, and transgenders, there will always be people in and out of governments who are willing to kill others for land and wealth, religious differences, or any other number of reasons, and they rarely hesitate to try to recruit others to do the killing for them. If there are not people willing to stand up and oppose these liars and haters, others die or lose what freedoms they have.

Unfortunately, there will always be a need for activists and soldiers willing to suffer and risk their lives, so the rest of us who can not respond -- or want someone else to do it for them -- can be protected.

During the Vietnam War, a young healthy male without connections had three options: military service, jail, or exile. I had no desire to go to Vietnam, but I chose military service (and was sent to Germany). At that time, a large number of Americans considered America to be a horrible place and military personnel to be lowlife scum. But when I served on the border separating the two Germanys, and when I saw the East German fence, the minefield, and the other barriers erected to keep their citizens from escaping into the West, I knew that I had made the right choice for me.

A large number of Americans consider transgendered people to be lowlife scum. Once again I have had three options: try to suppress my gender identity and go insane, openly accept and live my gender identity and the problems that attend it, or eat a bullet. I chose the second option and can not regret my decision, although I am unemployed and may soon be homeless. Late in life, I have chosen to be a activist. In my own way I stand up for us and other persons whom bigots try to harm, oppress, or make into their own image. I can not say that I am making a positive difference, but I hope I am.

As I climb off my soapbox, I repeat my hope that your sons never have to fight in a war or become victims of Hate. I also hope that they become persons of virtue and tolerance, and if they feel the need to risk all to fight for others threatened by killers, haters, and bigots, that you are able to give them your love and support.

Through our efforts, maybe your sons will inherit a better world.

-- Cathy

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 6, 2009 8:55 AM

Cathy, you are a brave vet indeed. Sara, if you want to see people in the streets reinstate the draft.

Myself, I was a CO during Vietnam. I stated that I was willing to drafted to be a medic, but would place as much importance on saving the life of a Vietnamese as I would an American.

Odd, they didn't want me.

This post really hits home with me. Our daughter, Paige, has a half brother (her mom's son). He's a senior in high school and he just signed up. He's still excited by the possibility of going to college afterwards, but they also fed him the "you'll never have to actually go to war..." bullshit. Now he's rather scared, but stuck.

Great post, Sara. Thanks for sharing.