By Ernie McCray
In a recent rap session I had with a classroom of 4th graders about the world, the Iraq War came up and a girl blurted out “War is stupid” which brought on a hearty “Yeah!” or two from a couple of her peers and a 60’s style “Right on” from me.
Soon into the conversation I had to correct a misconception most of them had about Osama bin Laden being from iraq. From that someone assessed: “Then Iraq didn’t do anything to us” to which everybody copped an attitude of: “We probably shouldn’t be fighting a war, huh?” And I couldn’t have erased the “You got that right” expression that was written all over my face if I had wanted to.
On that day, in so many words, I heard these children say: “Hey, if we had our way there would be no war and more of our troops would be helping tsunami victims so the world would know how good we are.” Oh, just sitting there listening to 9 and 10 year olds speak so sincerely and eloquently from their souls assured me that hope is, indeed, alive.
But look at the world in which these beautiful young people reside. How can they maintain their keen insights and clarity of thinking if they can hardly turn on the TV to watch a ball game without having to deal with something like a Navy Seal War Game? In what frame of mind will they be down the line when JROTC, under the guise of a “leadership” program, is offered to them, sometimes in place of PE? How are they to cope, at that time, with all the armed forces recruiters in sharply creased uniforms and spit shined shoes who will be hanging out at their schools selling them on exciting sounding “military values” and on “being all they can be?” And by their high school graduation day if No Child Left Behind is still in play a list of their names will be given to the Pentagon who will mail them some of the slickest brochures that will ever come their way.
Oh, well, I guess in the grownup world, “War ain’t stupid” - just kind of a misfortunate incident. With mostly dry eyes and with no national anger to speak of, we just “move on” stoicly, ignoring reality, rationalizing the horror of it all with empty declarations about how we got Saddam and how Iraq is now a democracy. Never mind that it has all been an illegal preemptive war started due to lies. Whoo, can we rationalize. We can even rationalize hating someone like Michael Moore who points out the lies, equating his “little white lies” to those that have led to the loss of thousands upon thousands of innocent lives.
Rationalizing “madness” is becoming, it seems, as American as motherhood and apple pie.
How do we rationalize being so comfortable while our children are being militarized right before our eyes?
How can school superintendents and boards of educations and teachers unions rationalize losing millions of dollars of needed funding to help the most hurting of students, the poor, be they black or brown or white, while the military - which is one of the main reasons they ain’t got no money - sets up in the lunch court making nonbinding promises to these kids left and right?
How can they rationalize away the JROTC textbooks’ glamorization of history like, for example, its good guy (calvary), bad guy (Indians) stories as though the military has never and can’t ever do any wrong? Are they not bothered by tales colored with racist overtones?
And with all the turmoil in our inner cities combined with the military’s relentless pursuit of students of color, why do so many black and brown school officials and other community leaders shine it on with: “Well, I won’t let my kid go to war, but for some of these students, with the violence and all, it’s a way out of the ‘hood.’” So does that mean they aren’t going to be exposed to violence as they “make a difference” around a world that has had its fill of us?
Boy, my 4th grade friends have a long row to hoe if they’re to realize the kind of better world I’ve heard them idealize. But I’d venture that they still have a chance of surviving as loving human beings if we grownups would just take their being militarized seriously. How else can they keep hope alive?
Ernie McCray is a retired school principal.