A Mother’s Lament: Johnny’s Gone for a Soldier

(I’ve taken a little poetic license with this story, as did Peter, Paul and Mary with their version of the original Irish song.)

Oh my dear Johnny, my dear son,

At least I can understand why your decision had been made by the time you told us that in another week you’ll be heading off to boot camp in Georgia. Then off to officer training school, if the recruiter you so foolishly trust is right in his assurances, which military words I can hardly type, much less utter…they are that foreign to me, belonging to a language I never intended to learn.

Of course you wouldn’t have wanted to hear the questions we asked ahead of time, the myths we tried to bust, nor hear our agonizingly expressed concerns for your very soul. Were you able to let any of our considerations in? Did your wife, she who sold her flax and sold her wheel for you? She who believed that the Guard stays in the US? Can you really be that unaware of National Guard units having served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan?

When I asked which person targeted by our ‘wars’ you might consider enemy enough to kill…you said nothing, even when I pressed it. When we spoke to you of wars of choice for Profit and Empire, you stayed silent; when we called the recruiter a liar for telling you that with your college degree, and once you were an officer, that you would be able to turn down assignments, did you hear that? Or had our voices taken on the wohn, wonh qualities of the adults in a Peanuts cartoon? When we spoke to you of the alarming increase in suicides among troops and veterans, and of rampant PTSD and moral trauma…did you deflect it somehow as inconsequential…or unlikely?

Oh, Johnny, my dear son. Your wife said that unless we supported your decision, you could not stay safe, a poisonous form of magical thinking. When I told her that my decades, really my lifetime of peace activism would not allow that, could not allow that sort of ‘support’, she was angry and left the room. I try to imagine being her, or being you, and attempt to see what you see in your futures. I cannot; arrows pierce my heart and my stomach roils as I try. No. No. No! And say again that you don’t require our approval, please!

The day you were born, and your dear fingers closed around my index finger, and I gazed into your trusting eyes…I silently swore to you that I would do everything in my power to keep you safe from harm. A vain and useless pledge all parents must make before they recall how cruel the world can be, and that all we can do is teach you well, love you well, help to guide you to make good choices for yourself and the world, and to be responsible for them. [cont’d.]

A Mother’s Lament: Johnny’s Gone for a Soldier

(I’ve taken a little poetic license with this story, as did Peter, Paul and Mary with their version of the original Irish song.)

Oh my dear Johnny, my dear son,

Of course your mind was made up by the time you told us this news.  You’re signing the National Guard enlistment papers when you and your family go back home after Christmas (oh, how can I possibly stand listening to this?).  And  then you’ll be off to boot camp, then officer training school, if the recruiter you so foolishly trust is right in his bogus  promises and assurances.   All those  military words that I can scarcely type, much less utter…they are that foreign to me, belonging to a language I never intended to learn.

Of course you wouldn’t have wanted to hear the questions we asked ahead of time, the myths we tried to bust; nor would you want to hear our agonizingly expressed concerns for your very soul, my dear Johnny.  Were you even able to let any of our considerations and warnings in?  Was your wife, she who sold her flax and sold her wheel for you?  She who believed that the Guard stays in the US?  Can you really be that unaware of National Guard units having served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan?  How many other illusions are you laboring under?  Too many, too many, from what you report as  gospel according to Corporal Recruiter.

When I asked you plaintively which person targeted by our ‘wars’ you might consider enemy enough to kill…you said nothing, even when I pressed it.  When we spoke to you of wars of choice for Profit and Empire, you stayed silent; when we called the recruiter a liar for telling you that with your college degree, and once you were an officer, that you would be able to turn down assignments, did you hear that?  Or had our voices taken on the wohn, wonh qualities of the adults in a Peanuts cartoon?  When we spoke to you of the alarming increase in suicides among troops and veterans, and of rampant PTSD and moral trauma…did you deflect it somehow as inconsequential…or unlikely?

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