Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What World Will Our Kids See?

The world is a scary place in 2006. It is terrifying to the parents of a sixteen year old boy. North Korea has taken saber rattling to a historical high. We seem to be bogged down in Iraq. Iran is lurking in the frightening corners of our consciousness. Now, Israel is blasting Lebanon back into the 1980’s, maybe farther back.
There is a major Air Force base here, so the sight of people in uniform is a daily occurrence. Warplanes fly over our heads all day every day and most of us don’t give them a second glance. They are part of the sky around here, and except during a thunderstorm, who spends a lot of time studying the sky? The same can be said of your kids. You go through life and they’re around. You take care of them, and life is routine unless some kid of storm is brewing.
There are frustrations which seem typical for parents of teenagers. My son is banging on his boundaries, always attempting to expand them. He probably needs a haircut, but certainly that’s subjective. He’s exceedingly bright and encouragingly witty. He could broaden his base of interests, but there’s no cause for real concern. His grades are excellent and he seems motivated to keep them that way. He and his sister get along well, and I’ve been told several times not to undervalue how fortunate we are in that regard.
I look into his eyes sometimes and wonder where they will lead him. What kind of world will he see? Will it be a healthy and happy world? Will the smile, which comes so easily to him these days, mature into a smile of contentment and satisfaction? He talks about the social pressures he endures, but I’m still convinced he’s had an easy ride. He attends a small, academically-oriented high school after spending eleven years in a church school environment. His cocoon has been spun of privilege, spirituality and intelligence.
Should he be more socially and politically aware? When I grew up, I watched network news every night. Even with a 24-hour news cycle available to him on his computer and his TV, I don’t think he’s particularly aware of what’s happening out there, and I think that’s a good thing. There is a passing knowledge of the circumstance in Iraq. When the war first started, he paid attention and asked questions. But now, it’s just part of the landscape. The possibility that he may be pressed into duty has been planted in his brain, but of course the notion that it may become reality is just preposterous.
The President has stated without equivocation that the draft will not be reinstated. There are people in positions of power who advocate some kind of service requirement and they may be emboldened by the global tumult which has developed. I have no military experience and I celebrate that. I don’t want to have any, either. I know my children are able to lead their sheltered lives because of the great military history of this country. I know my son is able to go about his activities without fear because kids just like him made a decision to serve our country. One of his closest friends from grade school days dreams of being a Green Beret, a Navy Seal or an Army Ranger. For the kid in my house, that simply does not compute. I hope he is not forced by some madman across the ocean to recalculate his future.
I’m not sure what to fear the most. North Korea seems to be the most real and imminent threat, but this Israel-Lebanon conflict has me dyspeptic. The conflicts in that part of the world seem somehow metastatic and the United States appears helpless to stop the spread of the disease. While an argument can be made that it’s not our business, that thinking is at best na├»ve. Our resources are being depleted and I fear the crisis point is near. While wading through all the conflicting information and points of view, one easily can come to the conclusion that we are not prepared to make a meaningful, positive impact across the globe. The time may come when we will be asked to “make real sacrifices.”
Military families across America are making them daily. I can’t say with confidence that our family is prepared for that possibility. I pray we never find out.

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