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The Youth

He was a youth born of the system, full of love and goodness and always striving
for right.  He had just finished high school when he received the letter which
said, "Greetings, my son.  You have been selected by those who govern this great
land to shed the innocence of youth and become a man."

So the youth took his letter and went to talk to those in charge of producing 
patriots.  And the youth said, "What will you have me do to repay all that this 
great land has done for me?"

And those in charge answered, "We who have built this great society from which 
you have received such abundance believe that America is in grave danger.  There 
is an enemy in another land who has threatened to destroy all that is right and 
good.  And you have been chosen to help destroy this enemy."

The youth saw no threat to his family or home or country.  But believing that 
those in charge knew better than he, the youth asked, "How shall I help to 
destroy this enemy?"

To which those in charge answered, "The enemy must be killed."

Replied the youth, "But I do not believe in killing my fellow man.  I believe 
in love and peace and understanding."

So those in charge put the matter another way.  "Either you join our ranks and 
fight for truth, justice and the American way, or you shall be called a disgrace 
and be placed in prison for your treasonous act."

The youth did not want to disgrace his family nor did he want to be imprisoned.  
Feeling in his heart that he did owe a great debt for all the blessings he had 
received and with some understanding from his history classes that freedom was 
never free, he consented to be trained by those in charge.

The process was long and hard.  The youth had to be made to understand that 
the life of another was not so precious.  He had to learn that killing was right 
if the one killed did not believe in what was right - and America is always right.
And when he had been taught mental war, he was taught the many ingenious ways of 
performing the act of killing (which is somehow different from murder - which was 
the hardest thing for the youth to understand).

At the end of his training, those in charge said, "Now you are a man.  We have 
taught you well and we believe in you.  You are now qualified to judge who shall 
live and who shall die and you are now ready to help destroy our enemy."

And the man asked, "But what if I should judge incorrectly?"

"Then one of two things will happen.  Either you will die a hero or you will be 
called a disgrace and imprisoned as a murderer."

And the innocence of youth struggled through the shell of manhood, and he fell 
down upon the ground and wept.

emily strange
 1968
I wrote this before going to Vietnam when I was an anti-war protestor.  One of the greatest 
speeches I ever heard was given by a General who had served in Nam.  I knew that war protesting 
was actually a fun thing to do, but I also believed deep in my heart that the war was wrong.  I 
recognized that the General knew the truth and that speech is part of the reason I went to 
Vietnam.  I wanted to know the truth from personal experience.  I never blamed the warrior for the 
war because I had too many friends who had also protested the war but who went when they were 
called.  In my own youthful innocence, I just did not believe there was any reason for the killing and 
dying.  It was many years later when I finally understood the reality of the domino theory and 
realized that, had we won, the killing fields of Cambodia would probably not have happened.  If the 
politicians had just let the military do what needed to be done instead of forcing them to fight a war 
of attrition where the score was tallied in body counts, many lives would have been saved on both 
sides and in Cambodia.  If those who did not serve learn anything from this site, I hope they learn 
the devastating human cost of war and vow to never again allow the politicians to waste the lives of 
the young men and women of this country.  It is true that "Freedom Is Not Free."  However, it can 
be much less costly that it was in Vietnam.  Despite how much the war changed me as I noted in 
"Dead Bodies," I continued to protest the war after I returned home.  By then I knew for sure that 
we were doing nothing but sending our youth to slaughter and I took it very personally.
 

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