There's a phrase that sometimes gets passed around on the internet: "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." This quote is attributed to Voltaire.
I don't like Memorial Day. Not because I'm one of those who think soldiers deserve to die, but because I feel like they've died for nothing. It feels strange to say, "Thank you for your service" when what I really want to say is, "I'm sorry you were exploited."
People go into the military for a lot of reasons, the top two being either to escape poverty or to get the GI Bill (free* education on discharge). Once upon a time in high school, I had plans to go into the Navy. Every night, I'd get down and bust out a full physical routine (the men's, not the women's, reqs) and take an ASVAB prep test. My reason was more along the lines of family legacy. My grandpa was a medic in Korea, I had an aunt and uncle in the Army, an uncle in the Air Force, a cousin in the Army, and various other family members in different branches. My mom wanted to go into the military, but she had me instead. All this to say, it felt like a natural thing.
The reason I didn't is insanely strange. I didn't want to cut my hair. This is coming from a girl who doesn't do anything with her hair and can count on one hand the number of times she's ever worn makeup (senior photos and wedding are two of those fingers). But it was a really bizarre reason. Like today, I'd have no problem with it.
When I first introduced Sabelu in "Free Time," I had already determined that he would be a Marine. I just knew that that was where he'd been and that he had been severely injured because of it, his career cut short. And that was about all. Going back to flesh out his story in "Lone Wolf," I had to revisit anything and everything about his past and come up with something to explain it.
As it turns out, Sabelu served in the Iraq War. I won't say anything more than that here and let you read about his time in the book.
There is a big difference in how I viewed things then, in high school, and how I see them now. I am a full believer in God-directed destiny, and I think my hair was one of those "last straw" excuses He used to keep me out of the U.S. military. Because I had no other. It wasn't like my family wasn't supportive or that I had anything stopping me. I could do it, physically, intellectually. Where my hair excuse came from, I couldn't tell you at the time.
Had I written Sabelu's story at that time, there probably would have been a lot more pulp heroics, a lot more hoo-rah-rah, U-S-A, U-S-A. And I'm not saying that I cast the Marines in a bad light (from a beta reader, it is painfully realistic but not disrespectful in any manner), but there is a lot more realism and a lot less Hollywood. Part of this has to do with my own maturity as an adult in the real world versus a teenager in high school, but part of it also has to do with simply researching the war and going back and seeing how it all came about. It was always an inside job.
Interestingly enough, a few years ago, right before Coof, our church hosted a woman who is a Christian missionary from Kuwait who was a child (10-12 years) during the Gulf War. In her own words, the Kuwaiti people were very happy to see American soldiers kick out the Iraqi Army. And they were very glad to be free. But many also believed that it was Western politics and interference that caused the problems in the first place, decades ago.
Taking this line of thought, then, and applying it to Sabelu with his people and his knowledge of history, plus the story at hand, it forges a very somber, very dark chapter in the book.
I'm still young enough that I could still feasibly join the military, and the Navy would still be my branch of choice. I can still bust out a physical routine, shoot a nice cluster, and take a test; Adam says that he would support the decision if I were to make it. Except now my problem lies with the government it is sworn to defend. I can't even rightly say that it defends the country because our problems are of our own (government's) creation. Unfortunately, I can't uphold that. It goes beyond conscientous objector now. Fuck your drag queen campaigns.
Referring back to the phrase that I opened with, I think one thing that is overlooked is that the absurdities of which the author speaks often manifest as arguments, propaganda to be exact. The closer you get to the eruption of violence, the more insane the arguments. A few months ago, I wrote about why I decided to leave the social media site Gab, and it basically boiled down to how it was basically an echo chamber (as Twitter is also). Well, I decided to pop back in on the main page, just out of curiosity, and it is crazy how things have devolved. I decided to check in on /pol/ and it was the same thing (not that 4chan has ever been the pinnacle of internet quality). The absurdities are very quickly going to turn into atrocities.
I was too young to really remember 9/11. We didn't have a TV at the time and it was years before I ever actually saw footage of it. Everything I knew about it came from grownups, the things they sugar-coated when speaking to kids and yelled about when not. But I'm an adult now, and I know things they really couldn't have known back then, if only because of the speed of the internet.
Sabelu, being Krydik from Hlohi, didn't have the same attachment to events that his fellow Marines did. He wondered things. Then he got deployed and didn't have the luxury of questions. As I wrote this part of his story, I had to wonder and remind myself what people believed back then, the context of the missions just from the grunts' point of view. Just going with it, just following orders, stuck in a desert hellhole and dodging bullets and IEDs, waiting to go home. Each side thinking theirs was the noble cause.
I don't like Memorial Day (or Veterans Day or D-Day any of those), not because I'm some raving liberal who says they deserved to die, but because I believe they died for nothing, and I'm sorry for it. There was no honor to defend, and there is even less honor to defend now.