Sunday, September 21, 2008
WAR IS... : SOLDIER, SURVIVORS, AND STORYTELLERS TALK ABOUT WAR edited by Marc Aronson and Patty Campbell
I just realized that today is PEACE DAY, and I spent most of it reading a book about war. It left me anything but peaceful. I'm angry about a number of things shared in the stories included in this book.
First of all, I'll mention the introductions written by the book's editors Marc Aronson and Patty Campbell. They are worth reading even if you don't read the rest of the book. Their ideas about war differ, but those ideas led both to create this collection of war stories - and a powerful collection it is.
The book includes accounts from soldiers, reporters, and civilian survivors. There are stories from past wars and current wars and all the horrific wars in between. Some stories tell gruesome tales; others find some shred of hope. Whatever the storyteller chooses to share, it reveals the truth and will touch the emotions of all who read it.
My anger flared most when I read of the current war, and how we don't seem to have learned anything from the past. As an educator, I was shocked to learn that the military and the signing of young volunteers is actually a part of the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) Bill. The law states that the military must have the same access to secondary students as post-secondary educational institutions or prospective employers. "The law also requires high schools to provide the military access to students' names, addresses, and telephone numbers -- unless a parent or student contacts the school to deny permission to release this information." Included in this article is the suggestion that all high school seniors should be given access and help in reading the military recruitment contract. Basically, the military makes hollow, meaningless promises within that contract. Our young people sign up thinking they are agreeing to 4 to 8 years of service with a variety of monetary benefits, and the whole thing has been proven to be completely meaningless.
Other things that raised my hackles were the accounts of how unappreciated our veterans feel, the harassment suffered by women in the military, and the horrific expectations we place on innocent young people only just out of high school. The emotional and physical scars are something no human should have to endure.
Aronson and Campbell have compiled this collection to speak to a YA audience, but this is a book everyone should read. It needs to be in every public library, high school library, college library, and perhaps in every waiting room and lobby around the country. Just picking up this book and randomly choosing and reading a selection will have an impact on any American.