Soldier We Love You

by Tina Shannon, Chair, PA 4th CD Progressive Democrats of America

I invite everyone to listen to this performance. It always touches a deep emotional chord for me.

I was hesitant to post it since the song is a reaction to a different war in a different time. Tactics were different then. Feelings were different. Perhaps everyone isn’t as upset by the present situation as I am.

My tax dollars are being used to destroy men, women and children everyday in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. I feel that horror and responsibility. As deep as those feelings run, this song arouses even deeper feelings in me. This song represents our responsibility to our own young.

As a teacher and as someone who’s had to recover from her own hard childhood I’ve learned a lot about the stages of human development. It’s an interesting field of study.

Responsibility to our young means understanding their developmental needs. It’s useful to see human development as a process that helps people meet the demands of learning to live in human society. These demands usually follow a sequence as a person grows.

For example, the developmental task of a newborn infant is to figure out where she ends and the outside world begins. A two year old must reconcile her newly articulated and (to her) all-powerful will to the demands of the authority figures in her life. The life task in late elementary school is finding concrete skills to learn in order to develop a self-image of competency.

In our society the life task of early 20 year olds is to step into full adulthood. Throughout history, humans have recognized the importance of this step, marking it with rituals. This is when our young are looking for meaningful roles in their culture.

Physically, their bodies are functioning full tilt. At this point in his life, a young man’s production of testosterone is at its peak. Partly as a result of inner chemistry, partly as a result of societal expectations, many young feel compelled to serve and defend their communities at this time of life.

In my opinion, this desire to serve and defend is a beautiful thing. How better to step into adulthood than to put their increasing strength and power at the service of their community? I love the idea of becoming an elder, relaxing into the growing competency of our young, male and female. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

But instead our young are persuaded that participating in these wars is a noble undertaking. Given the dire economic situation of many young adults, they are susceptible to recruiter promises. They want to believe that they can go away to fight for democracy and end up with money for college and a career path. They want to believe that they are keeping their people at home safe. 

Our children have the bright shining ideal of stepping into adulthood as their strongest self and defending their people. That ideal is being cynically used to profit Halliburton and other war profiteers. Our children are left disillusioned, wounded and disconnected from their communities. What could be more evil?

We need our young at home helping their own communities. Now, when we have floods our young are in a war far away committing violence that will scar them for life. Through the aftermath of a snowstorm they are indoors, distracted and hypnotized enacting war on a video screen.

So this song makes me cry. I love our young who are being taken away from us. Yes, this song is intended for one who refused to kill even though he was a soldier. But for me this song is larger. Think of the fact that Walter B. Jones, right wing republican congressman from the Ft Bragg area of North Carolina, finds it necessary to vote against the war to satisfy his military constituency. How many are fighting in this war but long for a way out? I feel love for all of them, our own young victims of these wars. And it helps me keep on in the struggle.

The song is from Sir, Yes Sir!, a documentary film about a traveling theatre troupe that performed anti-war material for the troops during the Viet Nam war. It’s a great movie. Admittedly, that was a different time. But it’s useful to take a look at different tactics to use against the war machine and fun to see lively dissent. Maybe we should do more of that. Put the movie on your rental list and send me an email after you watch it. We’ll talk.

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