REAL KIDS, PHONY WAR
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- My journal from 11.09.02 reads in part: I cannot decide whether I'm going to church tomorrow or not. The bulletin says there will be no sermon - just declarations by young people (adolescents) about their views on the possibility of war with Iraq. This is important, and I daresay it would move me to tears, but it is not worship. Could we not find some other time for politics? (Still small voice: OK, CB, and if we found some other time, would you be there?) Shut up! The current crisis is distracting us from the eternal crisis of salvation, justification, atonement.
Perhaps I could write the first part now--mulling over whether to go to church tomorrow or not? Then the second part: After having gone to church.
(SSV: so now, CB, you're thinking of going to church, but only to produce copy for Ink Soup? Now who's the idiot? Now who's using the worship service for his own ends?)
Next day, Sunday: Of course I went to church, and of course I'm glad I did. There was a moment early on, during Adam Byrd's hesitant and bumpy clarinet solo to the tune of "Amazing Grace," when I thought I'd made a ghastly mistake.
But I h n For then the young people spoke, and, as foreseen, I did fight back tears - of gratitude for them and of sorrow for their forebodings about their future.
These were boys and girls from middle and high school. They had never known what it was to live in a country at war. Fighting here and there, sure, but not at War.
It was easy to feel at one with them. I'd been ten when that mad forerunner of Saddam, Adolf Hitler, opened his Blitzkrieg against Poland.
I was 12 when the Emperor of Japan invited us into the fight at Pearl Harbor.
At my high school, we wove woolen blankets for our troops. And we spoke at memorial services for graduates who had returned in coffins. But war was, however bad for our friends and relatives, still a glorious thing in our eyes.
The young Christians who spoke this morning had, in the absence of actual experience, to imagine war. They did it well.
The first, an African-American named Audrey, began: "It is the year 2038. I was 14 at the time when we attacked Iraq. Now, 26 years later, I am President of the U.S.. I have to negotiate with Saddam Hussein III. He has agreed to scrap his weapons of mass destruction ..."
The next was a young woman who tried to imagine the predicament of her coevals in Baghdad. Starved, deprived of medications, clean food, clean water ... and by what? By sanctions imposed by our own country. "How could I not hate the U.S.A?" she sadly, and reasonably, asked.
An Asian girl wondered how such a war would test her Christian faith. Would she not be tempted to question God? Why would a just God let such an unjust thing happen? Which of us elders was not squirming to hear this imponderable question raised by a child?
The last speaker was a boy "from a military family." His sympathy was with those who had to go to war to save us from chaos. But who was the one really out of control, Bush or Saddam? Ready to serve, he still had treasonous questions.
Those near me in the pew must have wondered what I was scribbling so madly. And whether my tears would run all the words together. Perhaps they did. You decide.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.