Writer, author, memoir teacher. I write about the connections we find by giving each other the time and space to be heard.

Invitation to a War

I was at Staples making copies of handouts for my memoir class, when I saw something so chillingly off kilter, I can’t get it out of my mind. Someone had left a copy on the machine. It was an invitation to a child’s birthday party. A party for little boys. A boot camp party.

The mission,the invitation said, was to report to basic training at the stated address on a certain date and time. Be prepared to run Basic Training drills, it said, testing accuracy, survival, agility, endurance, strength and balance skills. You will also participate in other Survival Games. You will be wet, tired and dirty by the time you complete your mission, so please bring a towel and change of clothes. Dinner and Birthday Rations will be served. Please RSVP to the Base Commanders.

Researching this type of party on the web, I found that some parents have the kids bring items to send to troops overseas. That’s great, but the idea of a boot camp party still creeps me out.

I loved my boys when they were little, as I’m sure this parent loves theirs. I gave in to them on lots of stuff that didn’t seem important enough to fight over. But toy guns were a big no no. People gave them guns anyway, and I explained how I felt about playing at violence but let them keep the weapons. My boys thought I was kind of silly about this, and grew up to be gentle, sensitive young men.

We have been, as a country, at war for over ten years, reacting to a criminal attack on our soil by a handful of terrorists. We can’t seem to figure out how to end these wars we started. If we throw birthday parties where little boys are encouraged to play at war, how will we ever learn?

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