by Keone Michaels
Sun Oct 14th, 2007 at 01:50:05 AM EST
I was born September 11th in 1942, during the conflict we call World War 2. I am a war baby. War baby is a term that defines the underlying theme of my life and for many of my generation. We all can recite similar stories, the human activity of war even the most remote cultures on the planet have experienced. And humans continue to have babies. War babies.
I was conceived and born in a time of war. My birth was a chance event hastened by the imperatives of life and death. My parents would never have met, my DNA would never have existed if not for the war. My father born thousands of miles away, met my mother while stationed at the Army base near her town. He, from a Russian Jewish background, she from a Scottish one, in those days would not even have crossed paths if not for the war.
Diary rescue by Migeru
My father came home from the war in 1945 and was a stranger. And although I played dress up in his combat gear we never really repaired the damage of my separation from him at birth as he went off to war in Europe. When he returned in 1945 I was reluctant to give up my grandfather as a father figure and even at the end of his life my father and I had never really been close. My relationship with my father was another casualty of war. A war baby. Again, probably a common experience for my generation.
Although WW2 itself was over, my early formative years were still shaped by it's looming after-presence. My first and only nanny was a refugee from one of our own prison camps for Japanese-American citizens. I remember a diminutive, sweet girl named Grace. She was homeless and just nineteen about 4 years or so after the war ended when she joined our household in the new government provided, "Veterans's subdivision." She was hired as a caretaker for the two children in our family. It was her childhood that the war took. Grace was incarcerated before and as she entered puberty. Damaged goods. Funny, I remember her as another child, not an adult. I lost contact with her after she moved on, but I'm told she ended her days in a mental institution. Just another war baby.
For about a decade after the war ended my parent's social life revolved almost exclusively around what I remember being called "The Club," or sometimes, "The Mess" on the Army base above our town. "Mess" was short, I suppose for the mess hall, and their lives were really a mess too. The war left them with few emotional resources and they scrambled frantically to "enjoy" their lives. I sensed a voraciousness, perhaps a determination to waste little time in proving that the millions that died had not died in vain. At the club, the liquor flowed freely and the camaraderie kept on in a well practiced social groove. As I said, this went on for about ten years after the war ended, then my folks drifted on to other things.
My early years in school I was an active, mischievous youngster whom teachers always needed to find some way to calm down and focus on the classroom work at hand. One year in the 4th grade, my teacher, an eastern European refugee named Miss Komar, whose homeland had been ravished in the war and who now sought a new life here with us, well, Miss Komar put a new student, in the seat right next to me. She was a student from Holland who had spent most of the war Miss Komar later told us, in Dresden in a bunker, in Germany.
The new student had a funny nickname, something like "Fitsie." Every Friday without fail, Fitsie would wear her Dutch national costume complete with a pointed hat just like the logo girl on the package of "Dutch Cleanser"at the store. I think in a way she was telling us that she was Dutch, not German. Those days, we still called the Germans "Gerrys" and the Japanese, "Japs" at the time and there was a lot of hatred toward our now defeated WW2 enemies. Her costume included a baby blue (the softest, prettiest baby blue I have ever seen) checkered apron. I was in love immediately. When Fitsie asked me to be quiet, I acquiesced more quickly than when Miss Komar issued the same request.
One fine Autumn day I daydreamed out the window at the leaves blowing around the playground and sat with Fitsie at our table doing our math work. Suddenly, bringing me out of my dream the siren for the new practice that was just instituted, a nuclear bomb alert.
As the loud speaker above the clock screamed out a terrible noise Miss Komar had us get under the table and put our heads between our legs. I looked at Fitsie as her face melted in absolute terror and tears began to flow. When Fitsie started to wail and scream at first I thought it was because I had spied her underpants in the initial scramble to get under the table's "protection." Just a few days before I remembered my mother had told me that a gentleman "never" takes the opportunity to look at a woman's panties and if it happened accidently, to immediately look away. Then I realized that when she screamed and clenched her fists and pounded the top of the table making a terrible noise it was not about that. It was something else.
Suddenly the whole class was focussed on Fitzie and me and the commotion under our table. Soon the nurse and the Principal came into the room. I remember the fine dark hair and little brown mole on Miss Komar's pale white skinned forearm as she reached under the table and gently raised Fitsie up and took her away. That was the last time I saw her, she didn't return to school. Her soul was sick and she was full of angst and terror. Collateral damage. Another war baby.
Looking back that nuclear bomb practice was a key war incident in my life. This fearful homage to the spectre of war signalled for us that our WW2 victory was no longer useful. The dividends of war had now been paid. Our handlers needed to provide more motivation to keep us moving in the right direction. The easy loans, the quick gratitude due the Veterans was now gone. More sacrifice was needed. In order to be safe, to be secure we needed now to be prepared for nuclear war. The cold-war had begun. Now, a systematic campaign to warn people and prepare the west for the impending nuclear holocaust, with an almost certain doomsday scenario began and the constant building of the nuclear arsenal and our crazy stumble down the road to mutually assured destruction with The Soviet Union was in full swing.
Even in our own hemisphere, small regional conflicts and incidents over the years from the "Bay of Pigs" with Cuba, an angry brouhaha continuous until today, to the squabble over The Falklands, helping our pals the British, have served over the years to remind me of war and the importance we hold of imposing our will by force, "defending our freedom" in the world it was termed. Let's not forget our brave soldiers parachuting in to Panama to subdue the horrid dictator dope-dealing CIA shill Manuel Noriega. Perhaps defending our "freedom to do business" might be more apt since it seems in the end that most human conflicts from a personal to a international level seemed in the final analysis to be about distribution of resources. Apparently, Mankind has a hard time sharing. That is why we have so many war babies.
Even in the best of times, the war has been always with me. Even in the sunny days after the Korean war. War has always been there, maiming our young men and sending many of them home broken and not fixable. For example there is my recollection of an incident one early autumn day right after the Korean war at the Mormon missionary across the street from my house.
I was on the Mormon mission property to visit my friend Wayne whose father ran the Mormon mission. As a result of Wayne's father's exalted position we were two young rascals with the run of the property. One day, Wayne and I rudely burst into one of the missionary's bedrooms, Brother Two. We were unexpectedly seeking his help to put up the ladder reaching the Mango tree full of fruit but just out of reach easily visible ripe and delicious fruit. Brother Two, a veteran of the Korean war, after returning from duty in Korea was now serving the Mormon church as a missionary. Brother Two had that clean cut look that some Mormons favor. Blue eyes, blond hair, square jaw. No fat. He was my hero.
Imagine Wayne and my surprise when instead of giving us his easy smile and helping hand, Brother Two violently rolled from the bed wailing and screaming pulling the mattress on top of himself, screaming. After he stopped crying and composed himself, he was dripping with sweat and red faced and sobbing and we were scared and apologetic. I saw Brother Two in a different light from that time onward. He drew my attention dramatically to war and it's consequence in the human animal. Another war baby.
And then of course there was Vietnam and the draft. I came of age during the Vietnam conflict. By that time I was no longer a willing listener when the powers that controlled our destiny beat the war drums. But I figured that I had to do something or I might be leaving my bones rotting in the jungles of SE Asia.
So I joined the reserves three weeks before the draft notice arrived at my parent's house while I was still in basic training on my way to eventually becoming a hospitalcorpsman stationed in a pediatrics unit at a West Coast Naval Hospital. In the outfit I joined most reserve units didn't make it to the front but stayed at home and did logistics and other duties. I knew I did not want to go to Vietnam and sacrifice my life in a dispute over resource dominance. If I had not been able to qualify for the reserves, I would have run away to Canada as did many of my friends. No way this war baby was going to go to war over profits. NO WAY.
More? Check out Iraq one and two. More resource wars. Horror? Terror? You name it, we have our chains jerked on a daily basis by the propaganda and disinformation that postulates nuclear horror, Islamic Jihad, or whatever acid generating stomach churning angst that is the primary tool of population control in most well organized human societies today.
It is unfortunate that my life has always been about war and not about peace. I wish I had not been a war baby. In the interest of not boring you, I've edited out the more mundane examples of daily drum beating of the war machine and included a few of the more colorful examples of the human destruction left in the wake of the global war machine.
All these depressing home movies I've just described lead me to draw a conclusion based on my own personal experience, that we are manipulated from birth to death to respond to the drumbeat of war. Propaganda and carefully crafted memes are constantly exhorting us in the pursuit our safety and security to give up our lives and the lives of our sons and daughters to die in foreign lands. What for? For the corporate profits of a few? Trite as in may sound we are manipulated from birth to death to give our soul to the company store.
It is time mankind evolved. I don't want my grandchildren and their children to be war babies.