Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lessons from a militarized childhood:
Anger will save you

(In this entry, I assume you are aware of my goal of raising a lot of money to help child soldiers by donating all of my earnings from sales of the hardback of Children No More to Falling Whistles. If you're not, you can go to the Children No More site and learn more there. I'll be here when you return.)

What I experienced in my three years in a militaristic youth group is nothing compared to what true child soldiers undergo. I believe, however, that they and I, as well as many abused children, emerge from our experiences having learned many of the same lessons. To help folks without these backgrounds understand some of the challenges facing these kids--and those who seek to help rehabilitate and reintegrate them--I'm going to talk about some of the lessons I learned--and that I believe they did, too.

Before I do, though, I want to make clear that I know how unhealthy these lessons are, I don't live my life by them, and so on.

They are, though, what such kids learn, and they are what I learned at that age.

Also, beware that there's going to be rough language and generally harsh stuff in all of these lessons. That's the nature of them.

Enough disclaimers. Let's get on with today's lesson:

Anger will save you

At first, you expect someone who's supposed to care for you to rescue you. They have to notice. They have to come.

They don't.

You learn that they don't want to see. They won't save you.

You turn to those around you. Surely they will see how bad this is, how much pain it's causing, and then they'll be the ones to rescue you--or at least to stand with you and help make it stop.

They don't.

You come in last on a run because you're out of shape and you're by far the smallest. The sergeant says that everyone gets another run instead of an afternoon break. That night, they hold you down, cover your mouth, and make sure you understand that you will run faster next time. No, they won't save you.

You can't stop it, so you can't rescue yourself.

You can get mad. You can refuse to break. You can scream at them, sometimes out loud, mostly in your head. You can't protect your body, but you can hold that rage in a secret spot they can never touch. Even better, the more they hurt you, the stronger it gets, so all they can do is make you angrier. When you hurt, when you feel weak, when you think you can't take it any longer, when the cold of your world is so great you're afraid you'll freeze and crack, you warm yourself with it, a flame that will never die.

Nothing else may help, but your anger will save you.

Years later, they wonder what keeps you going, why you will continue to push ahead when others around you are giving up. They can't see it, but that flame is still burning strong, still warming you, still powering you.

Still saving you.

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