Sunday, November 30, 2008


The violence in Mumbai, in Iraq, Afghanistan and several other parts of our world today has me thinking, how little we in the U.S. truly understand what such things really mean. Yes, there was 9-11. It was horrendous. And there is violence on a small scale going on every day. But I really believe that we have come to a point at which, unless it happens to one of us individually, we view it almost as if it happened on TV or in a movie. We think of that as entertainment, and when we read or hear it on the news, it is not real to us.

I recall the start of World War II. I was eight years old. My big brother put on a uniform and went off to the Signal Corps. My mother hung a little banner with a blue star, in the front window. We received photos of Bill during basic training, and later from England, then Belgium, then Germany. By that time we had black out curtains on the windows at night. Any time we went to the movies, as the lights were dimming, we stood up and sung the National Anthem as loudly as we could. The newsreels were almost as exciting as the weekly serial on Saturday afternoon. We had scrap rubber and scrap metal drives at school.

And what did all of this mean to an eight year old? It was fun! My brother was in the Army. His best friends were Frank, in the Navy, and Bill, in the Marines. Before being shipped overseas, they came home on furlough, and had exciting and sometimes funny stories to tell. It was fun. Later there were V-mail letters to write and receive. All fun. Lots of the letters from them had been censored, and it was fun to imagine what those black spaces might mean.

Those three all came home safe, thank God. Although when friend Bill came home, having survived Iwo Jima, he couldn't be discharged right away because he came down with measles. My brother Bill had been through the Battle of the Bulge. He never talked much about his overseas service. We had a cousin who never came back.

But it was all fun. It wasn't here. It was "over there". My brother only told his eight- then nine, ten, eleven year old sister about the nurses he dated in England, and the children he had met in Belgium. He was only nineteen himself when he left.

I had a lot of growing up to do before I could wrap my mind around what war is really all about. I don't think I'll ever understand what terrorism is all about.

I wonder if any of us - with the exception of the men and women who actually fought in World War II, or Korea, Viet Nam, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan - if any of the rest of us really understands. I don't. I don't want to either - but I feel the need to understand.


maryt/theteach said...

bobbie, I think I came to really, really understand when my nephew went to Iraq. As a Marine who collected and blew up IEDs I thought about him everyday. While I did the normal things at home I would think of him and hope he wasn't hurt or dying. I found it hard not to cry when I thought of him. That went on for 6 months. I never want to have to go through that again. Nor do I want him to have to every go through a war again. I'm particularly sensitive to anything now that's about war or terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan or Mumbai or anywhere else. I think of those soldiers who go to war to protect their country. If only we didn't have to protect anything but live in peace.

bobbie said...

Yes, Mary, I'm sure you do understand that aspect of it. So do I. I guess what I meant was that we do not understand what it is to live under those conditions ourselves. I too have strong emotions concerning those I know who are there. Just don't think I can really appreciate what it's like being there.

Pray for Peace.

Sylvia K said...

I was a little girl during WWII and because we had so many pilots and their wives living with us off and on during the was it was fun for me, too -- I finally had brothers and sisters. It was different with Vietnam because my husband was there and I had a new baby. But as you say -- it was "over there" not "here". But lately seeing the horror that keeps happening everywhere it seems, seeing those mourning their dead loved ones, it gets more real for me each day. I don't understand violence, hatred all wrapped up in religion -- it's beyond me and I don't understand. I just wish we could all find some way to find joy in peace instead of violence and death.

Unknown said...

Dear Bobbies, the unrest in the world is very sad. First, the protesters in Thailand, and now in Mumbai. I kept thinking of all those who died unnecessarily and it was not even their fault or war in the beginning. Somehow, I have a feeling that this is not a the end but the beginning of another long war esp if Pakistan is involved. WE can only pray. Hope you have a blessed week Bobbie.

Lisa's RetroStyle said...

I think if we are ever going to live in a peaceful world we all have to understand.

Anonymous said...

Bobbie - I agree - war has become a form of 'entertainment', played out on 24 hour news channels. Cinema and TV have made is immune to what such terror really means. The thing that really makes me angry is how easy it seems to be for politicians, 99% of whom have never even served in the armed forces, let alone fought in a war, to send people off to war or to bomb innocent civilians. People like Bush and Blair have no concept of what a war is like and this makes them very, very dangerous people. I'm hoping Brown and now Obama will be different, but who knows? Notice how the children of politicians very rarely end up going to war. I think Blair's eldest son has been snug and safe in the USA in some cushy job during the Iraq thing. Makes you sick, doesn't it? Yes, we have no idea what it's like to live in a war zone.

My dad saw active service for many years after WW2 and many of my uncles either fought in the war or served in dodgy places after the war. None of them ever talked about it. To this day, my dad only talks about the funny stuff. It seems to be a common experience.

Unknown said...

I can imagine that it's like being in hell. said...

thanks for sharing such a fascinating part of your childhood.
I get the feeling that we are even more disconnected from the wars that are happening now than we were forty years ago. I remember as a child being acutely aware of Viet Nam, praying for a neighbors safe return from fighting in it and waiting for it to be over & celebrating when it finally was.