Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Journal 5 from Kai

     One of main things that stand out in Beah's memoir is the use of "city soldier" to describe the MPs that take the boys away from the war zone. To the kids, these military guy's clean clothes and weapons shows a lack of use. The boys are used to grime, war, blood, gore. They have no respect for these "city soldiers" that they feel are inferior to them in war experience. It reminds me so much of how people from the country will call people that aren't used to the outdoors or don't like to get dirty "city boys".

     Another good choice of words used is the phrase "It isn't your fault". Whether the staff were actually saying it to Beah many times over or that is simply what stood out to him in his recollection it is very important. It is building the foundation and safety net for the time when Ishmael comes face to face with all that he has done. Right now he is still desensitized, but eventually he will come down from his high and face reality. With no one to blame one usually blames themselves so hearing that it isn't your fault will help him transition.

Trigger Warning: Trauma

     There is only one person I know of that has had a massive, severe, and sudden transformation for the worse. That person is me. I had what I would still call a normal decent childhood. Everyone that I have told about my childhood has looked at me in horror, disbelief, or has actually started crying. It all hit me when I turned 15, much like it will hit Beah. In my high school years I was the terror of the hallways. I was given a wide berth as I made a bee line straight to my next class. I was very angry.

     My father passed away when I was 12. I felt nothing. I didn't care. I did not shed a single tear at his funeral. He was a great man, Vietnam vet, kept his kids in line. I kept telling people I did not care about his death while clinging to his watch and coat. His coat. It was huge. I'm a big guy now, but my father was bigger. This coat you could go camping with and not need a tent. I wore it all the time regardless of how hot it was. It was my coat now.

     Three years later I was actually pity invited to someone's house. I went without telling my mother as she would just tell me I couldn't anyway. In an impromptu football game, I was tackled and had the coat literally ripped off of me. It was an old coat and just came to pieces on me. That is when it hit me he was gone. He was gone and had stolen my childhood from me. All those skipped school days sitting in the VA hospital for eternity, the shooting ranges, the survival lessons, the fear. It wasn't what you were supposed to grow up with. I was angry.

     My mother is an entirely different beast and I will not go into that. The ones that noticed and tried to help were the school staff. I got into fights, but never seemed to get into any real trouble. I loved school and was not going to be denied my opportunity to get an education. Rules became my master. If you decided to talk or interrupt class, I would usually physically remove the student. It seemed like everything was out to get me. I used to wear a trench coat, brown, London Fog, but then the Columbine shooting happened and they were banned. I came to school in my trench coat and was arrested. It made me angry. I was doodling in class once before I got checked out of school early for a doctor's appointment and some wise guy drew a map of the school with instructions about giving me bombs or something. They then took my random doodling out of the trash and, I'm not even sure today, used it somehow to link me to some plot. I was arrested again and the District Attorney wanted to make an example of me and... and... and...

     It was bad. That is all there is to say about it. I could continue for days about the rage, the PTSD, the dissociation. There is a reason I am now 32 testing the water in one class rather than attending college 13 years ago when I had a full ride in scholarships. I know exactly what is about to happen to Beah in the story and it will not be pretty.


  1. Part 2 left me speechless. Im glad you shared this with us, it takes a lot to be able to open up like that and share it with the class. Im glad that you decided to go to college and pursue your dreams.

  2. When writing is really honest it cuts deep. The coat is both an object and metaphor for your dad and the way you described it really set us up for when it came undone all at once and you realized that was it for your Dad. Is there any value in such experiences? I think it's trite to say so from the outside, or even guess at it. But I know a lot of people go through brutal challenges in this life, and I tend to try to use my roughest moments to help other people avoid them if I can. It makes me wonder if one day you should try to tell the whole story, or at least what you can, as Beah is doing. There are millions of other child soldiers out there who maybe believe they can't be useful citizens anymore and should give up. I don't believe that personally. The truth still has power, and people can change, for the better-- and not only for the worse.


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