Generational Divide

 

“I don’t understand people who don’t fight for us,” he says. “I went to enlist during my war, after high school, but they rejected me. IV-F. A tumor in my arm. One arm shorter than the other.”

            “But Dad,” she says, fingering the peace sign necklace she’s wearing. “I know you played football in high school. I’ve seen the faint scar in your upper arm, but I never noticed a difference in arm length.”

            He lifts his shirt sleeve, looking down at the freckled tricep, as if to verify. “Surgery. But they  wouldn’t take me. Took all my friends. My brothers. Not me. I had to stay and help my parents on the farm, and welded battleships on Mare Island.” He pulls his sleeve back down and looks directly at her.

            “It was a different war,” she says, her straight brown, shoulder length hair moving slightly as she shakes her head. “We were attacked then. This is another country’s civil war that should be determined by people who live there, not by imperialists like us. You’ve watched the body counts on T.V., the civilian deaths we’re causing there, the environmental devastation, the increasing violence. And now the draft, which takes young people who don’t want to go. Who don’t believe in this war. And mostly Black and brown people who aren’t lucky enough to be in college like me.”

            “You do what your country says. What it needs.” His fists clench as he scrunches his unruly eyebrows and raises his voice. “Those kids I seen on TV. Out in the streets. Blocking roads. Burning draft cards. Protesting against the U.S. They oughta all be arrested and put in jail.”

            “I’m one of those kids, Dad. I have to be there. I don’t believe what we’re doing is right.”

            His demeaner changes, softening a little, but he continues to look straight at his daughter. “When the communists come and take us over, you’ll know I was right,” he says, glaring.

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