The other side of childhood

Fellow blog board contributor Marc Danziger has a moving piece in the Examiner today about his son’s decision to join the Army. I was particularly moved by the line about his son’s decision putting him on “the other side of childhood.”

In our circle of friends, it’s been the topic of lots of discussion and no small amount of criticism. This group is part of the information elite: people who live in coastal enclaves and get paid to move information around. They’re well-educated and well-traveled, have high incomes and typically view themselves as cosmopolitan in outlook.

Our kids are supposed to go to East Coast colleges and then to graduate or professional school, not join the military as enlisted men. In this circle, I count only one other family whose son went into the military. That’s two children out of maybe 50 or 60 families.

That’s too bad; I think the elites in our society and our military would both do better if each was more closely tied to the other. In writing about U.S. politics, I talk a lot about the increasing and frightening isolation of U.S. policy, information and economic elites.

While watching (and, in my own way, trying to participate in) the debates about the future course of the war in Iraq, I’m frustrated because it appears that we’re being led by actors in a stylized Noh play set within the rules of this isolated clique — instead of frank-speaking members of the broader community with a real sense of leadership and responsibility.

My son didn’t make his decision because of my politics, which he finds an amusing hobby. He made it while he was in Brazil last year based on how he could best “give back” to our society, and also on his experience living among the American expat students there and the communities they moved within. His reasons, really, are his own. He’s quizzical when I talk to him about it because he doesn’t see it as a big deal; “I haven’t done anything yet,” as he puts it. And I try as best as I can to explain to him that this decision is important to me because it puts him on the other side of childhood. His accomplishments once he’s there matter a lot, but he is taking the huge step across that line into a new world where he is my son but no longer my child.Read it all.

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