Last week in one of my classes we read Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” (Highly recommended, if you haven’t read it). One of my best students had nothing to say. About halfway through the class I noticed her downcast eyes, and tightly gripped pen…but an empty page of no notes.
So I called on her. “Did you not like this story?”
She told me she hated it. It was too true. She is in the army, and will be heading for Iraq. She doesn’t know when, but it will be soon, and she has a young child, and she’ll be staying (at least) a year.
She really didn’t have much to say in the rest of the discussion, but she opened up a bit. She talked about how it is to be a soldier in the field, the unpredictability of combat. She also talked about her disgust for the purposelessness of this war (“for oil,” she said).
But she’ll be going, and I hope she’ll be coming back. She’s a smart, funny, tough, perceptive woman. It’s been bothering me ever since that day to think of her going, and maybe (G-d forbid) not coming back, into that mess…for no good reason.
We need her here. Her son needs her, her family needs her, and this country needs her.
When I saw her again in class today, I told her I had been feeling bad about having asked her to read that story, and I hoped she wasn’t upset. “It was bad,” she said. “But it was good.”