Feminism, Still Alive and Pertinent to Me. WooHoo!
What I Learned this Thanksgiving

Generation Some-Random-Letter

The other day I came to the very disheartening realization that the end of endless wars or the end of periodic wars does not seem to be in the future for this “great” nation. That is if I can take what I see of my students and use them as a tiny sample of this generation and extrapolate into a giant generalization. Two anecdotes are, to me, very telling.

In the school’s career center the other day, my ninth graders were asked if they know what they want to do or be. Only a handful raised their hands. Army. Air Force. Marines. Lawyer. Doctor. Army. Dentist. Pediatrician. Notwithstanding the fact that only one girl (pediatrician) raised her hand, I was horrified that so many of the boys see the military as a career. Granted, in this area in northern Virginia there are a lot of military bases and the Pentagon and enough Department of’s for just about every retired military person to get a chance to retire from another government job, and I grew up in New York City where only those kids who were heading down the wrong path went into the military, I was horrified. As I said to a friend later, “the military-industrial complex has won.” I’m not completely naïve, I lived in Israel for a long time, I recognize the need—unfortunately—for a strong military. But the military being a career choice just strikes me as sad for them and sad for us as a nation.

So many times you hear people say that someone was lost until s/he went into the military which straightened her/him out. Such a sorry sentence for our country, for ourselves. Shouldn’t there be another avenue for the kids who don’t have a direction and are seemingly lost by the need to decide at 18 what they want to do with their lives—both if that kid can afford college and not? Why don’t we have service to country that doesn’t involve learning how to shoot a rifle and “defend” our way of life in far-flung deserts and shores? I know there has been talk of a national service, but there isn’t one. Even in Israel, many of the kids who don’t want to go into the infantry can teach or do social work, or some other service to the society. Why are those who in another time would have just followed in the family business or livelihood not aware that there are other “safe” careers other than supporting the never-ending wars? What came first, the never-ending wars or the need to have a large military that must be kept busy?

And then there are two of my students, who are seniors, who just got engaged to each other. He will continue the family job of going into the military and she will continue the family job of supporting her man in the military. But their getting engaged at 18 is not what stands out so much to me, rather it is her engagement ring. She wears distinctive clothes and jewelry often adorned with skeletons and skulls as well as her ubiquitous spiky collar around her neck. He has counter-culture messages on his tee-shirts and sweatshirts. And her engagement ring. Well, it has tiny diamonds. Why can’t the rebels really keep it up? Why are they relenting, why are they abandoning the rebellion to go with the flow? Why have they succumbed so quickly? Is that it? Up to 18 to rebel, and then get in line: join the military, get married, be a continuer and not a questioner.

It made me sad seeing the 9th graders’ responses and the engagement ring on the same day. Maybe I should be happy that they know what they want instead of bemoaning their cattleness, but I am not. I want “question authority,” and I don’t want it to be just us midlife women chanting to ourselves about feminism and against war. Obviously, we have failed. We have our lovely choir, but where is the audience?

I wanted to yell out—THINK, think for yourselves! Yes, you’re confused and you don’t know what you are good at and you want someone else to decide everything for you because it’s so much easier than being confused, but TRY to THINK for YOURSELF—you can do it! Don’t think that might is right! Don’t you read the papers—don’t you know that we are belligerent? That a soldier is a warrior before he is a peacemaker! Believe in yourself. But I didn’t. I sat there thinking of the members of the military who have been injured or killed, or will be. And I thought about those who send them into battle, whether they dither over it or take longer to decide what kind of cigar to chomp on than when to send troops into battle.

I thought life was about valuing life—each other’s—and not just the life of the nation. But perhaps this is what we deserve, after all we live in a country where a company has personhood and is, apparently, more important than an individual’s life. 

But at least I know there is a choir out there. Those of us in the choir must continue to raise our voices, otherwise we will be shufflers. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to bring my shoes in to get fixed, the heels are beginning to show slight signs of wear.



As you stated, I think that career decisions can be very family and location centered. I spent my young adulthood in the DC area. And I come from a family in which most of the men, and quite a few women have served in the military.

While there are other ways to serve, they are not always obvious, or the most easy to embrace. By this I mean that while the military is an obvious step for an 18 year old, they might never have thought of the peace corps, study abroad, or doing volunteer work to help them find a sense of purpose and place.

I encourage my 18 year old stepson to join the military medical corps. But I also encourage him to study abroad, go on a volunteer mission, and volunteer his time locally. None of those things have stuck. And in the end, I just sincerely hope he will choose a path that will help him to grow up and have the clear direction that his young life, as a person whose parents separated when he was very young, has lacked. What direction that is I consider entirely up to him, so long as it is legal and moral.

When I was 18, I envied students like yours who had made their choice. I had not made mine. I floundered. I was confused. And though your students may change their minds and the direction of their lives in the future, I'm glad for them that they have a plan.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Christine, I understand what you're saying, but I still think that some confusion is better--for a teen--than an absolute. When else are they going to explore their own possibilities and interests if not in college or those early out of high school years? Me, I changed majors, countries and career expectations.


Let's look at it from a young adult's perspective...

For a young mail, there are three basic choices after school.

1. Work.
2. School.
3. Military.

School (2.) seems like the obvious choice, but the prospect of going into massive debt with aid or parental intervention is difficult.

There could be a combination of (1.) or (2.) but this essentially leaves a young adult still at home.

The vehicle for a young adult to "get away" from home and start their own life is hard to do with the prospect of out of state tuition costs...which leaves the military as an easy option and transition. Not all soldiers, sailors and airmen work in a foxhole or in a tank.

Nothing is ever simple, huh?


Laura, your post immediately brought to mind my mother telling me when I was young that her father, my grandfather, taught her these words: "Question Authority." I was probably 10 or 11 at the time. It took me a while to get it. Those two words have stayed with me throughout my life. Those in power do not like to be questioned but it is our right as citizens to do so. This gets lost too often.

The economy is bad right now. I know one girl who's away at college that is going to have to come back home after one semester at the state university because she hasn't been able to find a job to pay her living expenses. It's a real problem and, unfortunately, young people may see the military as their only or best option.

If my son wanted to enlist in the military of his own accord, I wouldn't be able to stop him, but we will do whatever we have to to send him to college.


Isn't there AmeriCorps now as another avenue?
As other commenters have stated, I think our economy might have a lot to do with it. The military is desperate for people, and yet there are people with all the degrees who can't get a job.
I definitely hear you and agree with you, but I also remember being that young and not knowing all the choices out there. I believe that many of them will end up as we are now. They just have to go through the process, too. Maddening? Absolutely. But evolution just doesn't work fast enough!


This is a wonderful and thought provoking post by the way. I have to get that in there.

Anyway, there is no premium or value placed on thinking for yourself and being an individual. People are taught at an early age to assimilate and conform which in some respects is fine but not in every facet of life.

If these 2 kids are getting married then these counter cultural symbols are nothing more than costumes. They get the marketing but they don't get the concept. Do you really think these two will be happy in say....5 years? I doubt it. She will be pregnant and miserable and he'll have is own issues if he gets sent to war. They will get divorced. I have seen it myself. Everyone else can see it coming too except for them.

I read a very good article once about how some officers in the military could clearly see that there was too much of an influx of kids who just were not cut out for the job and getting damaged by the system. There are people withing the military that do care but there were no clear answers on how to fix the issue. And now that we are at war, they military must keep their numbers strong.

I guess the perception of the military is different according to the region you are in. You are correct, up north in NYC and even where I am, people just don't consider the military an option but rather a last resort for people in trouble and need to find the right path.

Such a difficult problem since I have the utmost respect for those who do serve but there are so many issues mixed in with all that. I could go on forever but don't want to monopolize your blog. :-)

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

MTAE, I just thought I'd tell you that your comment was used in a conversation that I had with someone about this post. No, nothing is ever simple, except my desires--that the system could be reworked and that there was a way for young males and females to get away in a fulfilling way that didn't involve the military--in a foxhole or just making those in the foxhole able to be there.

JC, I can see the trend increasing with the stories coming out about how tuition costs are rising and how people without college degrees have the highest rates of unemployment. Sure, the military is a safety net, I just wish we had another effective one.

April, I'm not sure how widespread or available Americorps is. It would be lovely if they could figure out who they are without potentially putting themselves in harm's way.

Ricardo, thanks for the compliment--it's much appreciated--and your monopolizing the blog with your thoughts.

Their engagement seems like a way to hold onto their childhood, thinking that this will keep somethings as they are and not to be buffeted by too many changes. I hope they make it past the odds, or at least don't become bitter.

Numbers. That's the--a--problem, I guess. Young, confused kids are numbers that enable US to continue fighting wars that show we have not evolved.

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