Talking with My Son about War

Before my son’s birth and since, I’ve discharged on war, the Holocaust, Jewish terror, my father’s experience serving in World War II, and the current world situation. I’ve also talked with my son about the irrationality of war and about people being confused.

My son is now fifteen years old. I was shocked when last year he told me that he planned to enlist in the army and become a sniper, or join the Navy SEALS [Sea, Air, and Land Teams]. I couldn’t believe it. After all our years of talking and thinking together about war, this was the decision he had come to. I was very scared—scared for him. And I felt like a failure as an RC parent.

It took a lot of control to just say, “Oh, really.” Then I ran for the hills [quickly departed] to discharge all that had come up and find my thinking. Later when I spoke to my son and brought up war again, I just listened to him without inserting my thinking.

As I listened, I realized that he was trying in his own way to think rationally about an irrational situation. He said that many people in the world now want war and that he wanted to do something to help and serve the people. He said he would be safer as a sniper, because he’d be back from the front lines and hidden.

I explained how snipers are targeted and that he could likely be killed or permanently injured. I also talked about how dangerous it would be to be a Navy SEAL. I was conscious of my tone and tried to give him information without loading it with feelings. When I discussed the senselessness of war, he pushed back. He talked again about all the wars going on [happening], all the people backing [supporting] war, and his just wanting to be helpful.

I realized that I needed to discharge on my own relationship to war, so I discharged on the Vietnam War, which had taken place [happened] when I was my son’s age. I needed to be able to explain to him how I had come to my anti-war thinking.

After much discharge, I told him that much of the United States had opposed the Vietnam War; that the youth, with their protests, had actually stopped the war; that I had been part of the group that had stood up against war; and that that was how my thinking had been formed. (I tremble now as I think about those times.) I talked about the dead U.S. soldiers and about racism and the Vietnamese people being senselessly killed. I stopped trying to convince him to take my position and instead gave him information and let him form his own opinion.

He surprised me shortly after that when he told me that he would never sign up for war. Then we started talking about other things people have done and could do. I talked about organizations that go around the world helping people, such as the Peace Corps. He said that he was interested in this. I’ve since learned that a young adult neighbor has recently returned from serving in the Peace Corps and has agreed to talk with my son.

I keep discharging to find my thinking. My son keeps reaching for his thinking. This is still a work in progress. (By the way, each of these conversations lasted only a minute or two.)


(Present Time 190, January 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00