War with Ourselves

War with Ourselves

A Story by SydneyPseudonym
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Taken from my tumblr, losing-the-generation.

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When I was younger, I would spend my nights in the dreary cold, armed with nothing more than a flashlight and a best friend.  When the wind howled, we responded with our resilient cries; it could not stop us. When footsteps neared the tent, we balled our hands into fists, ready for confrontation if need be, knowing that whoever or whatever lurked in the darkness could not beat us. And when, in the morning, my comrade left, I knew they were coming back, and fear of solitude could not haunt me.

My dream from age five was to be a soldier.  I wanted and thirsted after that dream during my youth with such fervour and such sincerity that I saw my future self as a sort of superhero. My backyard was always filled with the neighbourhood boys and I as we broke up into teams to defend our imaginary nations in what we thought was a war. One side was always bad, and the other side was the paragon of a perfect society forced to wage war against the evil. Killing involved a foam bullet to the chest, some squished berries, and a wounded pride.  At the end, there was a clear victory with few losses, and everyone left the yard as friends.

 My father sent me to a military academy two years later because I showed such promise.  I remember my mother crying as I left in the car with my father, hair cut short, in full uniform, and with little ties to her.  She said she had failed.  My father said he was proud. 

For those years I toiled and worked my way to the top of the class, allowing the dream to become my guardian, and closest companion.  Around me, my peers were miserable, but when I look back, it was one of the happiest times of my life.  The white pages of my text books only pushed me forward, showing me the beautiful and benevolent country I hoped to be fighting for.  It is only now that I can see the stains on the pages of these times.

After college, I entered basic training, and subsequent, I began my campaign.  With me were seven other women who had done basic training with me, and we set off to the desert.  But that’s when my dream turned into a nightmare.  We lived in constant fear of the enemy, who never seemed to show up, but worse yet, of our comrades in war.  One night I came in to find a bunkmate tied up, bleeding, and naked while a group of married men, high and drunk, taunted her and abused her.  When this came to light, nothing was done, and Livy was forced to hide in the shadows bleeding out from their actions. “War is no place for a girl.  She should have known that,” were the only words given on the subject.  Weeks later, another one of my barrack mates was almost raped, and weeks after that, men were caught trying to peep into our showers.

We stopped going out at night, stopped having male friends, and kept our stifling barracks shut at all times.  If we were going to be there, we needed to protect ourselves.  When the wind howled, we hid ourselves, when footsteps were heard, we braced ourselves for a fight, unsure if we could win, and when someone left the barracks, we knew we could not guarantee their safe arrival back. We became burdened with the guilt; it became our fault.  On hot days, we no longer could show any more of ourselves than necessary for fear of ‘asking for it.’  After being catcalled during one of our morning drills, the only thing the Sergeant could say was “They can’t help it,” but we knew they could.

On busy days, we were glad to get out of the constant anxiety that was base camp. We pillaged villages with a sick sort of pleasure, and held our weapons thinking ‘They cannot get us now;’ words that I only thought should apply to the other side of the war.

Now I return to my home and I fight against my country, the country that could not protect me or my fellow female troops, for equality that should have been given long ago.  A country that treats war as a crusade where all sins are wiped away by your service cannot and should not be a palace that can put ‘free’ in their national anthem.  I can guarantee that the men and women in my crew did not leave that pit of hell as friends, comrades, or even fellow troops.  We left as a divided army fighting for the same side. Deep within my younger self still plays war with the neighbourhood boys, but on the surface I am hardened by hiding from the grown men I went to war with. 

© 2013 SydneyPseudonym


Author's Note

SydneyPseudonym
First try at a short story.

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Added on August 21, 2013
Last Updated on August 21, 2013
Tags: feminism, sexism, war, usa, america, army, problems, dreams, anecdote, short story, lit, literature, author, write, writing, writer, young author, wars, battle, rape, rape culture, political