What calms me down lately is reading about war, and watching war movies. I know it’s odd, but for a while, I become a bit more peaceful inside, there’s less nagging going on.

Maybe because war to a certain extent makes things more clear: there’s the enemy, shoot him.

It’s just an illusion of course, because even in war it’s not always clear who your enemy or your target is. Look at the war in Vietnam for example.

American soldiers went around asking people ‘Are you the enemy?’ and whoever said ‘yes’ was shot. ‘Me Vietnamese number 1, Vietcong number ten.’ Number 1 being real good, number ten being real bad.

I’m as anti-military as they come, but I sort of like how people are forced to go to the limits of their potential.

Don’t we go through life like we are fighting a war with one hand tied round our balls?

I could do much more for example on any typical day.

I mean, today, I forced 16-year olds to finally cram the irregular verbs into their heads. Most of them finally have them, only the most education-averse among them still refuse to even take a look at the list with these verbs.

I would have preferred to talk about concepts like ‘inverted totalitarianism’, a term coined by Sheldon Wolin.

Since we’ve exhausted the rather frivolous topics in the handbook, we are taking a good look at the Vietnam war.

Today we watched some bits of ‘Dear America, letters home from Vietnam, ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ and ‘Full Metal Jacket’

In one famous scene a drill sergeant screams at a new recruit: ‘SHOW ME YOUR WAR FACE!’

Every time the group needs to laugh, the scene makes me grin, half-cringe, half-cheer as well.

Why do we laugh?

Because we hide?

Because we are so uncomfortable with the thought of fully committing -which we don’t- that we have to laugh it off?

Is the butterfly itch in our stomachs speaking of our own secret longing to show our war face?

When my students go home, I know I have failed them, I know the school system fails them, and there’s so much to give, that they aren’t getting.

I teach some basic French to one eager student.

We talk about some emotional hickups we’re all confronted with.

I check emails from people who’ve hopped off the daily treadmill for 10 minutes to write something profound about their experiences. The only pity is that we cannot have these conversations face to face.

In the tram I read about war.

And some of my sins come to me, or my conscience comes knocking, asking nasty questions, such as why I had to bother a certain lady with my feelings for her, or the arrogance I had as a student and how arrogance is such a silly trap.

I come home exhausted.

Hit by a headache. I’ve had a headache for two weeks now. I always get headaches when I know I’m not living my life according to my own standards or not in line with my values.

All I can do is cook some food while watching this:

There’s nobody around to have a face to face conversation about anything like this. I’ve somehow become alienated from the few people I know that care about these things or care enough to add something relevant to it. And beating myself up for not being like Abby Martin (she’s one year younger than me for crying out loud…). Not understanding why I never did anything with all the interviews I did with Palestinians in Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, etc.

The faces of my students are still flashing before me. The ones that have given up, the ones eager for more, but not knowing where to get more, the ones flowing along without really taking anything in, just enough to get by unscathed, untouched, the ones with a natural knack for analysis and taking a meta bird’s eye view of not only their own behavior, but school, society, history, etc. Imagine what they could do if their cell phones weren’t blinking for attention, if video games wouldn’t jump at them the moment they walk through the door at home, mixed with visions of myself when I was their age, looking like an awkward, somehow not inhabiting his own body, teenager, with some book knowledge and not a clue as to how to ask a girl out on a date, sinking away in the couch and binge watching sitcom reruns.

Imagine if we all showed our war face.

 

 

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