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A Long Way Gone: Chapters 11-12 October 17, 2007

Posted by Michelle in A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael B.


1. Michelle - October 17, 2007

As if the first half of the book wasn’t heavy enough (Jaree pointed out that it is a quick jump into the war), we are now experiencing an increase in tragedy.

“I wanted to see my family, even if it meant dying with them.” Soooo close. He was so close to seeing them. It feels like that would be worse than not even knowing if they’d survived. His hopes were peaked, then crushed. Would it be better to hope they were still alive than to know that they were dead?

Chapter 12 confused me at first. I wasn’t sure if the soldiers were rebels or what was going on. It was the first I remember hearing of a military defense against the RUF’s.
I also was surprised that he’d been drafted to fight against the rebels. Up until now I’d assumed he’d been captured by the RUF’s and forced to fight for them.
I’m so saddened by their need to fight. These sweet little boys, some of whom weren’t even strong enough to hold their weapons up?!?!, are being turned into killers. Murders in the name of defense? Revenge? What is this war about again? Survival?

2. catherine - October 17, 2007

I honestly wonder if his parents were there at all. We’ll never know, I suppose. Still, so sad that, as you say Michelle, his hopes were raised and then so horribly crushed.

I also just assumed he’d be in the RUF, Michelle. I’m surprised that it is the government who is conscripting kids to fight. It is such a grey area, though. The way he describes it, and I read it, it sounds like they didn’t have much choice. The rebels were surrounding them and they need anyone who can carry a gun – but maybe that’s just part of the propaganda too.

I have major issues with the adults brain-washing the kids and dehumanizing their enemies: “They have lost everything that makes them human. They do not deserve to live. That is why we must kill every single one of them. Think of it as destroying a great evil. It is the hightest service you can perform for your country?”

I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I think it’s one thing to give a boy a gun in order protect a village out of desperation. It’s a whole different situation when you’re convincing these kids to kill because their enemies don’t deserve to live…

This is awful – using the kids’ sadness and desire for revenge to their advantage: “Visualize the enemy, the rebels who killed your parents, your family, and those who are responsible for everything that has happened to you.”

3. Michelle - October 17, 2007

Great job drawing a line Cith. I was thinking as I read these chapters – do I blame the soldiers for recruiting the boys? Initially I was feeling like I didn’t, like it was necessary. It was recruit them to help or they all die. But you’re right, I definitely felt a sense of propaganda in there too.

I wonder, in the future, how much of America’s recruiting efforts will be seen as propaganda?

4. heatherelle - October 17, 2007

I’m with you two! I thought for sure he was going to get caught and branded with “RUF” and that’s how he’d end up fighting. Honestly, the soldiers’ recruiting methods didn’t seem that different from the rebels — I thought that was eye-opening. I found myself distrusting the soldiers from the beginning. I even wondered if the man and child they claimed had been shot by the rebels (the man and child who had decided to leave the village because they didn’t want any part of the war) were actually shot by the soldiers and then used as an example for those remaining.

You both said it well. It really is brainwashing and propaganda. It seems so wrong to be using that on children — children who can’t even hold up the gun they’ve been issued. I can see the rebels doing the same thing, though, just using the word “soldiers” in place of “rebels.”

5. Ashleigh - October 18, 2007

Just like the rest of you, I also thought he’d end up being forced to fight for the RUF. So I was really surprised by what actually happened.

Catherine, I agree. I had difficulty with the boys being taught to think revenge regarding their enemies. Perhaps this was done to harden them so they wouldn’t be afraid in the face of battle? As a means of survival? But still? The hate and anger it breeds. And I don’t know that when they actually do kill the enemy if it’ll make them feel better. Because it isn’t ever going to bring their families and loved ones back or restore all they’ve lost.

Although regarding the RUF, I have to say I just get more and more sickened by what they do. Especially after reading the paragraph about cutting babies in half and opening the stomachs of pregnant woman. The evil of it all!

When Ishmael is describing his migraines, nightmares, and how all he’s seen is affecting him, it made me think of veterans that return from war. How they see and do things that those of us who have never experienced war don’t understand. I wonder if they often feel alone and tormented because of their experiences.

6. Ashleigh - October 18, 2007

By the way, anyone else impressed that he was seven and quoting Shakespeare?

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