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A Long Way Gone: Chapters 15-16 October 24, 2007

Posted by Michelle in A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael B.
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1. Michelle - October 24, 2007

I took so many notes on these chapters. So much happened. It seemed strange that they’d been fighting for 2 years. That he’d survived this long. At one point he describes having bruises all over his body from bullets that had “merely” torn his flesh as they missed killing him. How in the world does that happen? Amazing.

When he was taken away by the UNICEF workers I found myself feeling more sad than relieved. The Army had become his family & the UNICEF workers seemed particularly naive with their smiles and do-gooder delusions. Especially hearing that it hadn’t crossed their mind that a change of environment wouldn’t immediately make the boys normal again. Of course we receive a one-sided perspective.

It was going to be a long road to recovery too. He considered hijacking his rescuers. He would beat them up, try to kill them. In his PTSD haze he would bind and interrogate them. The self-destructiveness, fighting each other for no reason at all. “I was angry, I needed more violence.” So sad. Then to see the compassion and patience the workers had with the boys. They would forgive & love on them in very practical ways. They appeared to wizen up pretty quickly.

I wonder if Ishmael could see the irony he was wrapped up in. The RUF boys said “the army killed my family and destroyed my village. I will kill any of those army bastards every time I get a chance to do so.” The rebels were responding in the same manner, and for the same reasons, as Ishmael and his friends. Or when he would scout out and attack villages “killing everyone so that we could stay alive.” That he’d turned into what he was revenging.

Later he speaks of how it was infuriating to be told what to do by the civilians “A few days earlier, we could have decided whether they would live or die”. Thank God that the cycle ended there. That the civilians didn’t react in the same manner the soldiers did – with revenge – but rather with compassion.

At the end of Chapter 16 when Ishmael speaks of wrapping up in the fetal position and rocking, trying to remember his childhood… only then did it occur to me how difficult it must have been for him to write this book. To share his story. To unpack, re-live, and admit all of the horror he went through and participated in.

2. heatherelle - October 28, 2007

The story of this boy’s survival is amazing, isn’t it? There were times when reading it that I had to remind myself that this was a REAL story, and not a made-for-Hollywood script, because really, what are the odds of him surviving all that he endured?

Michelle, I’m glad you pointed out how the RUF rebels were receiving the same sort of propaganda as the soldiers, just with the word “army” in place of “rebels.” That was eye-opening. The UNICEF workers did seem pretty naive, as you mentioned. Why in the world did they immediately mix the army child soldiers with the RUF child soldiers? These kids were killing one another out in the forest just a few days prior, and now they expect them to rehabilitate side by side like friends? It’s no wonder a fight errupted and resulted in bloodshed!


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