An American Insurgency (Chapter One)
I was an idealist. I believed in equality. I thought that what made my country great was that people had a chance to live without being judged by aspects dictated to them by their birth. When those beliefs were chipped down so far that they faded away I became a recruiter. I recruited with great belief and idealistic fervor for an organization that seemed to counter the degradation of equality and downward spiral of what seemed to be my country. I never, in a million years, would have thought that being a humanist would eventually make me a terrorist.
This is, however, not my story. This is the story of my hero. He was flawed. He was emotional. He failed. He was my worst recruit yet he was brilliant and more compassionate than any person I had ever met. He is now dead.
We didn’t plan on insurgency and civil war but you remember how it was. We were a proud republic. We voted for people who were then supposed to represent our ideas and beliefs. Yet something decayed and died. Those who we voted into office did whatever the fuck they wanted to yet they catered to our ideas with rhetoric alone. We uneducated and uninformed idiots blindly followed them like they toted a magical flute.
It did not take long for our freedoms to be chipped away for the sake of security. When I was a child the epitome of evil was Nazi Germany, yet, while still deploring the idea, we became the Gestapo. We began by turning out Muslims. We then turned out anyone brown. We then digressed into policies that outlawed homosexuality, transgendered, birth control, abortion and on and on.
I am twenty-four now and have not seen my father for eight years. The day he left was when I became an idealist. I was angry at the time because, by what he was saying, he would miss my soccer game. I didn’t actually listen to what he was saying. It was the fourth of July and, after the fireworks and celebration, he took me behind the house and sat me on the stoop.
“Colin,” he said. “I don’t know how to do this well, or easy or good”
“Do what, dad?” I asked.
My dad reached into his pocket and removed something small. He put his hands on my upper arms and looked at my face very closely. I felt ill at ease. This feeling was not motivated by our closeness as I cannot remember a time when my father and I did not kiss and hug, but motivated more by a sense that it was the last time I would see him.
“I have to leave, buddy,” said my dad. “And I don’t think I’ll be coming back.”
“What do you mean, you have to leave?” I asked. “When? Where are you going?”
My dad sighed. “I have to leave now,” he said. “And I can neither tell you where I am going nor when I will be back.”
“What the fuck,” I said. “Sectionals are next week.”
“Fine, you know,” I said. “Are you not showing up?”
“Damn it dad,” I said. “So I’m stuck with my dumb ass mom showing up?”
“Don’t say that.”
“It’s true, dad,” I said. “I’ve been wanting to move in with you permanently for years but I’ve been forced repeatedly to live with my dumb ass mom and her dumb ass boyfriend half the time.”
“You’ve needed your time with your mother just as much as she needed her time with you.”
“So you’ve said since I was like six,” I said. “Yet she’s pawned me off as often as she could and you never did, and now you’re telling me you’re leaving.”
“I have to.”
“Why,” I asked.
My father sat down next to me and put his head in his hands. He cried. When he stopped he looked at me with the most serious and sad expression I have ever seen in my life. In his eyes I saw a defeated and sad man who was reaching up from the darkest depths of water in the hopes of finding a single board of hope to cling to. I did not appreciate it.
He composed himself and said, “There is so much wrong in this world. I have to do my best to fix it.”
“And you have to leave to do this?”
He said sadly, “No, but I have to fight, and if I fight I will put you in danger if I am still here.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
My dad stood. “You don’t have to.” He placed the object he removed from his pocket into my hand then shook my hand like a casual stranger. “After you were born and as I grew older I began to worry about the world I was raising you in. Now I worry more for the world your children will inherit. This world seems to be filled with people who hate and kill and carry weapons with the sole purpose of hurting others. I have found people who are opposed to this and they want me to work with them on how to counter this. In order to make a better world for you and your eventual kids and grandkids, I feel I must do this.”
“So you understand?”
“No,” I said. “Fuck no. Go asshole. I’ll do my game by myself and if I never see you again then fine.”
Before walking away my dad said, “I’m sorry, buddy. I love you.”
And then he was gone. I looked at what was in my hand and I cried. It was a tattered and beat-up medal. It was his Purple Heart. My dad was not coming back.