R.L. SAUNDERS

writer attempting real life in the middle of everybody else's vacation

Raising good Americans outside the patriotic vacuum

Yesterday was Veterans Day. Thanking veterans and thinking about what they’ve done is important to me. Of course. I want my kids to admire people who make sacrifices for what they believe is the greater good. But I also want my kids to think about what the greater good means to them.

I love my country and the world it’s part of. And I’m not afraid of being shamed as a bad or ungrateful American for having conversations with my kids, at an age-appropriate level, about the many purposes of a military.

What do you think is the purpose of a military? Of war?

What do you think are some of the reasons people join the military?

What is patriotism?

How does war and a strong military help build patriotism?

What does patriotism do for a nation?

What do we gain from war?

What does war cost? Who pays?

Can we have fewer war veterans to honor in the future? How?

Is that something to work toward? Why or why not?

Most of us have veterans in our lives. I’m married to a war veteran whose dad was a veteran, as were both my dads. I don’t feel like I’m anti-American military. I don’t feel like burning the flag or organizing protests or moving to Canada. But I do feel very interested in helping my kids think beyond the closed loop of information I grew up with. I want them to develop a more global, more accurate perspective on lots of things, including popular culture as it relates to war hero worship.

I want my kids to think beyond the mistaken notion that everybody in the world wants to be an American. Beyond the increasingly baseless notion that we are the greatest nation in the world.

I want my kids to be able to articulate what makes a nation great. I want them to think and talk about what makes a good citizen of our country and of our planet. It’s important to me to expose them to controversial ideas while they’re developing their own big picture and thinking about how they fit into that big picture.

I want my kids to love their country, but not blindly.

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Ode to medical science

My dad’s mom had the BRCA1 gene mutation. She died at 49. My dad’s only sibling inherited the mutation and had a goal of living to 50–a year longer than her mother. She didn’t make it. She died at 47. Her only daughter (my cousin) just tested positive for the mutation and will have a double mastectomy and hysterectomy after Christmas. To people who blame Angelina Jolie for this overreaction, may I say, fuck you and your horrendous ignorance. Fuck you very much.

And thank you, medical science.

I have no idea if my dad inherited the mutation, he died at 57 and was never tested. But males and females have the same chance (50/50) of inheriting it–something I’ve learned that many people, including my OB/GYN, don’t realize. When I asked about being tested, he seemed skeptical and said he’d have to “look into that.” I resented his reaction and I let him make me feel stupid. This information isn’t all that new. It really isn’t.

Thank you, medical science, for persisting even when practitioners don’t have time to stay abreast of you.

BRCA mutation-related breast cancer only accounts for 5-10 percent of all breast cancer cases. It’s different from the kind your doctor asks you all the maternal-side questions about. It’s aggressive and it keeps coming back, no matter how many times you think you’ve beaten it, because having the mutation means you were born with no ability to fight it. My grandma and aunt suffered extremely painful, ugly deaths. They didn’t get to see what became of their children. They missed knowing their grandchildren. But my cousin (and Angelina Jolie) won’t. And I’m having the genetic test next week.

Thank you, medical science.

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