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Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. I suspect it’s because my daughter’s getting older. But everyone just looks so young to me now. Baby-faced men flash on my TV screen. They look scared and I imagine they had the same fear in their eyes on their first day of kindergarten. They are soldiers: Lebanese, Israeli, American. They are war criminals, some of them. My heart aches as I imagine their victims’ final terror. And the world makes less and less sense to me.

But I feel an unexpected sorrow, too. Even as I hear about their crimes, I don’t harden, particularly, to the baby-faced war criminals. I question my own hesitation to condemn a rapist: Don’t I think men should be held accountable for their actions? Maybe it’s some kind of nascent nationalism that allows me to split my compassion between an American aggressor and foreign victims. Maybe I should, as the newscasters tell me, consider the death of a soldier of any nationality less important than the death of a civilian. I don’t know. But I do remember standing in the hallway of the public high school where I teach poetry, listening as a thirty-something military recruiter told my baby-faced students lies, promised them a “GREAT education” and a “one-of-a-kind adventure” and “No, way, buddy, the chances you’ll be in combat are next to nuthin’. You’ll probably just visit schools like I do—jus’ talkin’ to kids.”

And I remember running into a favorite student after he’d been through basic training and was preparing to ship out, and I remember how he didn’t seem so excited anymore. He had that scared look.

“Are you still writing poetry?” I asked him. He'd particularly like writing pantoums. He squinted at me and just sort of rubbed his head and seemed a little bit confused by the question. Like already the world made less and less sense to him.

And, yes, I think men should be held responsible for their actions, even when they are young. But I’d like to see some grown-ups held accountable, too. Jus’ talkin’ to kids.

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