Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Total War... It's Hard on the Kids

Apparently "young adult invasion" is actually considered a literary genre in some corners.

Written by John Marsden, Tomorrow: When the War Began is a novel, set in Australia, pitting a band of teenagers against professional soldiers for the control of Australia.

The film opens in very WB-esque fashion, with Ellie Linton (Caitlin Stasey) and six firends camping in a secluded corner of Australia. Upon returning to their homes, they find their families missing, the power shut off, and the phone lines dead.

In time, they learn the harrowing truth: Australia has been invaded by "the Coalition", a group of Asian countries (which may or may not include China). Their families are being held in internment camps.

They eventually learn via radio broadcasts that the Coalition has invaded Australia for its territory. They eventually conclude they really have only one option: fight back.

It's a remarkably similar scenario to that presented in Red Dawn: one in which an ordinary day at school is suddenly interrupted by the landing of Soviet paratroopers in the schoolyard. The mid-western United States has been overrun by a communist invasion.

Former football hero Jed (Patrick Swayze) lead a rag-tag collection of teenagers to become a battle-hardened guerilla unit.

Throughout each film, the horrors of the war take a deep psychological toll on the youths. In Tomorrow, Ellie nearly kills stoner Chris Lang (Andy Ryan) when he falls asleep while he's supposed to be keeping watch for Coalition patrols. In Red Dawn, Robert (C Thomas Howell) sends the surviving members of their unit -- those not killed by enemy action or killed for betraying their friends -- back across allied lines without himself and Jed, noting that the two of them are "all used up".

In Tomorrow and Red Dawn each group has at least enjoyed the benefit of ever having had the opportunity to be kids. Many of the youths involved in total wars today are not nearly so fortunate.

Total war, of course, is the condition of all-encompassing warfare between two groups. Throughout Africa, many ongoing civil wars -- including the ongoing conflict in Libya -- are total wars. There is no real distinction between combatants and non-combatants: everyone is a target.

The psychological effect of total war on children is undeniably striking. But if the west thinks that total war is only an issue in the most remote reaches of Africa, they're wrong.

There are forces waging total war against the western world today, and they very much are recruiting their own children in their war against the west. Al Qaida and the Taliban have press-ganged young girls into cells of suicide bombers. In Pakistan, "suicide bomber" has become a children's game.

These cells of child terrorists can't strike at the west in our backyards -- just yet. In the meantime, Al Qaida and the Taliban have settled for using these suicide bombers to target and intimidate their own people.

Just imagine what the total war Al Qaida and the Taliban are waging against civilized values are doing to those children.

Regardless of whether the war would actually be fought on US soil, Australian soil, in Africa, or in Afghanistan and Pakistan, total war is always hard on the kids.

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