When I was ten years old and away at camp, our cabin gave ourselves a military theme.
Why? I dunno. We were kids and thought guns were cool as hell. Like I said, we were kids. I guess I’d already said “when I was ten”, so I may have underlined it one too many times. Who knows though? Maybe you assumed I was some boy genius rooming with a bunch of teens. I don’t know how your brain works. Probably because I’m not a boy genius, a boy or a genius. As always, I digress. We gave ourselves a military theme. To be clear, “gave ourselves” means exactly what you think it does. We weren’t assigned themes arbitrarily. We weren’t assigned themes whatsoever. Cabins didn’t even have themes. That wasn’t part of the deal. Our cabin just decided that a) themes were cool and b) ours was gonna be military.
Cabins didn’t have themes, but at some stage we made theme songs. I think it was for some kind of activity or competition. Ours went “Cabin 14 likes the wars. If you slit our throat we’ll slit yours.” Verging on 32, I still think that line’s hilarious. We really committed to our arbitrary theme. We got hyper competitive and tried to win everything. We aced the talent show. Though we weren’t super physical, we still tried our hardest at sport type activities. When it came time for a campwide game of capture the flag, we got ultra serious. We dressed in all black for camouflage, made rambo style headbands by tying t-shirts around our foreheads and made lines on our face with mud. We tried to be strategic, choosing lesser travelled paths over the river, taking the backways wherever possible. We posted lookouts and sent members on reconnaissance missions. We got the flag and crept in behind home base. Once we were close enough, we made a run for it, evading the cabin leaders and winning the prize. I can’t remember if that was the time my best bud and I won Most Spirited Campers, but it felt like we were kings. It’s one of my many treasured childhood memories.
The youthful naivety still gives me a kick. War was this totally foreign concept. We grew up in New Zealand. It was a world away from any real conflict. Ideas of compulsory military service was unheard of. It’s not like the military even held any cultural relevance. New Zealanders aren’t big into war. Gallipoli was the only major campaign our country was involved in. Waaay back in 1915 and we still mourn every year. My brothers thought war was awesome. I didn’t quite get the military bug. If it wasn’t about dinosaurs, robots, medieval or superheroes, I wasn’t interested. Still though, I thought tanks were pretty cool, and I always wanted to fire guns like people on TV. Whenever I fired a gun at targets, I loved it. I’m not gonna lie, I still think it’s cool and fun to fire guns. Weapons still seem rad to me. I’m almost 32 and I’m just a big kid.
I’ve always drawn the line at actual violence, and that line has stayed firm. We all contain multitudes, right? We can hold many simultaneous views. Honestly, I think the machines of war are mostly pretty cool. Bombs, guns, vehicles, advanced surveillance technology. It’s all neat as shit. At the same time, I 100% wish they’d never be used against other humans. I consider war to be a total atrocity. So many needless deaths, tossed away for a cause that wasn’t theirs. So many kids who never got to grow up and out of that reckless mentality. The fantasy of renegades taking justice by force. Who could they have become if not for war? If that energy and passion were directed elsewhere? It’s fanciful to the extreme. We’re gonna continue to kill each other one way or another. Let’s be real. I’m not serving hot takes here. We all know war is bad, etc etc etc. I think I’m just getting whimsical and carried away. I can’t imagine my 16 year old self being dropped into a warzone. I’d be in no way equipped. Regardless of my “training” back in cabin 14, I would have died. Without question. I don’t have the mettle for warfare and I never did. They’d fly me back in a coffin, having accomplished nothing. Like so goddamn many others.
It was nice to be a kid. I wish everyone got to do it.