I wasn't really expecting "school shock" to hit quite so hard in college. Yeah, I was wrong about that.
But attending my first two college classes, though exciting and amazing, wasn't even the most intriguing or thought-provoking part of my day. That distinction ended up belonging to a few minutes in Collis at the Activities Fair. (I'm on so many new blitzlists now it makes my head spin.) But the point of this story isn't blitzlists-- or the free pizza we were given-- or even the equally free candy. The point of this story is the three words I heard coming from a stranger's mouth.
"Fight for freedom!"
Interesting enough in general, but at an activities fair? Perhaps the words came from a secret rebel Dartmouth society. Or from the organization that promotes awareness about the suppression of North Korea. Or from the marching band (an interesting new campaign against Harvard?).
But as I turned to glance in the direction of the person who had uttered those fiery syllables I saw no rebels or Korean activists or horn players. No, I saw someone in uniform-- a uniform with the words "U.S. Army" printed right on the front. It was a soldier, promoting the United States Army, recruiting a few fresh young students to his cause.
My first reaction upon seeing the truth of the source of the words was admittedly a bit of disbelief. I knew the military would be present at Dartmouth, of course, but for some reason I hadn't through of Dartmouth kids as the kind to drop out of, well, Dartmouth to join the United States Army.
But the important thing here really isn't my prior misconceptions about the existence of the armed forces at Dartmouth. The important thing is those three words and their meaning: "Fight for freedom." Now, the soldier was probably talking about the fact that the American armed forces are over in Iraq and Afghanistan and presumably working toward democracy and a fairer government... to freedom. However, there are many ways to think of the statement "Fight for freedom." One would inspire thoughts of rebellion from the Army (which isn't necessary because I'm not joining up. Thank God). This first makes me chuckle a bit with wry laughter because the Army is generally the institution faced with little trepidation about "the Man"; in fact there have been times in our history in which the Army has enforced the Man's word without a second thought.
"Fight for freedom." I honestly did shake my head at the bitter humor of those words. The Army, one of the most conventional and traditional institutions on Earth, exhorting young people to rise up and "fight for freedom"? Of course, once you walk over there and sign your name down, you have to do what you're told (a.k.a. can't talk badly about the college, classes, food, or anything else that isn't politically correct). But in that moment this bored (or exultant in the line of duty-- I sure don't know which it is) young man inspired me to think about what, exactly, it means to fight for freedom. In one literal sense, as I said, it speaks of the two wars the United States is now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In another it could mean to fight against the Army, against organized government, against all that is our traditional American hierarchy.
"Fight for freedom." But which freedoms are we fighting for? And how hard will we fight? These are questions worth asking...