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Redefining American Childhood

Thirty years ago, our family was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. It was actually our second time there, and I remember my parents re-introducing me to friends I’d had when I was four or five years old. We all lived on a measly three streets, which are no longer tagged on Google Maps: Carswell, Vance Circle, and I forget the third. My friends and I explored every inch of that neighborhood and that base. And though I haven’t been back since 1991, I still remember it fondly, which was why it was so horrible to hear Trump would be housing detained immigrants there.

I remember last year when Trump was doing his Looney Tunes routine with North Korea and I read an article about how military bases in the Far East Theater were preparing for war. One of those bases mentioned was Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, where, coincidentally, our family was stationed after Goodfellow. At the time, it made my heart sink to imagine the kids there being caught up in a manufactured war. When I was there, the most we had to deal with was getting caught with gum in school or trying to break into the base-sponsored Bulletin Board System.

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Fireworks on the lake, just outside the gate, because it wasn’t legal on base. Elephant cage antenna array in the background. Misawa, Japan 1992.

I thought how fucking horrible it is that children should have to live under the threat of war. The men and women who’ve joined up with the armed forces know what they’re in for, and their spouses do too, but the kids never asked to be included. It seems terribly unfair, and more than that, it cheats those kids of the carefree life my friends I had there in the mid-90’s. No dangerous American public schools to deal with. No rampant crime or drugs or homelessness or gang activity. Nothing but a poorly enforced curfew and all the authentic ramen you could eat.

Fast-forward to this week, and I read this article on independent.co.uk.

Two US defence officials identified the bases as Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base to the Associated Press earlier on Monday.

The officials said unaccompanied child immigrants would be sheltered at one base, and the other would be used to house family detainees. The land would be supplied by the Defence Department, but the facilities would be run by outside organisations.

And I thought, there goes another set of childhoods ruined.

We had such a good time at Goodfellow. Remember that time someone busted the glass in the vending machine in the barracks and we all got free candy? Or when we gutted a Power Wheels truck and tied to the back of our bikes and raced it around the neighborhood? Or when we almost burned down the library?

I don’t know if families still live on Goodfellow in 2018. Google Maps suggests they do, unless those units are just sitting abandoned. If not, then this whole post is for nothing, since no-one except the men and women in the Air Force or the retirees who still shop at the BX or Commissary will be affected.

But… if families are still living there, then I can only shake my head and write an impotent blog post about the injustice of it all.

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And let’s be clear: everything about what is happening is fucked up. I’m not just whining about children who are going to grow up thinking this is America, this is what we do to people who want to come to our country, this is normal. There’s more to it than that, and I do recognize that fact.

It’s hard to talk or write about politics without wanting to throw your computer out a window. It’s one of the reasons I quit Facebook. It’s one of the reasons my return to Twitter was abandoned; I only followed authors, and yet they only wanted to talk Trump.

Anyway, I guess this post was more about letting you, the non-military, unfamiliar with Goodfellow reader, know that there is yet another angle to this baffling non-stop horror show.

And also about me, publicly hoping the kids growing up in Misawa and at Goodfellow get a childhood as easy and carefree as I did, lest they grow up thinking warlord rhetoric and ripping babies from their mothers is part of a normal American life.

Because it fucking isn’t.

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