By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – Weeks have passed by since the horrible fire at the super tanker port in Matanzas. I still can’t forget how the young firemen lost their lives during one of the explosions. I also can’t stop thinking about their parents’ pain, how absurd and unnecessary their deaths were.
Young people in the prime of their lives, with dreams and hopes. They were just children who were there, without any training to deal with that disaster, coerced into a military service they didn’t want to do.
Worse yet, they died because of the carelessness of a few men who should have known they were sending them to their certain deaths.
These firemen are just a clearer example, but how many young men die every year because of a bullet, accident or any other reason at one of these military units? What about all the men who died in Angola, Ethiopia and other countries?
Now, they are heroes according to national propaganda, although they are nothing more than victims of a system that used its totalitarian and absolute power to force them to be militarymen, when many of them still hadn’t reached adulthood.
Not too long ago, I saw a sign up in front of a military commission’s office (recruitment center) saying “Defending the Homeland isn’t an extra-curricular activity, but a civil duty.”
I wonder: is it the defense of the Homeland or the miserable interests of a family and their closest friends who enjoy feudal privileges in a country that is bleeding by the day?
That’s when I remembered how I myself was recruited years ago for this military service young people call “the green”.
I remember the day I got into a truck packed with young men like myself, heading towards the old San Julian air base, in the far western part of Pinar del Rio.
We arrived at sunset, we didn’t eat and we spent the night under the stars. The next day, we were given our provisions and a bunk-bed.
Shaving our heads almost down to the scalp, marching and running with a rifle, bayonet, bandoliers on our chest, the helmet, infantry blades at our waist, backpack with a hammock and gas mask. We took orders from training sergeants who were only a little older than us but still young, who thought they had the right to insult, shout and harass us just like they had been harassed and humiliated but passing a course in a couple of months.
There we were, full of fear and submissive, most of us twigs. I was 180 cm tall and didn’t weigh more than 60 kgs.
I remember the hunger, so much hunger (one time we found days old bread, with mold and we ate it), the blisters on our feet, the stress and the feeling of cursing all of those officials and everyone higher up.
That’s because I was forced to be there, like everyone else, because without knowing anything about Life, Socio-political Theory, Law or Philosophy, I was aware that my individual rights were being trampled all over.
Serving in the army should be something people do out of vocation and choice, in a democratic country, where individual rights are respected.
This is why it’s always been crystal clear to me; I don’t want to put my life on the line to defend a totalitarian system that attacks my freedom and my right to be happy and prosperous in the country that gave me life.