Slap Your Sides
I grew up strongly opposed to the Vietnam War in a country that
was sharply divided about it. America was either heroically defending
liberty against ungodly communism or bullying smaller nations.
Soldiers were heroes; they were baby killers. Guys who burned their
draft cards or crossed the border into Canada were either lily livered
cowards or brave enough to stand up to the all powerful military
World War II happened before my time. What I know about it I
learned by reading or talking to people in my parents' generation.
For most of my life I believed the whole nation was on the same page
that time. Guys were stepping up to go overseas when or even before
they were drafted. Women were taking over their stateside jobs and
knitting socks and planting victory gardens. Children were collecting
metal and newspaper and buying war bonds. It was an all out crusade
to defeat the Axis powers.
Then one day I read about the one congresswoman who voted
against the United States entering the conflict. I began to wonder
what it was like to hold out against such a powerful tide of belief,
especially when the atrocities committed by the other side were so
vivid, the sense of imminent danger so pervasive. Not surprisingly I
can't find a lot of material countering the dominant narritive. One
of the most interesting books is M. E. Kerr's Slap Your Sides, a
Jubal Shoemaker, Kerr's narator, is the third son in a Quaker
Family. He is still four years away from having to enlist. His
oldest brother, Bud, is volunteering as a conscientious objector
rather than enlisting in a combat or noncombatant position. Feelings
people in their small town have about his perceived cowardice spill
over into the way they treat the family. Fewer people shop at his
father's store. Someone paints insults on the store windows. Former
friends keep a distance.
Daria, the close friend Jubal is in love with is the only
daughter of the ultrapatriotic radio personality, Dan Daniel. Her
older twin brothers are fighting overseas. Needless to say, Radio Dan
will not be happy if he finds out about the time they spend together.
No one knows how long the war will go on. Jubal and older
brother may have to decide what to do when they get old enough to be
called up. Jubal hopes he will be strong enough to follow in Bud's
Anyone who enjoyed the book or film version of The Summer of '42
will want to read Slap Your Sides. Jubal reminds me a lot of Hermie.
On a personal note, the January Orono Arts Cafe was really rocking.
We had a lot of improv which was a nice change of pace. I read my
poems, danced when Redman sang, and led people in singing We Shall
Overcome in honor of Martin Luther King.
A great big shout out goes out to my Orono Arts Cafe family.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod