Waves by T.K. Lawrence

small waves break softly
weak sunlight skims the surface
two dolphins surging

Note: Previously published by author in Issue 46 of Haiku Journal. Republished with permission of author. No copyright intended.



A typical day by M. Kaz

What to like on Instagram
Kennedy woke up early. She didn’t really have a reason to, being the most utterly boring person in her grade with few after school activities. Naturally, she changed out of her pajamas and put on her jeans and oversized sweater before brushing her teeth and hair. She prepared some oatmeal with strawberries, bananas, peanut butter powder, and chocolate sauce. It was a really unhealthy combination and defeated the purpose of the oats, but it was still pleased her to eat it. As the porridge cooked, she scrolled through her Instagram feed, stopping every once in awhile to like a picture. She remembered that her older sister had once told her to “like every single picture in order to get more likes”when she saw her social media usage habits. Yet she still only liked the pictures she actually liked. Kennedy didn’t believe in showing appreciation to people who had ugly feeds.

She had to admit, but practice was, like, extremely hard today. Her legs burned from the continuous kicking and her arms felt like jelly slapping the surface of the water. Looking at the set was frightening enough, 4×400 IMs on the seven minute, but doing it was something else. She knew that there was probably billions of swimmers working harder and just swimming much faster than her, but what could she do to make herself faster? Swimming was just like thrashing arms and legs in the water, in order to, miraculously, move at a faster pace than others. Even Ally Howe had said that she broke a record by just “swimming fast.” Really. Fast swimmers weren’t experts at giving advice.

Her dad had forced her into it. He was sitting at his computer, intently staring down at her as she sat across the table. It took her only about 15 minutes to write the program. However, there were too many errors in it, or so said the computer. Each time she compiled the file, the screen just spewed out a page of errors. It was too dizzying to like at the blur of white and black font. And whenever she fixed one error, it just seemed like the errors would multiply. When she was finally able to run the program successfully, with no mistakes whatever, she was too exhausted to cheer. Instead, she celebrated her victory by slumping her head on the keyboard.

YouTube & Buzzfeed
Dark circles were already engraved under her eyes, but she still stared motionless at the screen as she watched the human on the screen progress into the realm of the digital world. She was in her favorite position for watching videos, comfortably nested under the layers of her comforter as she lay on her side staring at the tiny screen. The video stopped, so she looked away from the screen for a second. To rest her eyes, was her explanation. But it was really because half of her conscience had already died inside of her. A clip on the edge of her screen read, “we don’t talk anymore by JK”. She tapped the small icon, which brought her to a black screen. It was the most beautiful black screen she had ever watched. That night, it was Jungkook who sung her to sleep.

Grilled Cheese
The cheese had to be the cheap type, or then the grilled cheese wouldn’t be good and oily anymore. She was trying to explain this concept to her mom, who had insisted on getting a different type of cheese, “to enhance the taste”, as so she said. But Kennedy hated change. She hated not being able to know what to expect. And worst of all, she hated fancy cheeses and the snobby people who actually went to Europe to buy these. Really, she just wanted to stick to eating Colby Jack cheese.

Child Soldiers by Jason H. Curcio

Dear Reader,

You may be familiar with child soldiers being notorious for having been drafted, or volunteering, at a very young age. Their actions will depend on their childhood, depending on whether or not they had a hard time when they were young. As you may know, child soldiers are often seen as perpetrators. While that may be true for some cases, it is unfair for all of them to be seen as perpetrators even if some are innocent. It is really hard to generalize what child soldiers should be seen as, which is why it is good to have a middle ground. I am aware of your leadership in this country, which is why I want to request that a law is made for child soldiers which states that they should be given amnesty as long as they show remorse, and/or are under the age of 13. These two requirements create a middle ground and a fair trial for these children.

The parameters I’ve given should be enforced during the process of deciding whether or not a child is a perpetrator or innocent. Showing remorse is a good way reason to give a child amnesty because it shows that they know what they did was not good, and could be put through. a rehabilitation process. Some may think that showing remorse isn’t the right way of deciding because the children could easily lie, and get out of being prosecuted. This argument is illogical because lie detectors can be easily used to show the real truth behind a child’s words. If the child is not lying then they should be given amnesty and taken through a rehabilitation process. On the other hand, if they are lying then they should be prosecuted and given consequences. This method will ensure that the decisions made by the trial aren’t falsified. One case of a child not showing regret is when they enjoy killing. Emmanuel Jal is a child soldier, and has grown up knowing that killing is the right thing to do. He once said, “…In five years as a fighting boy, what was in my heart was to kill as many Muslims as possible.” This is obvious that he doesn’t mind killing at all, and shows little to no regret in his actions.

Another point of view that one could make would be that child soldiers are being forced into this war. An article on child soldiers uses a quote that talks about these children being pushed into fighting without their consent. The reporter says, “…and are pushed by their adult commanders into perpetrating atrocities.” A good point was made on this quote which was that these children aren’t looking at the bigger picture when committing these crimes. They aren’t thinking about the victims of their actions. If they are not prosecuted, then they will be standing right by more potential victims. It is important to acknowledge that child soldiers have to be looked at individually, or else the guidelines of prosecution could be too general for the individual case. Looking at each case will extend the amount of time needed to make a decision, and can drag out the process. This is inefficient and time consuming which is not the right choice assuming there are a lot of child soldiers cases.

A child’s age can directly affect their actions, especially if they are young. One of the reasons being that they are very easily manipulated, and controlled when it comes to receiving orders. This makes them the perfect target for commanders because they know that the children will follow their orders. Ultimately these children have been taken away from their childhood which makes it easier to understand why they may be willing to fight. They are angry that their parents were left them or were killed, which makes it so that they can use that anger to kill other people.

To sum it up, I think child soldiers should be given amnesty, only under certain circumstances. It doesn’t make sense to prosecute a child that is 9 years old and was grown up knowing that killing should be rewarded. It simply isn’t the child’s fault if they don’t know the consequences of their actions. In every way, child soldiers are wrong to recruit, which is why it is so important that they are given a fair chance of showing they can function as a member of society. Being a citizen and knowing that there are potentially dangerous child soldiers all around you, is a scary thought.


Jason H. Curcio

Should Child Soldiers Receive Amnesty? by SL. GG

Dear Reader:

The issue of child soldiers is one surrounded by controversy. The question of whether the government should provide child soldiers with amnesty is widely disputed. Many believe that only children within a certain age range, or only from a few countries, etc, should receive amnesty. However, although these are valid points and worthy of discussion, it is far more reasonable to state that child soldiers should receive amnesty provided that they are fully rehabilitated. Child soldiers deserve rehabilitation because their actions are not their fault, they are underage, and they are brainwashed in order to be forced to commit acts of violence.
The first step in recognizing the need for amnesty is that the acts of violence committed by child soldiers are not the fault of the child soldiers. To begin with, many child soldiers are forced into wars or violence against their wills. Jeffrey Gettleman’s article Armed & Underage notes how in some cases “hunger and poverty drive[s] parents to sell their children into service.” The same article also presents the fact that, in the case of Myanmar, “thousands of boys, some as young as ten, are purchased, kidnapped, or tortured into joining [Myanmar’s] army.” Other children go to army bases expecting a safe haven from the war and violence that is ravaging their villages and towns. Instead of finding safety, they are drafted and unable to leave for fear of being tortured or killed by their commanders. According to former child soldier and now activist Ishmael Beah, the life of a child soldier is that “you go out, you shoot people, … you do whatever the commander wants you to do — if not, they will kill you. And then you’re fed drugs… there’s always ways of killing people in front of you to desensitize you — you’re given more drugs after that. You watch…films as just a way to keep you in this madness.” In the midst of this numbed horror, the child soldiers are sent out to fight, placing them in a kill or be killed situation. One hesitation, one life spared, could mean death for a child soldier, brought upon them either by the person they were supposed to kill, or by their commander.
There are many who would say that the age of a child soldier is irrelevant when it comes to granting them amnesty; everyone chooses their own actions, and everyone should be held accountable for their choices. In the case of child soldiers, however, although there are some who manage to escape from the violence, the majority of child soldiers are unable to do this for a multitude of reasons. To begin with, child soldiers are unable to fight back against the people commanding them. The commanders are in a position of power, whereas the children are soldiers — easily punished and easily replaceable. If they disobey, fight back, or try and fail to escape, there is every chance that they will be killed. We cannot possibly expect every child soldier to even attempt to escape with the odds backed up so high against them. Alongside this, child soldiers are not necessarily mature or developed enough to formulate or implement complex and successful escape plans. Child soldiers, here referring to children under the age of 20, are not old enough to do so. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “[t]he rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until he or she is 25 years old or so.” Children are simply not capable of making life altering decisions, primarily decisions that result in life or death. Their brains are not developed enough to do so. Child soldiers are not old enough to be reasonably held accountable for their actions, particularly when under the threat of death for disobedience.
Even if a child soldier was mentally capable of formulating a suitable escape plan, chances are that prolonged exposure to violence and drugs, combined with the loss of their family would keep the child from implementing their potential plan. It is also the case that after having lost their safety, security, and family, children “want to belong to something, especially if they live in a society that has collapsed completely. Their communities are broken down, they want to belong to anything slightly organized and these groups become that.” This testimony was given by former child soldier Ishmael Beah, now an author and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Ishmael Beah stated in an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos that “this [violent/military] group, in a weird way, sort of becomes your surrogate family, you begin to look up to the commander as a father figure because you’ve lost everything dear to you. ” Children end up transferring feelings of attachment and safety that would otherwise go to their parents to the figures in their lives with authority and who provide them with food and shelter; the very same commanders that have the power to kill the child soldiers for disobedience or cowardice. This attachment that many child soldiers feel towards their commanders can provide another incentive to obey.
Brainwashing can not only create a feeling of attachment towards those in power, it can also cause child soldiers to enjoy the violence they are witnessing/inflicting. In Somalia, where “[m]ost children have never been in a classroom or played in a park,” 12 year old Awil Osman is a member of Somalia’s military. When asked by what he enjoys, he responded “’What do I enjoy?’” Awil asks. ‘I enjoy the gun.’” This enjoyment of violence can often be mistaken for menacing, unstable, or even terroristic. Although it is certainly easy to see why quotes like these would be interpreted thus, it is imperative to remember that even the most toxic mindset can be unlearned to some extent. Although children like Awil may never be completely free of these thoughts and feelings, through sufficient therapy and rehabilitation they may be able to recognize that pro-violence mindsets are dangerous and a direct result of the trauma they experienced. Brainwashing must be reversed so that child soldiers are no longer a danger to their communities. The effects can be reversible. Former child soldiers like Sierra Leonean Ishmael Beah are living proof of that.
It is evident that rehabilitation is key to allowing child soldiers to reenter society as functioning members of the community. Once brainwashing and programing has been lessened and/or undone, child soldiers are able to see and process the negative effects of their actions. They are able to realize that their actions were harmful and not to be repeated. Eventually, child soldiers can be integrated into society without fear that they will be a danger to themselves or the community. Providing child soldiers with rehabilitation and amnesty provides an opportunity to recover and have a new life. A brilliant example of how child soldiers can be constructive to society is author Ishmael Beah, to whom I have made references above. Beah is a former child soldier who was rescued by UNICEF and rehabilitated. He has used his experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone to spread awareness about child soldiers, violence, and the necessity of rehabilitation. Beah has used and continues to use his own trauma and recovery as a way to spread awareness about a topic that many consider uncomfortable. All things considered, child soldiers have a right to amnesty on the grounds that they will be provided adequate rehabilitation and therapy. As I have made clear, child soldiers deserve rehab because they are victims of war, have undergone brainwashing and trauma, and are simply not old enough to be prosecuted or denied amnesty for their actions.