A Long Way Gone
Ishmael Beah’s work “A Long Way Gone” captures the essence of the situation in war-stricken Sierra Leone. It tells us how a young boy was forced to become a soldier to preserve his life and live to tell his story. Although Beah was from an underdeveloped nation, he had the dreams and thoughts of any normal teenager from the West.
He speaks about his family, his friends, his rap band and his love for music. All these things tell us that no matter how far apart we live and how different we believe we are, we are all essentially the same at the core of our beings.
It is heartbreaking to learn that such dreams of millions of children like Beah are crushed down and ripped apart by the institution of war. Beah, after being captured, was trained to kill without any regrets. His circumstances also forced him to be addicted to drugs at a tender age. His mind was made so numb that he could no longer consider the value of human life. It took him a lot of courage, determination and several years of his life to become a normal person, while being forced to undergo the trauma of being doubted and feared by the people around him.
Beah’s book gives voice to the innumerable number of children around the world that have been reduced to weapons of war. It makes us further realize that war not only kills human life, but also crushes the soul of the surviving. He was eventually rehabilitated by the UNICEF, but the plight of several other Beahs around the world still trapped in wars sends an uneasy, chilling feeling down my spine. We all go through childhood only once, which happens to the most unadulterated and exciting part of our lives. Nothing that the Governments around the world and welfare agencies do will restore the childhood of thousands of children like Beah.
Although many experts might not consider it as accurate history, I feel that Beah’s work portrays the rape of childhood innocence. Many of these critics are from developed countries that have had secure childhoods and have no idea whatsoever of being in the middle of a war zone. Beah mentions that he himself had no idea of the scope of horrendousness that war could bring, when people from nearby towns told him about it. Hence, it is naturally hard for a person who has just seen war on television to understand Beah’s situation in its entirety.
Some critics question Beah’s integrity as they feel that is impossible for a grown-up to remember his past in great detail. However, I feel difficult and painful incidents in one’s life can leave behind a deep, lasting scar for life. Hence, it is my opinion that Beah could have very well remembered his dark past vividly, even if he had tried hard to forget it. I perceive Beah’s story as a tribute to many innocent children whose stories are seldom heard It is my opinion that it is extremely insensitive to disregard the tears of another human being, which goes to show the cynical nature of our lives today.
If we ourselves cannot have empathy for a child deeply tortured by war, we are not so different from the tyrants mentioned in Beah’s narrative. Moreover, no work of history can be completely accurate and does suffer from unconscious bias of the historian. Hence, I consider Beah’s book as a reasonably accurate time capsule that depicts the how war makes good people do bad things and also reminds us of the fact that ‘war has no winners’. Reference: Beah, I. (2007). A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.