This I Believe

Connor - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on January 15, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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I believe in Ishmael Beah. He made me think. Once I was at a Starbucks in Ahwatukee with my mom and saw a book called “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” by Ishmael Beah. It caught my eye because on the cover was a photo of an African boy carrying an AK-47. I wondered what it was about and asked my mom if we could get it. She said, “Maybe later.” I forgot all about it until I saw it again one day at Target. Seeing it sparked my memory and curiosity got the better of me. I put it in the cart. “Wow! Since you’ve asked me twice now for the same book, I guess you really want it. We can get it.” Mom said. I started to read it in the car as soon as we left the store. From then on for about a week, I couldn’t put it down. The book totally changed my perception of Africa from a beautiful place filled with interesting wildlife to a war-torn, politically divided continent. The book exposed me to things going on in the world about which I had no idea. It shocked me. It surprised me what people can do to each other. In the book, Ishmael tells the story about how his family was killed and how he was forced to become a boy soldier along with other boys, killing entire villages and taking many prisoners, most of whom were shot. I wondered how people could make children do such things.

I always thought of wars as being fought by adults with other adults over adult things. In my mind, I compared my life to Ishmael’s at the same age: 14. Here I was, doing homework, going to movies, playing Xbox with my friends, and playing baseball. There was Ishmael, sitting in a military camp smoking crack and watching Rambo after killing people at the bidding of his commander. I began to think. Of course what happened to Ishmael was wrong. I think the thing that bothered me the most was that children were being forced to do violence for adults. Children are not supposed to do that, I thought. And yet, it happened. I thought about what I would do if I was in Ishmael’s situation. I didn’t like it at all. It amazed me that such a thing could happen. And yet it did. The book made me think and think and think. I learned that, to understand the world, I need to know more about it. I believe in Ishmael Beah. He made me think about the world.