October the 2nd was the fifth anniversary of my father’s death.
Some things illicit a pause. Some things forcefully realign priorities. I cannot even yet imagine a world without my father in it – good, bad, or otherwise. There still remains this gasping grief, this yawning void that leaves me fearfully unfettered.
Watching Ken Burns’ “The War” – it is framed by my understanding of this sort of unassuagable grief. Burns does a fair job communicating the horrors of war – even that “good” war – a war that it was required we take up the challenge. Of course we cannot help but put that war next to this one and those other wars that we have fought since that “good” war’s ending.
The lesson… there’s always a lesson… maybe we can never learn it… the lesson though of this look back… no matter how just, how “good” we were, the horrors and the excesses cannot be excised. Our hands can never be made clean, our consciences spotless, when undertaking war… It is always a great evil. How great then must be the evil that war is lesser-than that we should go to kill and be killed?
Why are we at war? Why are we in Iraq? Not I think for some phantom terrorist that might have been given refuge there – Not I think for some over-riding fear of its despot ruler – but perhaps because that some of our leaders thought we could turn it toward our own ends. A Middle-Eastern country ready to turn to the Western way of doing things. A “ready-made” ally that merely required a freeing from its own fetters to free it and its people to see as “we” see -- and with enough oil to insure the strength of the American economy for generations to come. A dominion theory like that we saw in Vietnam – but instead of a fall to communism taking with it neighbors – a fall to democracy taking Middle-Eastern neighbors along the same path as the forcefully converted Iraq.
And so we sit here… hanging in the balance… Our environment being eaten away by a culture powered by fossil fuels; our economy held hostage by imported oil; and our reason directed by a politically-crafted distortion of a Judeo-Christian ethic…
In World War II we understood the risks of our failure… What are the risks now if we fail to meet the challenge before us? If we were willing then to redefine our everyday lives… to go without to help limit the suffering of at least our own soldiers… to accept the limits of what our culture, society, … economy could sustain … why can we not see those limits now and address them with the same understanding?