Conflicted about prospect of war
I can’t stop thinking about war.
Part of the reason is in-your-face obvious. Yesterday was Veterans’ Day. Last week, I interviewed two wonderful old gentlemen for this paper’s Veterans’ Day issue. I can’t stop thinking about what they told me about fighting for their country. “It’s hard to describe,” one said. I could see that was true when I looked in their eyes.
Some of it is every-day reality. On the news and in the papers, we wake up every morning to see if the powers-that-be have made a decision to attack Iraq.
Maybe it’s because I found my P.O.W. bracelet the other night when I was going through a box of keepsakes. I started wearing that thing when I was in fifth grade in 1969 in honor of Capt. Robert DiTomaso, who was reported missing-in-action in Vietnam in 1966. I didn’t take that bracelet off until 1973. Capt. DiTomaso was never found.
Whatever the reasons, I can’t stop thinking about how conflicted I am about war. It’s easy for me to be a pacifist. As a woman who’s never had to confront being drafted and sent off to serve, it’s easy for me to proclaim peace for all. I’ve never had to deal with having my neighborhood bombed and my country leveled. But I also have to look at my own rage. What would I do if someone or something tried to hurt the people I love? My instincts would kick in. I would fight.
We rented the film, “In the Bedroom,” the other night. (Skip this paragraph if you haven’t seen the movie and want to see it.) After his son is killed, the father in the film depends on the court system to convict the killer – but the system fails. So this sweet, loving father – who also happens to have served in the military – takes it upon himself to kill his son’s murderer. Watching this, I could feel the father’s fury. I was in complete agreement with his decision to take that life. And so what does that say about me?
Nowadays, public schools have a new subject to teach: bully-proofing. Since Columbine, schools are weaving bully-proofing education into their overall curriculum. Counselors are teaching children how to deal with bullies. Tell the bully to stop. Walk away from the bully. Go to someone in authority who can help you.
You can look at our conflict with Saddam Hussein in the same way. We’ve told the bully to stop. We’ve asked the bully what he has in his locker, but he won’t show us. We’ve asked someone bigger – our allies, the United Nations – to help us. We’ve tried walking away – but we can’t, because we need something the bully has – and that something, as everyone knows, is oil.
So here we are, teaching our children to deal with bullies, and when they get of age, drafting them to go fight them. Here we are, filling up our gas tanks and proclaiming peace, toying with this might-is-right “solution.” War is hell.
What really gets to me (as if all this doesn’t) is the contradictions we live with every day. We want Hussein to show us what he’s got in his arsenal. We want to see his weapons of mass destruction. Yet, look back at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and you’ll see that it was us, not Saddam and not Osama, who dropped nuclear weapons of mass destruction on our then-enemies, killing men, women and children without warning. It was wartime, we say, we had to do it to keep others from being killed. We were justified. After all, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in a total surprise maneuver that killed innocent American men, women and children. I’ve read that Truman never looked back on his decision to drop those bombs. But I just can’t get my hands around any of it.
In our society, we’re taught that physical violence is no way to deal with conflict. But there’s something inside of human beings that uses it – be it through hand-to-hand combat, dropping bombs or flying jet airliners into skyscrapers – to somehow resolve our differences. We have to look at that before we can ever dream to live in a world that has less of it. I don’t have any illusions that we will live in a world that’s devoid of it.
Carrie Click is a Post Independent staff writer. Her column runs on Tuesdays.
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