Friday, November 19, 2004

How Soon We Forget

My grandmother is 95 years old. I absolutely adore her. She and my wife are truly the most selfless people I have ever met.

Grammy lived through WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, The Cold War, the first Gulf War, and is still absolutely as sharp as a tack as she views the current GWOT and Gulf War II. I would love to ask her what she thinks of all of this mess, but I love her too much to make her think about that stuff. I’d rather watch her play with my 2 year-old daughter. I see absolute joy in both of them when they are together. But from what she has told me of the difficult times in her life and her nation’s life, those difficulties were accompanied by emotions and ideas of the importance of community and necessary sacrifice – “you just got by and did what you had to do.”

We humans, singly and as a society, only really remember what we actually experience, moving through history. The rest is learning facts, using conjecture, and imagination. Some people don’t even go that far, mistakenly assuming that history is irrelevant and everything now is oh-so-different than it was then. But the same things keep happening, over and over and over again, because our societal memory lasts only about as long as a human lifetime. We confuse technological advance with moral and intellectual advance.

Something in our makeup causes us to believe that we’re somehow better and more informed than all of the generations that have come before us. We have access to the vastness of human knowledge at the click of a mouse. Yet somehow, we keep making the same mistakes about human nature. In spite of all of our American Progressive goals of the past 40 years – elimination of racism, sexism, poverty, etc. – we have forgotten the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human: every individual person human has the right to exist according to their own terms, so long as their terms do not violate the self-defined terms of existence of the people around them.

Most of us have seen Saving Private Ryan. And Schindler’s List (two Spielberg films – it makes me wonder why he appears to be such a Leftist). And The Killing Fields. We may even have read or seen All Quiet on the Western Front. What I have learned from these, and other sources, is that war is hell. But I have also learned that tyranny is worse than war.

Over 1200 members of the United States Military have given their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Every one of those lives was important. That being said, I kindly request that you do an internet search for combat deaths in WWI and WWII. Perhaps even check out some combat death statistics in specific battles, like Okinawa in 1945 (several hundred thousand dead) or The Somme in 1916 (1 Million dead).

While every life lost, civilian or military, in Fallujah or Okinawa or Normandy is one too many, what is the alternative now, and what was it back in the 1940’s? Some of you will tell me that Operation Iraqi Freedom was totally unnecessary, that Bush lied, that he’s a warmonger, etc. etc. etc. All I ask from you, then, is to look at world history from a different perspective. And I’m not talking about world history since 1960. I’m talking about all of documented human history.

That’s a lot of information, so let me give you a summary: All humans desire control of one kind or another. All too often that control takes shape in oppression and tyranny over others, sometimes on a large scale. Sometimes it even results in homicide and horrible destruction, given sufficient motive, opportunity, and lack of ethical guidance. None of us are immune to that desire for control. Even you, Mr. Pacifist. The Framers of the U.S. Constitution emphasized the rights of individuals over the rights of government to prevent the many from oppressing the few.

Given the thirst for control, and innate capability of you and those around you to destroy, I now ask you, Mr. Pacifist: what would you do if you were watching a woman brutally raped? What would you do if you were watching a man about to be brutally beheaded by militant religious fundamentalists? What would you do if you were watching an entire ethnic group being wiped from the face of the earth? I submit to you, Mr. Pacifist, that you would do nothing – not only because you could not (you are unarmed), but that you would not (because all conflict is anathema to you). I then judge you, Mr. Pacifist, guilty – guilty of allowing tyranny to exist. I therefore also judge you to be irrelevant in the current times. You have Freedom of Speech, but thankfully, I have the freedom to ignore you.

A U.S. Marine shot an (apparently) unarmed insurgent in Falluja earlier this week. A camera recorded him doing this. For completing his mission, protecting himself, protecting his brothers-in-arms, and actively working to eliminate tyranny in Iraq, he is judged by some as a war criminal.

Frankly, I want every Islamic Militant to see that video. They need to understand that we’re not messing around here. If you try to kill me or civilians around you, and I will kill you.

I have never been in combat, but I am experienced in the use of some weapons of war. I have to think that of primary concern in combat are completing the mission and keeping yourself alive. The next priorities are preventing harm to your fellow soldiers the civilians around you and preventing destruction as much as possible. Compare that to the tactic of booby-trapping yourself or one of your fallen comrades with an improvised explosive device in order kill as many of the enemy as possible. While the ends don’t always justify the means, I implore you, Mr. Pacifist, to examine the goals of each of these opposing forces: elimination of tyranny vs. application of tyranny.

Is there such a thing as “acceptable losses?” Use your imagination and ask all of the veterans that have given their lives so that you, a person they knew they would never meet, could live in peace and prosperity. They know the concept of acceptable loss.

The mainstream media desperately tries to spin all killing as evil as they mull over the Fallujah Marine story, no matter who is doing the killing. But I get the sense that, especially with the re-election of George W. Bush, that societal momentum is shifting away from them and their semantic deconstructivism. We are beginning to re-remember. Nazi Germany is not that long ago. Tyranny still exists in the hearts of too many people.

History is not with you, Mr. Pacifist. Some day, somebody will want to control you and what you believe. Perhaps they will even want to kill you. And while we're discussing tyranny, I would also ask you, Mr. Pacifist, that you guard your own thoughts of control. What price will be paid to make your utopia come true? And who will pay your price?

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