Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

-For the Fallen, Lawrence Binyon

As I write this in the morning, the TV news is telling of 42 Iraqi hostages held captive by Al Queda rescued by American men in uniform - and of Venezuelans without arms or uniforms massing in the streets of Caracas, facing armed men to protest the confiscation of the major opposition TV station by Hugo Chavez.

You can't imagine how much I wish I were with them in Caracas. Some of the most exciting memories of my life were of marching every night with the people of Belgrade during the Milosevic regime about ten years back.

That's the great thing about demonstrations. You can get something like the rush of combat, but mostly without the ugly stuff. You know, maimed and killed ugly. It can get that ugly, but when it does you can run for your life without dishonor.

In Belgrade we knew that there was a faction (led by Milosevic's bloodthirsty wife Mira, the "Red Queen") who wanted the paramilitaries to fire on the crowds. Eventually they tried to get someone to issue the order, which was kicked downstairs as far as it could go, which happened to be the vice chief of police. He said, "No way!" even after his son got the $&*# beat out of him as an incentive.

So the govenment had to cave in to the opposition demands. However they were so pissed off that they had the vice chief cowboyed - machine-gunned in his favorite pizzeria, not far from where I worked.

That was war as it should be, people marching shoulder to shoulder, singing songs and waving flags. Enough danger to brag about later - but no discomfort. The occasional casualty - but not me.

Real war, like the one our men and women in Iraq are waging right now, involves not only danger, but prolonged discomfort, extreme boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror, sudden death - and worse. Too many of these young men and women are not coming back. Of those that are, too many will never go on dates, get married and have children, pursue professions, or even live very far from a (sorry, but probably substandard) veterans' hospital.

There is a political position in this country that condemns war as stupid and cruel, and announces proudly and conspicuously that they are "against" war. My congratualtions on the triuimphant discovery of the obvious. Show me a sane person who is "for" war, now that would be news!

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower - Supreme Allied Commander in Europe World War II

"All men with even a small store of reason, know that peace is chiefest of blessings."
-Belisarius, 6th century Byzantine general

"It is good that war is so cruel, else we should learn to love it."
- Gen. Robert E. Lee CSA

Who thinks that their moral authority to condemn war is greater than these men's?

Love of peace in the real world, is like any other unrequited love - it hurts so badly that one is tempted into fantasy. The fantasy that the object of one's adoration "really" loves you - if only you could make them realize it.

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but there is a whole class of people in the world, comprising perhaps hundreds of millions, who do not love us. In fact, they loathe us and every value we hold dear.

What values? At the most extreme, it is defined by this: there are people who think it is entirely right and proper that a man or woman should get together with the neighbors and brutally murder their daughter or sister for outraging their idea of family "honor".

I have a baby girl. I love her more than I love peace, more than I hate war, and more than the idea of killing men sickens me. And by the way, your opinion of my family's honor is a matter of complete indifference to me.

Quite obviously, we value things differently. What we are trying to avoid thinking about is, that in an increasingly interconnected world, we cannot share that world in peace forever. Either we, or they, must change their way of thinking and adopt new values. Perhaps not today, nor tomorrow, but someday as certainly as the sun rises.

It would be well if that change could happen without violence. So do you think that men who could murder their sisters and daughters will allow that to happen?

There is a word for people who think and act this differently from us. The word is "enemy".

In our fat, happy country, in this prosperous time, we have forgotten that there is such a thing. And so many of us have forgotten that we have need of men of violence, who nonetheless love us and all we value.

That's OK, we will remember. Because we will have to.

"Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe....They forget that in time of danger, in the face of the enemy, they must trust and confide in each other, or perish....They forget, in short, that there has ever been a category of human experience called the enemy.

"That, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary. An enemy was just a friend we hadn't done enough for yet. Or perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or an oversight on our part -- something that we could correct....

"Our first task is therefore to try to grasp what the concept of the enemy really means. The enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the enemy always hates us for a reason, it is his reason, and not ours."

Lee Harris: Civilization and its Enemies


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