This is one of those holidays where I don’t know what I should write about. On the one hand I am very grateful for the brave men and women who have given us the ultimate sacrifice throughout the ages to keep this country safe and protect the freedoms we all enjoy. As sincere as that feeling is, it is dulled by the fact that everyone says that because you’re some kind of a major asshole if you don’t. Hell, if you’re a Republican it’s practically tattooed on your forehead even if you’re working hard to destroy many of the freedoms you supposedly claim to care about.
Anyway, I thought I’d look around to see what some other folks were writing about it. Decrepit Old Fool, as usual, had some very good things to say on how crazy war can be:
War is crazy; it is crazy-making. It drains reason out of what passes for civilization. The stories matter. They let us know about courage, who have never been there. And yes, many wars should not ever have happened. The stories punch holes in the fantasy that it’s all some kind of glorious video game. If we’re going to do this to human beings, let’s be damn, damn sure there’s a real reason.
Let’s keep an eye out for those reasons and head them off at the pass before they ever become a cause for war. We need to learn to think ahead, past the current tension and most importantly of all, see the humanity we have in common with our enemies. It is exactly that humanity – or at least the realization of it – that war must first destroy.
I’ve never been to war myself and I hope to hell I never have to go. I don’t think I’d be very good at it. Especially if my performance in the war video games DOF mentions is anything to go by. My biological father, long since dead, was in World War II and was wounded at some point. I only know this because we still have the purple heart someplace in the family. I was given his dog tags years ago and they’ve long since been packed away. I don’t know any of his stories because I was five when he died and he never got a chance to tell me any at an age where I could remember them. My dad, or step-father technically, had a lazy eye that kept him out of Vietnam. My father-in-law did go to Vietnam, but he doesn’t talk much about it. Given how he looks when he does talk about it, I can’t blame him for not wanting to say much. I have various friends and family who have been in the military since then and have even participated in the current wars, but, again, it’s not something we talk about often.
But when others do talk about their experiences, well, I try to pay damned close attention:
There were young men in that unit who knew you had to be a little crazy to survive. So they’d be crazy. You’d have to be crazy to be pinned down in trenches, under heavy fire, running out of ammo, and go fetch an enormous sack of the stuff, come back through the trenches with that sack on your back singing “Here comes Santy Claus, here comes Santy Claus – and what can Santa do for you?”
And my father, giddy with the relief of seeing rather more useful bullets come his way than the ones that had been coming his way a moment before, said, “Well, Santa, I’d like some ammunition.”
And the man – Jimmy Blue, I believe, though you can’t trust a kid’s memory and I hesitate to dredge my father’s memory at this time of year – the crazy man with the enormous sack of ammunition on his back handed over some ammunition with a cheerful “Here you go!” and went singing off to the next man pinned down under fire, the best Christmas present they could have asked for.
I’ve heard enough to know that it’s a whole lot of not fun covered in a thick layer of fuck this shit. I know enough to know that war is something that should be a last resort when all other options have been exhausted. I know enough to realize that it has impacts far beyond the battlefield that affect people individually, and nations collectively, long after the guns have gone silent.
Sometimes it’s a necessary evil, but too often it’s not and we should beware anyone who talks of going to war in a cavalier manner as though it’ll be cheap and easy and painless. It’s never any of those things. I hold onto an optimism that humanity may someday be able to reach a point where they can work out their differences without having to kill each other in the process, be we’ve still got way too far to go before we’ll see that day.