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Monday, May 26, 2014

HOW TO HONOR THE WAR DEAD


                                                       

                                                                            





The best way to honor those who have died in the belief that they were defending freedom is to work to end war. If ending war is Mankind’s greatest dream, why have we come so far from realizing it?  I can remember thinking how cute I thought it was when young women competing for beauty prizes would say that there greatest wish was for world peace. It was so common that it was a cliché. I knew that for most, they were saying what people wanted to hear. Few would go on to work to make the thing they claimed to work for a reality. So it is with most of us.

The greatest challenge to peace is the widespread belief in the self-fulfilling prophecy that it is not possible. If enough people rejected the belief that peace is impossible and worked for it, war would become unthinkable. If we want to assure that those who died for noble beliefs did not do so in vain, we must start by taking an honest and unflinching look at some of our beliefs and attitudes that are incompatible with being true Soldiers For Peace. It begins by making sure that we really believe that peace is possible. Otherwise, we are just going through the motions and cannot possibly see how it is possible.

Paul Chappell has written stirringly in Will War Ever End? how most soldiers do not fight out of hatred of their enemies but from love of their families, nations, ideals and most of all, for the sake of those who face death fighting beside them. Those who are motivated by hatred are those who suffer most from the psychological wounds of war. It is unnatural to regard other human beings as nothing more than threats, deserving only of death. Only through careful indoctrination their commanders compel a human to kill another without hesitation. As Dr Ed Tick has written in War as a Soul Wound, it is the unconscious or conscious recognition after the heat of battle of the humanity of those they have killed that tortures their souls.

Soldiers For Peace must learn from the insights that combat veterans learn at such cost. We must avoid the reflexive urge to regard those who actively promote war as our enemies, proper targets of our hate. The war to end war must be fought with love, not hate. From a place of peace within, not anger. In the end, our task is to bring about reconciliation between enemies. We must learn to see them not as “the other” but as brothers and sisters who have been led astray. It is up to us to bring them back into the fold, welcoming them as fellow member of our common human family.

As a member of Veterans for Peace, I often encounter fellow veterans who think they are waging peace but who regularly succumb to the impulse to identify which side is responsible for any given conflict. They feel to recognize that it is our desire to establish blame that promotes the idea of “the other.” This is the root of the problem of our failure to teach our countrymen that it is our indoctrination to regard our fellow men and women as members of an alien tribe that allows us to accept the unacceptable reality of war. To combat this, we must train ourselves to forgive the aggressors even as we work to stop them. They are like our children. Our job is to provide boundaries and make sure that they do not hurt themselves or others in their ignorance, driven by base compulsions toward anger and aggression.  If they must be punished, it must be done so that the lesson learned is that all humans are deserving of the same respect that we would expect from others, even if their actions anger us. Violence in any form is unacceptable, for unchecked it only leads to an endless cycle of hatred and violence.

In my experience as a family therapist, I do not look for who is at fault in a family conflict. It is my job to study the family system to see how it promotes the conflict, then work with each member and the family as a whole to help each of them understand their role in the family drama that maintains an unhealthy pattern of interactions. I do not have to succeed with all of them. I merely have to reach one, motivate her to change her behavior. My job then is to help the family change the script so that harmony can be achieved and love becomes the driving force that guides their actions. On the scale of the human family, this is the only path to peace.

We must learn to forgive our enemies before going into battle for their hearts and minds. A general, I believe it was Eisenhower, once said that he considered it a victory if he goes to bed with fewer enemies than he woke up with. He was not referring to how many enemies had been killed, but how many allies he had made. A general has to keep in mind that the ultimate objective is not to kill as many as possible but to achieve a just peace in the end. That minimizes casualties among both those in his charge and those they face on the battlefield. He knows that in the end, if peace is to last, our children must live with theirs.

If our politicians shared this goal, they would never send our children to kill and die in war. Their objective is not peace through justice but to conquer and subjugate the enemies that they have created in the service of their Puppetmasters, the war profiteers who are ultimately responsible for creating our current global conflict. As citizens, it is the duty of each of us to let them know in no uncertain terms that they do not have permission to wage war in our names. To truly honor the victims of war on both sides, the soldiers and civilians, we must all become Soldiers For Peace.

3 comments:

  1. Excellent! Imagine true life situations of War. I was once in a confrontational type conversation that employees really don't know what Stress is! I disagreed. Imagine yourself suddenly face-down in mud, outfitted for war, bullets all around you when you decide to lift your head a little to see what's going on. The man in-front of you is dead, you look to each side and two men dead, you peek behind you and another man dead. Is that suddenly stress? I just described a common scene from VietNam. A time when the country was being told of how many troops were taken out of Nam, not told of how many introduced who replaced them.What if you lived this event? Would you have a disgust for war? Would you recognize the futility of death?
    A person dying, being killed is an extreme that most people who have never lived it simply agree such is really stress. A person working a job does so to take care of their family, like all of us. The stress comes from the thought of the individuals family going through such gut-wrenching poverty, most cannot imagine.
    Please let me describe a different situation. A platoon of armed men, pinned down, shooting blind in the hope of keeping the VC away. Suddenly a PFC (Private First Class) we called "Fat Eddie" stands. I was not one of the group that teased this tall and heavy black man "Fat Eddie" (a spoof from comedian Bill Cosby at the time with his rant about a childhood boy called "Fat Albert".) You've heard of "Death by Cop"? This was "Death by VC". I saw the last moments of "Fat Eddie", who I hardly knew. Can you imagine the stress he felt, convinced imposed upon him? Stress to the degree he thought the best way to react to this stress was to let the enemy kill you.
    I, or anyone else, will never knew what went through the mind of "Fat Eddie" at the moment he decided to stand. "Fat Eddie" would most probably be a good man, constructive part of society if it wasn't for war. Futility of war, the huge waste of a resource extremely more important than money.
    Now that you heard these two true events, now be confronted with another true event; the government lied to the entire country about the tragedy of the Gulf of Tonkin, saying our response was to flood VietNam with people. Many, many good men died a horrible death, a death so horrible people don't imagine themselves in the same situation.
    I seldom talk about the many short stories mentioned above, Rick knows why. Shame we are preaching to the choir. Too many people preaching how they want war, want to fight. Even say they would volunteer to be there first. They are unable to understand, grasp the seriousness of the situation. These people deserve pity and not serious consideration to do what they are preaching.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your personal story, Paul. The fact that you are able to do so attests to how far you have come in recovering from the trauma of those events. I cannot tell you how privileged I have felt when a combat veteran shares a story with me that he or she has never told anyone else. As I am sure you know, if is very traumatic to talk about these experiences for the first time.

      Semper Fi, brother!

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  2. From 78-year old Korean war veteran Steve Osborn:

    Some Remembrances for Memorial Day
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    VE Day plus 60

    At long last,
    Exhausted young men
    Could set aside their rifles.
    People could sleep the night through
    Free from the sound of aircraft
    And falling bombs.

    All peoples rejoiced,
    For a monstrous evil
    Had finally been defeated
    And peace was to reign again
    In one hemisphere of the world!
    Hope was once again kindled.

    Quiet fell over the battlefields,
    Broken only by the sound of distant church bells
    And the cries of birds,
    Predators and scavengers circling above
    Then landing to glut themselves
    On the remains of war.

    The camps were empty,
    The ovens finally silent.
    Enslaved and conquered peoples finally free.
    The tasks of repatriation and rebuilding began
    Buoyed by hope again for the future
    And of lessons finally learned.

    Sixty years have passed away.
    The cities have been rebuilt
    And only the vast rows of markers
    Where fallen warriors rest
    Are scattered throughout the lands
    A remembrance to us all.

    Sixty years have passed away.
    For the last time, a handful of old men,
    Survivors of those vast armies
    Walk amongst the stones,
    Searching for their comrades
    Who hallowed this ground with their blood

    Once again, the quiet is broken
    By the sounds of predators and scavengers,
    This time, politicians and public figures
    Circling, to land and glut themselves
    On sound bytes and photo ops
    As the lessons learned fade away.

    The slaughter once more goes on
    In lands around the world
    Where young men are taught again to kill.
    Lands again laid waste in the race for oil and power.
    The old men shake their heads and wonder why
    Their generation died in vain.
    Steve Osborn
    8 May 2005
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Written nine, long, war-filled years ago, sigh...
    Steve Osborn,
    8 May 2014

    Thanks for sharing, Steve!

    ReplyDelete

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