While Congress and the President feud over the responsibility for managing the war in
It also greatly contributes to the unacceptable attitude of far too many
Why don’t we as a nation understand war? Certainly the vast majority of Americans aren’t affected on a personal level. But it’s also that the history of war that we learn later is also a misnomer. It’s not told by the people who lived through its tragedy but by the politicians who desire to immortalize our past actions for the sake of national pride without the balance of humility.
Two weeks ago in a collaborative essay titled Moving Beyond Anti-War Politics, Phyllis Bennis and Robert Jensen wrote “demanding the withdrawal of
We need to rebuild
The word criminal isn’t lightly placed here. Shouldn’t the word murder especially apply to the killing of civilians during a war that
The civilian causality count and tomorrow’s question merge to become more than the responsibility to atone for the stunningly unjustified unleashing of
“Imagine what would be possible if we — ordinary citizens of this latest empire — could build a movement that gave politicians no choice but to do the right thing.
Imagine what would be possible in the world if an anti-empire movement were strong enough to make it clear that ending military violence requires a just distribution of the resources of this world.
Imagine what is possible if we work to make inevitable one day what seems improbable today — the justice that makes possible real peace.”
How do we get there? Doesn’t at least part of this path include educating the generations that will follow us? Can we even consider doing that when we’re not educating today’s students about the true effects of war? Should discussing
The wars I learned about in school were taught in the fashion of politics. They were all about nations and their leaders, politicians with proud legacies, or demons who ruled with an iron fist. We read about brief accounts of intelligent generals with courage and compassion like Omar Bradley, or compassionless but brilliant strategists like George Patton.
While the war in
Wars may originate among political needs or ambitions. Politicians do determine the primary goals. Generals and admirals, often the politicians within the military, strategize the individual battle plans aimed at accomplishing the nation’s objective. But wars are fought by soldiers. They may feel called to serve a nation, but on the front most report that war shrinks back to the most basic human instinct of individual survival and protection of one’s buddies.
War is political among the citizenry at home only when we’re not touched deeply by its horror, or personally by a relationship to a soldier or victim. This idea also registers with all of a nation’s history relative to personal experiences. People easily forget the details of the larger view, but our story or the ones told by those we’re close to dig roots into our soul that affect our thinking for years to come.
Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States begins the movement away from the history preferred by politicians with all the heroes they want us to look up to. He attempts to balance our heritage with obscure stories of people leading movements for justice closer to the common people in
For me, Zinn’s own personal story holds the attention of my memory differently. He served during World War II on a crew that flew bombing missions over
History changes when its data-like stage of who, what, where and when is disturbed by the question why. No longer do we think we know the story and commit it to the lesser place of our memory where we might interpret only the surface of its meaning. It lives differently each time we recall it as we wander behind the scenes to debate many possible meanings. The deeper the question tugs at our conscience, the more likely it will remain a figure in our future thinking.
History evolves further when the main characters aren’t celebrities. When the story leaves us wondering beyond tidbit answers to anecdotal people and events, the more the soul is touched and the deeper it will root in our memory. The closer to the individual we get, the more unique our view of human history becomes.
If war changes people, it obviously changes those closest to the battlefield, their families and friends, not the politicians we listen to and the pundits we read. This is the history we might do well to learn so as not to become a people with an amnesiac like memory of the tragedy of war.
We, the “ordinary citizens of this latest empire” are the people needed to write this history. The generations following us need to hear it. And in alliance with the need to end this war, Now is the time to begin. Now is when the stories might have their greatest impact, at the time history is being lived before re-imagined into the written record. Now is when there is energy in opposition to the war available which means a wider listening audience. Now there may be a greater compassion to listen which might hold itself among our future moral sensibilities.
This is especially true for a war that is lost, because politicians will want these stories to be lost once they finally admit it. And they will never want war to be the human demon that it is because it will affect the defense industry which drives not just the economy, but the false notion that military might is a rightful and safe supremacy.