Monday, May 26, 2014

Whitewashing The World's Ultimate Travesty

The front page of Saturday's Daily News-Record featured a depressingly long list of area men killed in US wars over the past hundred years. There were over 250 men included in this horrific roster, one with the headline "The Ultimate Sacrifice".

No one with a heart should ever simply glance at these names or note these numbers and remain unmoved. These are real people, and their tragic stories represent an unimaginable trauma not only for them, but for the 250 or more families directly involved, for the untold numbers of sweethearts, spouses, siblings, parents, children, coworkers, neighbors and friends of the dead whose lives were forever altered by these deaths.

Today I grieve for each one of them, and pray for healing for worldwide wounds inflicted by war.

The only way any of us could ever begin to support such utterly cruel and preventable killing is through the use of euphemistic language in lauding armed conflict as a noble and selfless sacrifice. We avoid naming armed conflict for what it really is, a form of organized mayhem and inhumane brutality.

The editorial page of the same issue of the DNR features the text of an eloquent speech by General Douglas MacArthur delivered to cadets at West Point on May 12, 1962.

His remarks begin with, "Duty, Honor, Country. These three hallowed words reverently dictate what you want to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage where courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn...The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan... But...They build your basic character...They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success..."

Note the religious language in such speeches, with words like "hallowed", "reverently", "faith", "hope", "(un)believers", "character", "humble" and "gentle". Who could oppose an enterprise so laced with piety?

I do not fault the average foot soldier for embracing such embellishments in support of killing, or for becoming brainwashed into engaging in it out of love for God and country. But while many soldiers display extraordinary and laudable courage, I find it hard not to see them at the same time as being expendable pawns of the powers that control them.

What would happen to our addiction to killing, for whatever cause, if instead of describing our dead as merely haven "fallen", or having made "the ultimate sacrifice", we would honor their lives and their tragic deaths by being candid in how we describe it? In reality, killing in battle typically means having fragments of human flesh, bones, blood, brains, intestines, and other body parts splattered and scattered beyond recognition, accompanied by the desperate and God-forsaken cries of the wounded and dying. And that doesn't even begin to describe all of the horror of what really happens when we aim heavy artillery fire at other human beings, whether soldiers or civilians.

So the best way to honor those around the world who have been killed or permanently injured as a result of having been persuaded (or coerced) into defending freedom, honor, and/or their homeland, would be to announce that the barbaric business of war is over, and we are pledged to forever putting an end to it.

So listen Syria. Pay attention, Sudan, Russia, Kenya, the U.S. Listen to the cries of the suffering and the laments of the grieving. For God's sake, for Allah's sake, for Jesus' sake, let's work and pray together to find a better way to peace on earth.

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