PEACE AND AMERICA——THE DICHOTOMY

                The United States holds itself above all other nations. We have the best this, the most that, none of this particular bad thing and little of this other bad thing. We are more moral than other nations and provide the best education and health care and build the best cars and have the most beautiful women and nurture the greatest athletes. Most of all we are a peace loving people who, when we do go to war are merely protecting the rest of the world from the scourge of terrorism or nazism or communism or fascism or any other ism that can be imagined.

            All of these claims have been proven to be myths at best and outright canards at worst, more often the latter. In this, the Season of Peace and Goodwill towards men the United States of America still has 200,000 or more of its military forces engaged in war. Why is that when we declare we love peace so much?

           It is entirely understandable that good athletes can spring from the bosom of any nation and beautiful women abound throughout the world. We are faced with statistical and anecdotal evidence that our schools are inferior and our health care inequitable in its delivery if not in the actual treatment of people. Our failure to fully assimilate all our diverse citizens fully into our society is a huge moral stain on us.

                But the claim exhibiting the greatest disconnect between rhetoric and reality, providing the epitome of a dichotomy between mutually exclusive ideas, is the one that we love peace though we are constantly at war or preparing to go to war or having only recently ended a war but not always in peace.

                As if war itself is not evil enough, even if for a purportedly noble cause, during these wars we kill indiscriminately whether it be men, women or children. We ravage and destroy randomly and without purpose. Our military and civilian officials leading the wars perjure themselves with their supposed rationale for war and denigrate those among the citizenry who dare challenge them.

              Moreover we take young men and women full of energy and ideals and patriotism and expose them to lethal danger and force them to witness the absolute worst elements of the human condition. Many continue to buy into the lies and the propaganda and express belief in their stated mission,  a fact I contend may be in large part because their very survival is dependent on them ignoring the reality.

               These soldiers then return home in body bags or on stretchers minus limbs or physically whole but instead with damage to their minds that we are just learning to understand how to treat. Certainly not all will manifest this damage openly or destructively but it is real and it will remain.

                In the meantime the politicians at home who push for war are not in danger nor, with rare exceptions, are their family members. They can attend fundraisers and cocktail parties and use their comp tickets for sporting events and appear on talk shows extolling the virtue of both our troops and the fight they are fighting.

                This is not a new phenomenon. Ask the Mexicans or the Indians or the Spaniards or the Vietnamese or the Granadans. Our military adventures are legion and legendary. Our Civil War pitted our citizens against each other to determine whether one human had the right to own another human, no matter what the idiots running South Carolina would have you believe.

                If you think America’s wars have been relatively few and far between, think again. Here is a chart from Wikipedia showing the various wars and skirmishes we have been involved in, with very few periods of no hostility.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war

                The Viet Nam War left indelible scars on America and its citizens. I was not involved, having belonged to a resever unit and never being called up. But over 58,000 of these scars are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. If you visit and have a chance, look at Panel 37 W, line 009. That is where you will find Sergeant John Ray Williams, my friend and fraternity brother, known as Chip.

          I don’t know what his experience in Viet Nam was like before his death. Had he become disillusioned with the American lies that had put him there? I do know that when I saw him just before he shipped out he was surely not eager to go but resigned to the fact and accepting that it was probably the right thing to do.

              Upon learning of Chip being killed, whatever sympathy I had for America’s reasons for being in Southeast Asia quickly dissipated. Since then I follow the dictum of Benjamin Franklin that “…there has never been a good war nor a bad peace.” Here is a link to Chip’s profile on The Virtual Wall, an online source for facts about the memorial.

http://www.virtualwall.org/dw/WilliamsJR03a.htm

             Today I read a story about and interview with a young man who was brought up in a conservative, evangelical family, went to a church-backed school, was taught all the virtues that America supposedly had, vowed on 9/11 that he would join the fight against terror as soon as he was old enough to enlist, then, shocked by the reality of war and realizing the teachings of Christianity could not be reconciled with war, he managed to leave the military as a conscientious objector.

          His name is Josh Stieber and this is his story:

http://www.slate.com/BLOGS/blogs/thewrongstuff/archive/2010/12/16/my-country-right-or-wrong-conscientious-objector-josh-stieber-on-being-wrong-about-the-military.aspx

               One of the most distinctive aspects of Stieber’s tale is that while we like to believe our troops are representing us honorably, the truth is too frequently completely different.  He outlines acts of murder, savagery and torture committed by his fellow troops.

               On Ken Burns’ PBS series The War , about WW II, many of the veternas interviewed recounted their own tales of questionable if not criminal behavior they witnessed that we excoriate the soldiers of other nations for doing against our troops.

                  Even a  casual examination of our nation’s history can lead one to conclude that we preach peace and practice war.  I am sick of this behavior and abhor it it. I object to its continuation. Even when a seemingly justifiable case is made that we need to kill in order to save ourselves, that case is like a house of cards where the least current of the wind of truth will topple it.

               You can brag all you wish about the United States of America being the best at everything and the moral leader everyone else in the world should emulate. And I’ll laugh in your face at your naivete, your stupidity, your gullibility. But if I suspect you are talking peace and plotting mayhem I will do everything within my power to expose you for the fraud you are. It is time for America to finally practice what it preaches. I for one am not holding my breath waiting for the reality to match the rhetoric.

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