Monday, May 28, 2007

war memorial

The claim that war is "bad" for its own sake is profoundly offensive. The history of compassion is drenched in gore ~ blood sacrificed that compassion might be possible, blood squandered in the misguided and hypocritical name of "compassion," blood spilt across centuries, drenching entire continents, simply because two groups have incompatible notions of "compassion." You who protest war simply because it is war deserve the slavery and gas-chambers to which such narrow-minded, close-sighted cowardice inevitably leads. You defecate all over difficult decisions and impede rational debate. You deny history and shun the sacrifices which have allowed you the very liberty to proclaim your facile views in the streets unhindered. To begin to analyze the value of this or that particular war, one must first acknowledge the role war serves in the evolution of human culture. One must acknowledge the occasional necessity of war. One must acknowledge that to refuse war is sometimes the very antithesis of compassion, to refuse war can mean complicity in murder. Furthermore, one must abandon this talk of a "just war"! Justice is a notion defined within a legal framework; wars, by definition are conflicts outside the bounds of legal systems, between legal systems, as it were. To pretend then that there can be such a thing as a "just war" is to persist in a delusion about what one is engaged in ~ to paint the other in one's own colors and presume he will admire you for it. No no! ~ if the notion of "just war" were coherent, there would be no need for war! Let us pray we never see such a day, as on that day we will know that liberty sleeps in her grave.

Not "just war," but "justified war" is the notion needed, with the recognition here that justification is only by our own lights. Then we can debate, then we can engage in rational discussion, we can weigh the cost against the gain . . . . but this cost, this cost! Today we remember the cost, the lives snuffed out by the wind of war, in justified and unjustified wars alike. And their sacrifice is no less, their honor no less in the latter case. For the danger of poor decision making hangs heavy over any rational debate, this very uncertainty is what creates the excitement of thought, the adventure of argument. Often, only in hindsight can one truly measure the value of a particular war, and even then, our judgments may change from age to age. No, the soldier cannot be judged by the value of the war in which he participated, for such is ever indeterminate. Rather, the soldier can be judged by his actions: by his courage to place his life at risk for the life of his culture, for the lives of his compatriots. To be a soldier is to see with keen eyes the distant unfolding of human history, to put others before oneself, compassion in its truest sense. In this country, we ride on the backs of countless dead ~ a revolutionary war, a civil war, two worlds wars ~ "justified" or not, it is impossible to imagine our culture uninfluenced by these wars. We lead lives determined by war, and both the beautiful and the ugly of our culture was birthed in war, is steeped in war, is inextricable from our history of war. Today, at least, we should think of the beautiful, that we might better appreciate the value of deaths which from so many other perspectives seem futile and barren of meaning.

You who died that I might freely publish these vain bloviations, that I might wallow in security and liberty and health, that I might have a life filled with opportunity, joy, and pleasure: you are too many for me to ever know your names, but I know your sacrifice and I thank you in the only manner I can, with these impoverished words. thank you.

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