May 30, 2012

Why Is There War?

We decided to go to a Memorial Day ceremony in Rochester, MN this year.  While very touched by their tribute to the fallen soldiers, extremely grateful for the peace we get to live under and respectful of all those who serve or have served, I ended up coming away from the event concerned.  I went to take a picture of this statue:


While I was there, a mom and her young son were also standing beside it talking.  The son asks, "Mom, why is the lady and the little boy sad?"  And she explained that they just received notification that a loved one died.  So naturally he asked, "Why does there have to be war?"  The mom's response saddened and surprised me, "Sometimes you have to fight someone when they take something away from you."

Really?

What did the British take from us during the Revolutionary War?

What did the Mexicans take from us during the Spanish-American War?

What did the Koreans take from us during the Korean War?

Weren't we fighting for ideals?  Weren't we fighting for more land, safer governments, the right to rule ourselves?  Sadly, many of our wars were because we wanted something, not that it was taken from us. We wanted to keep slaves because it made the South richer with such cheap labor, thus the Civil War.  We wanted to rule our own country, a noble cause, but it was land we stole from it's previous occupants by force, thus the Revolutionary War and many of the Indian Wars.  We joined WWI because the Germans sank our ships 3 years after the war had already begun.  We didn't join WWII until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor even though we knew the travesties that Japan was inflicting upon the Chinese and the anti-semitism the Germans were inducing upon the Jews.

I admire when Presidents and governments try to avoid war.  I'm glad we don't run in to every altercation with guns blazing.  I'm thankful we offer so much humanitarian aid to the countries affected by the Wars we've fought.

But I'm still sad that wars must even be fought.  I'm sad because it shows how incredibly difficult it is to "love your neighbor" forget the directive to "love your enemy".  How are we loving them when we're fighting them under the guise, as this mother put it, "because they took something from us."  What did Iraq take from us?  What did Afghanistan take from us?  Her reasoning is flawed.  I'm sorry that young boy now feels justified in fighting whenever something is taken from him.

We should listen to experienced, distinguished Presidents and Generals who've lived through war.  Eisenhower said, "War settles nothing." or Abraham Lincoln when he states, "I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends." General MacArther stated, "I believe that the entire effort of modern society should be concentrated on the endeavor to outlaw war as a method of the solution of problems  between nations."  I think these men would have a much different answer to that little boy.

War happens because we are sinful, greedy, selfish humans.


I have to agree with FDR, "I hate war!" he said.  This picture is from his Memorial in Washington D.C.  It sucks.  I hate it.  It goes against everything Jesus taught.  Yet we use him as a justification for so many wars.  The Crusades come to mind.  "God is on our side."  Really?   Don't both sides think that?  Is God more for Americans than say, His Iraqi children, or His Vietnam children, or His Spanish children?  How can we justify killing one another in the name of God?  I will never understand this phenomenon.

On the same day as the Memorial Celebration in Rochester, there was also a Memorial Celebration at an Ojibwe Reservation in honor of all their fallen soldiers.  I think next year I'd like to go there and thank them just as I've thanked the American soldiers.

As a side note, did you know that there were over 3,000 Japanese-American soldiers who fought, segregated, for the US during WWII even though most of their families were in American Concentration Camps (and their Regiment became the most highly decorated in the history of the Armed Forces)?  Have we thanked them for their sacrifice?  What about all the African-Americans who fought, again in segregated conditions, during the Civil War - on both sides.  Have we thanked them for fighting for a country that kept them segregated for decades longer even though they were free?

I owe a debt of gratitude to all the soldiers of my country who have fought and died.  I'm especially thankful for my two Grandfathers, my brother, my brother-in-law, my cousin.  War affects each one of us.  We're each personally tied to it.  That's why that statue is so touching, no matter who you are.

Chloe actually asked me the same question as that little boy did.  I responded by saying, "I don't know."  I'd rather be honest than ignorant.  I honestly don't know why there is war.  Some wars do seem like noble causes like fighting for the freedom of a people with a horrible despot ruler or countries committing genocide on certain ethnic groups.  But why don't we do this every time (Rwanda comes to mind)?   I can't make judgements on areas I'm not educated in.

Chloe asked me, "Mom, why can't we just talk about our differences and work them out that way, like you teach us?"  Maybe Chloe should run for President.

I leave you with a quote from  JFK, "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind."
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