Note: This post might re-traumatize veterans with PTSD. If you have it, you might not want to read this. Seriously.
As many of you who read my blog know, I’m a pacifist. I’m not a particularly good pacifist in that I sometimes like violent video games and at times blow off steam by watching movies of things blowing up. I like the good guy to win every once in a while, and there are days when I need to be reminded that that happens. Having said that, when we’re talking about actual war, I don’t believe in it. I don’t think it’s what Jesus commanded us to do. In fact, it seems to me, it’s the opposite of what Jesus commanded us to do. I know, Hitler, blah, blah, blah… Still, I think that there are so many things we can do long before war happens, that – by the time it does get here, we should be able to avoid it. I’m not usually black-and-white about things, but this one I am – if only to hold up one end if the spectrum. If there’s nobody out there who’s a pure pacifist, I fear that it looks like a good thing to have a war to too many, so I’ll stay out here on the fringe.
Now here’s the thing. I usually get branded unpatriotic because I only speak up when the US is at war. Usually the logic there goes: They are the only ones I have any control over, so they are the ones I speak up against. Here’s my chance to correct that, and so here I go.
I guess that Iran is threatening US military bases (and maybe the US itself) if Israel goes to war with Iran (and we support them in doing so). So here’s my question to the Iranian general who said this: Are you an idiot? Seriously? What are you thinking? I ask this, not because I don’t want you to attack my people. Nor do I say so because you’d lose if you took us on (though you probably would). None of those things matter. Here’s the problem that I wish you and ever other governmental leader in the world would get through your head – People’s lives are ended. People’s lives are destroyed – and not just this generation’s lives. When the Old Testament says that the sins of the father are passed on for seven generations, that’s true! OK, it could be four generations, it could be ten, but war effects generation after generation of human life. Let’s say, for instance that you kill somebody that you don’t know in a foreign country. They stay mad and hurt and hateful for a long time. People don’t forget their loved ones being blown up. And even if they weren’t there, they tell stories to their children about how those bad people killed them for no good reason. It festers and then their children – or their children’s children — start telling lies about the monsters you are and they attack back. Great plan, huh? As the great prophet Edwin Starr said, “Induction, destruction, who wants to die?”.
On your own side, if your people go to war and kill people and your soldiers see it, they will be traumatized. People aren’t meant to kill people and real death is hard to watch, let alone do. If you have any sort of conscience, you feel guilty afterwards. Why? In addition to all the people you plan to kill, there’s all the people you don’t. When soldiers are driving somewhere and a little kid steps out in front of them, they are often told to run the child over, just in case they are a terrorist with a bomb. We’ve learned our lesson – guerilla warriors and terrorists play “dirty”. I’m sure your soldiers know this as well. So, if you go invading somebody, even if you don’t shoot their people, you kill them anyway. Did they deserve to die? No, so you feel guilty – and that kind of guilt leads to trauma.
You know what happens when traumatized soldiers go home? They traumatize their families. They can’t help it and I assume, if they are any kind of people at all, they don’t want to, but I wouldn’t wake somebody up in the middle of a war dream or stand near anybody in the family who’s having a flashback. That gets un-fun in a hurry. So then, you can spend millions of dollars out of your country’s budget helping them cope with what war has made them. It might help, but you’ve now wasted two generations of people on war.
Then there’s the cost. I don’t know about your missiles and guns and rocket launchers, but ours cost a whole lot of money. We’ve destroyed our economy building and using these things. Russia did it before us. Germany did it before them – twice! Want to destroy an economy? Buy a lot of weapons and don’t feed your people with that same money. I don’t know anything about the Iranian economy, but I have to think it’s smaller than ours. Do you really have enough money to take it from your people? Here’s the thing: nobody does. That includes you.
OK, so let’s say you don’t care about our people, or your people, or the physical, mental, and spiritual toll it has, and the cost of war doesn’t bother you. Here’s my last thought: It’s important to have a planet to live on. Do you remember when we invaded Iraq? Remember how the oil wells burned? Remember the pollution caused by them? It’s still here, floating around our atmosphere, destroying the polar ice caps and such. We’d like to think we have time as a species to correct this before it’s too late, but we’re not really sure anymore. If you – or we or anyone — else puts more toxins into the environment, we may not be here anymore. And, if you really do have nukes, well, it’s all over. Once nuclear war starts, there will be nothing left. You know that thing about “win the battle, but lose the war” thing? Well, “win the war, lose the planet” is worse.
No, wait: I have more. I know a lot of people think that having weapons makes you a “real” country – someone who has to be taken seriously. Being a bully doesn’t make you more powerful, it makes you a bully. It’s like thinking that “adult movies” make you an adult or having an “adult beverage” makes you an adult. You’re either an adult or you’re not. The
“privilege” of having those choices means dealing with the consequences and learning from them. If you’re smart, you’ll know what you’re getting into and choose not to. You’re already a country. You’ve been one for longer than we have, for goodness sake. Trust me, you want to pass on our hangover.
If you want to earn my respect, it’s fairly easy: do a good job respecting the lives of your people. Feed them. Treat them fairly. Have a balanced budget. Be just. If you do that, we’ll want to learn from you and we’ll have something to learn from you. Peace is real power. The Japanese made their economy grow exponentially when they couldn’t have an army. We’re not threatened by them. We take them seriously. Plus, for all the other reasons that I’ve already stated, you just (metaphorically) shoot yourselves in the foot if you go to war. Everybody does. Try not to make the same mistakes and I promise, I’ll respect you.