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July 11, 2007

Stop the War

"I am sick and tired of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have never fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell."

                                 From "On Killing" by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

Thinking about this week's Hackie column, "On Leave," brings up the burning issue of politics. Those of you who have followed my stories for a while may have noticed that I shy away from that burning issue. It's not that I lack for opinions; if anything, I'm overloaded with them. It's just that, when it comes to opinions, I adhere to the Clint Eastwood admonition, delivered in his Dirty Harry persona, "If I wanted your opinion, I'd beat it out of you."

I'm also a disciple of my good friend Don's wisdom on this: "If someone wants your opinion they'll ask. And, even when they ask, they don't really want it."

For all these reasons, I don't envision "Hackie" as a vehicle to share my brilliant opinions on politics. Beyond my general aversion to opinionating, is my incapacity when it comes to this subject. I can never figure out how to broach politics within the spirit, let's call it, of the Hackie column. With every sinew of my being (and I am nothing if not sinewy), I strive to write without judgment on the people who pass through my taxi. If I can't find a way to bring a level of compassion to the story, I won't write it. When politics enters the equation, I'm simply too invested, too emotional, too filled with vehemence.

But . . . every now and then it sneaks in. Every aspect of life comes to light as the thousands of fares pass through my taxi. When an active duty airman shared his life with me last week, I knew it was a story to be written. So, I did my best.

It was William Tecumseh Sherman, the fierce and effective Union general, who first uttered, "War is hell." It has become a cliche, but I find the sentiment worthwhile to consider. What is hell? Either in myth or actuality, I conceive of it as a region devoid of love, of God's mercy, of the qualities that make us truly human. Waging war, consciously striving to kill our brothers and sisters in stark violation of the First Commandant, of the Buddhist teaching of non-violence - how can this be other than hell?

Maybe at times it's justified. The American Civil War? The fight against worldwide fascism in World War II? Perhaps sometimes a nation must march into hell to right an intractable wrong. It's hard to say. But this preemptive war on Iraq, with the hundreds of thousands now killed and maimed, to say nothing of the uncountable broken hearts and spirits - it seems to me that it is we who have evoked hell, all in a dubious mission to confront the "evil-doers."

It's brave young people like Brian who are paying the highest price.

July 11, 2007 at 03:32 PM in Hackie Unplugged | Permalink


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"War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children." -Jimmy Carter

Posted by: Erin | Jul 11, 2007 8:07:11 PM

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Posted by: Ike | Jul 12, 2007 10:04:34 PM

These are great anti-war quotes arriving in the comments. Anyone have others?

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Jul 12, 2007 10:30:57 PM

I saw a bumber sticker once that read: "It'll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers."

Posted by: | Jul 12, 2007 11:34:23 PM

One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.
Agatha Christie

Posted by: Lizzy | Jul 13, 2007 10:59:57 AM

Other kind words from my buddy Jimbo:

"In order for us human beings to commit ourselves personally to the inhumanity of war, we find it necessary first to dehumanize our opponents, which is in itself a violation of the beliefs of all religions. Once we characterize our adversaries as beyond the scope of God's mercy and grace, their lives lose all value. We deny personal responsibility when we plant landmines and, days or years later, a stranger to us — often a child – is crippled or killed. From a great distance, we launch bombs or missiles with almost total impunity, and never want to know the number or identity of the victims." -JIMMY CARTER, Nobel Lecture, Dec. 10, 2002

"Because we are now running out of gas and oil, we must prepare quickly for a third change, to strict conservation and to the use of coal and permanent renewable energy sources, like solar power." -JIMMY CARTER, televised speech, Apr. 18, 1977

Posted by: Erin | Jul 15, 2007 3:19:43 AM

You know, Tolstoy's initial title for "War and Peace" was "War, What it it Good For?" But the publisher wouldn't let him call it that.

Posted by: Leo T | Jul 15, 2007 7:12:01 PM

Wait a darn second there, Leo T. I distinctly recall Elaine saying that on a Seinfeld episode. Well, maybe it's true!

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Jul 15, 2007 7:42:41 PM

But if Elaine said it, doesn't it have to be true?

Posted by: Leo T | Jul 16, 2007 10:25:02 PM

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