We have meeting halls for veterans of foreign wars. But I’m a little weird – I hear the opposite sometimes. Why are there no halls for veterans of local wars? And why are there no meeting halls to honor peacemakers? Surely those people who have dedicated their time to ensure peace are important. Surely they need places to meet to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time at Civil War memorial sites. There were huge obelisks dedicated to the dead, mostly young boys. There was a park just up the street from where I lived in Chattanooga. I played there often, climbing on the monuments and sitting on the cannons. Those marble soldiers were my companions.
The glorification of war has never made sense to me.
Sign up to be a soldier and we will pay for your education and give you discounts on home loans and at the hardware store. Sign up to fight and we will pay for your healthcare for life. Sign right here on the dotted line and everything will be fine.
Except it isn’t.
Soldiers die. If they don’t die in battle at the wrong end of an enemy weapon, they die from “friendly fire.” They die at their own hands from suicide. If they don’t die they are wounded so badly that they are disabled or disfigured irreparably.
If they make it back home in one piece they live a half life, haunted by demons in the night, nightmares and fears of being hunted. Depression, stress, and dysfunction follow them like feral wolves, ready to tear them to pieces.
We glorify war because it isn’t glorious. We sell this dream of honor to our children not because we love them, but because we need them. We need them to do our dirty work. We need them to go into danger and risk their lives, their bodies, their minds because we haven’t come up with a good alternative.
And we’ll keep building meeting halls and monuments for them. We’ll keep coming up with discounts and promotions to sweeten the deal.
We’ll keep dangling the carrot of free education and special holidays just for them, and they will keep reaching for that carrot, only to realize too late that it is booby trapped.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any alternatives. If we quit training soldiers, we will still have enemies. We will still have countries that hate us so much that the only way they know how to express their hatred is to harm us. I can’t see that dropping our guard will do us any good.
But I do think it is time to rethink America’s role in the world. I think it is time for us to stop acting like we are the policemen or the hall monitors of the world. I think that our incessant interfering in the internal affairs of other countries is what causes them to hate us so much, and is what causes them to target us.
Until we teach peace more than we teach war, we’ll continue to build meeting halls for the wounded and monuments for the dead.
I think we owe our children more.