I remember September 11, 2001. It isn’t a vivid memory, but it’s there. Even if it wasn’t something my brain stored away, it isn’t hard to identify how that day altered my life. First, I watched the people around me begin to divide. Some vilified everyone associated with Islam. Others were more cautious, believing that we shouldn’t malign all because of the actions of some. Next, those who chose to be more wary of immediately defaming other people became targets of suspicion as well. Then, friends I loved decided the country of their birth was worth their life. I adored the fuzz of their freshly shorn hair, yet I was angry with each of them. Didn’t they know that I needed them? Eventually, I stopped sharing with people that I believed this was a new version of Vietnam, that I was scared we would do more harm than good, that more lives would be lost. What did I really know? I was fresh out of high school and not a historian or a military strategist. Nearly everyone I shared my concerns with assured me that we’d be in and out in less than a year, maybe even less than 6 months. My friends would come home and we’d be the good guys. Those who didn’t assure me scolded me for being unpatriotic and suggested that I should pray and trust that God was in control. Clearly, I didn’t have enough life experience to understand what I was saying. More friends left. Friends of friends left. Brothers left. Sometimes, sisters left too. With time, engraved jewelry appeared on the wrists of people around town. Even from a distance, pumping gas, I could tell by those dull silver bracelets who was grieving, who was missing someone, who had cried through a mournful bugle song, clinging to a meticulously folded flag, jarred by seven rifles firing three times. Acquaintances planned weddings around deployments and then babies around more deployments. A bridesmaid’s husband wore his military suit, escorting her dutifully throughout our day, and there was a touch of sadness, mixed in with the joy. What had once been a 2 hour wait at the airport became 4, and I cried when people, doing what they had been asked to do, emptied my entire suitcase out on a table, sorting through everything. My newly deceased family member’s belongings that I had carefully packed and protected, strewn about like garbage on a sidewalk. I cried again at home that same day, knowing that many others experienced something far more humiliating than I did. I wasn’t viewed as an enemy, as a threat, and I was dehumanized. What was it like for someone who was viewed as an adversary? What had happened that we believed we were doing a great good by bullying everyone who looked a certain way or had a name with a particular sound? Though I’m not a historian, it’s still reasonable to say I read more history books than my peers. I knew, even then, that we had done these things before, in some form or another. We had harmed before, convinced ourselves of the nobility of our actions. It’s not really wrong if it helps in the end, right? What would those who ridiculed my reservations about our country’s involvement say now? This has not proven to be another Vietnam, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of US troops, but we have lost far more civilian lives throughout the duration of this war than was lost on a Tuesday my children will learn about in their textbooks. We don’t seem to count those other lives though. Is that because this war was less about saving lives and more about saving face? Unlike those who criticized my apprehension, I hope I won’t demean a younger person for sharing fears and misgivings about war. I have no illusions that this won’t happen again. If it happens again in my lifetime, and it probably will, I wish to be wise enough to hear a younger person’s concerns, listen, and affirm those worries. We should all worry about war. Even if fighting feels like the best and most appropriate response, and sometimes it is, we should all worry about war.
One thought on “We should all worry about war.”
Excellent thoughts!! You may not be an “expert”, but I think you’re right on target with your thinking!! Although the ending could and should have been handled much better, this outcome was inevitable from the beginning.