combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 06 Number 01 Winter ©Jan 2008

Pray for War

"Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, Where there is offense, pardon, Where there is discord, unity, Where there is doubt, faith, Where there is error, truth, Where there is despair, hope, Where there is sadness, joy, Where there is darkness, light. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console, To be understood as to understand, To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, It is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
by Giovanni Francesco Bernardone, Saint Francis of Assisi

If you listened to most spokesmen, all of whom are trying to persuade you to adopt their perspective, you would think that everybody except them is agitating for war! They would have you believe that they, and only they, are instruments of peace and well being and prosperity in this earthly paradise.

That's pure bunkum, malarkey or persiflage, to put it politely.

The truth cannot be parsed from a multiplicity of distortions and falsifications, and the pose of objectivity is just another fraudulent device. Such exclusivity is reminiscent of the old sardonic dismissal: all of them are wrong or suspect or whatever, except thee and me, and I'm not too sure about thee!

Nice company, but neither realistic nor practical. Some people can't even get along with themselves, much less others, but none of us lives in an ideal world. Community, by definition, is the process of getting along with our neighbors, many of whom we dislike, some of whom are disreputable and dangerous. And what are international relations except the problems of interpersonal relations writ large, with barriers of custom and language.

The media, which thrives on controversy in the same way that lawyers benefit from dissension, would have you believe that nobody is happy, that everybody is upset about something, that many people are suffering, and that a few people are responsible for all this strife ... the identities shifting depending upon which allegedly unbiased journalists are reporting to which captive audience of true believers.

Please don't misunderstand ... all of the liars probably believe they're telling the truth, but there is no singular static truth ... not in human affairs. And I have never found people to be willing to change their hearts and minds as a result of words or facts. After all, information is a weapon too. When used against our pet prejudice, it's condemned as disinformation or propaganda.

I used to be astonished by the state of affairs wherein my fellow citizens preferred to believe our nation's enemies rather than trust their own government and their own neighbors ... but I was young and innocent, and my idealism made me somewhat gullible. And, since we reap what we sow, the mistrust that now pervades our society is a result of the chicanery and betrayal employed against our own populace. Whether successive generations can restore a sense of mutuality before our institutions are forever dismantled is debatable ... and a fight for another day coming.

While our factionalism continues to impress me, I'm surprised that more people haven't grown impatient with the outright manipulation. We are repeatedly treated to variants of How can we fool them today? scenarios, and yet they continue to evoke the expected response. I would think that the cries of wolf would pall after such persistent usage. Sages tell us that history repeats itself, and the patterns of action and insight echo through the ages, but so do the utter stupidities. If we can see the right then we can see the wrong and change accordingly ... except that we are not doing so, for any number of reasons. As the pundits also say: mankind has brains but that doesn't mean that he uses them!

America may be unique in all of history for having a substantial population working for its destruction without punishment or retribution, and without (as yet) the disintegration of the edifice. It's tempting to construe an analogy to Samson and the collapse of the Temple, but we really are the ultimate experiment in human liberty, and the best hope for freedom around the world. I am not vindictive enough to compel these traitors and cowards to live in an environment that would not indulge their foibles, that would mock their pleas for civil liberties and trounce their pretentious principles. But I resent their ignorance and arrogance. In their childish tantrum, they are attempting to destroy what better men have wrought, what many of us still cherish, and what is categorically irreplaceable.

They have impugned me as a warmonger because I have gone to war on their behalf, have done what they would not do ... what some of them claim they could never do and should never be done, under any circumstances. At least some of them, those with religious convictions, have volunteered to serve as medics, knowing that the results of war would affect them more because of the tenets of their faith. We, who have undergone the crucible of battle, have been accused of heinous crimes simply for being in the combat zone, for wearing the uniform, for surviving war and enduring its aftermath. What we have achieved should endear us to our countrymen, but they have compounded our degradation with callous dismissal. They are the ones filled with hate! They are the ones seething with violent passion ... forever angry, always malicious.

Every soldier knows that emotions cannot be sustained on the battlefield. So unless someone is pathological, emotions are momentary and transient. Soldiers do not hate their enemy ... for one thing, there isn't enough spare energy to hate anyone in combat, and besides, the enemy is anonymous, and hate is a personal emotion. But soldiers are constantly accused of being pathological killers who murder innocent babies and slaughter innocuous animals and rape vulnerable women ... such grotesque fantasies! Their mantra seems to be: so much hatred and so little time!

A rational postulate contends that if men go into the military with a hostile attitude then the soldier comes home from war with all hostility exhausted. This is relatively true because the horrors of war are sufficient to mature the most boneheaded person, but most military personnel don't experience actual fighting during wartime. What the military does is impose a strict discipline upon the individual until they acquire the habit of self-discipline, and simultaneously offers them a community of fellow sufferers with whom to commiserate. Given the mental and physical challenges of a stressful tour of duty in a hazardous area, most people grow up as quickly as possible. In a society that delays maturation and postpones responsibility well beyond childhood, veterans are profoundly precocious when compared to their sheltered peers. To assert that someone with practical experience and personal insight is ruthless or bloodthirsty is churlish and specious. Veterans know what war truly means and are the last to wish for it; but when confronted with the obligations of war, they are not afraid to resolve it. Conflict resolution may be the current euphemism for war fighting, but it's still a dirty and dangerous job that someone has to undertake on behalf of others.

The world is full of persuaders vying for your adoption, but my espousal of good sense is not among them. Those self-annointed arbitrators of progress do not have a monopoly on right thought and right action ... as almost everybody has hope for the best. Without a belief in betterment, we are doomed to devolve. That each of us is presented with more challenges than rewards is an opportunity to develop strength of character. Believe what you will, but only a fool prays for war! And soldiers are among the many who pray for peace ... for peace and harmony and love.

by Argus Deiktik
... who is a combat veteran, a schoolteacher, and a freelance writer, whose work has appeared previously in this magazine.

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