A Five-Sided Story
This is a reminder, not an insult: There’s no dictionary you could consult, no thesaurus or magic lexicon that describes the Pentagon as a paragon of peace. More like Hollywood and Silicon Valley’s most important ally in convincing the populous that what’s best for us is constant war and mayhem, the lubricating grease on the gears of our economy, stuck and stymied without an enemy to attack or a homeland to defend from [fill in the blank], pajama-clad jihadis, seductive Chinese hotties or imperialistic Russian oligarchs owning all the best Bugattis.
In halcyon days, before Afghanistan and Iraq, before Iran and Vietnam, a quiet calm fell between the bombing runs. Back then, we assumed the United States was safe, immune from the impending arms race and a national eating disorder in which the citizenry is feeding on fear, a diet of insecurity and pure hostility toward foreign nations who don’t fully understand our inherent right to bully anyone with insufficient humility and ironic mirth, the towel-heads and Commies who refuse to bow when confronted by the greatest country on earth.
Up until 1949 – World War II came before — what we now call the Department of Defense answered to its proper name: The Department of War. Hence, the Orwellian locution. The most reliable solution to a public relations debacle is to repeat the Big Lie ad infinitum. Here’s one: You can’t negotiate with “terrorists,” you can only fight ‘em.
Most of us intuitively understand we can’t really “defend’ America by making war on faraway malefactors. We know we have an addiction to violence (and pain pills and muscle relaxers). Yet what we do with our knowledge doesn’t compute: Stay mute and polite and keep nodding your head. Nobody likes to be called “unpatriotic,” a detractor from the grand larceny that we call American Democracy. If you need a reason to declare my reasoning treasonous, I’ll save you the time: Every nuclear device is a war crime waiting to happen, and every soldier in our military is a poorly paid mercenary being exploited by the salesmen whose quarterly profits will cost him his life. Or sight. Or, if he’s lucky, he’ll get PTSD, because, yeah, it’s a drag, but at least he can see.
If you want to mend a wound, sometimes you can’t “stay tuned.” You’ve got to tune out the noise of popular culture and dial in the joys of poplars and maples and firs, the simple pleasures of mulch (or compost), of flirting with the birds while dirt spurts from a formerly inert pile of detritus and flotsam that got some sun and some love and now nurtures the future with nutrients derived from desiccated daffodils and decimated peanuts. On this fertile ground there’s no Army or Marines, no drones or Humvees, no battle death machines.
They say there’s two sides to every story. When we talk about killing humans so our family can survive, the story sides are five. But don’t give up, no abdication. Let’s add another wing to the Pentagon – the Hexagon – and make a Department of Peace for our weary, war-torn nation.