War Is Over If You Want It
Peace-loving, football-watching, patriotic-minded Americans abhor terrorism. Even when it takes the form of fanatical Sunnis bombing mosques filled with fanatical Shiites, we deplore and condemn senseless violence carried out against innocent civilians. We seem to understand intuitively that people who aren’t wearing uniforms while they’re murdered are victims, whereas those that are properly attired die as heroes.
This is a useful distinction when you’re the citizen of a country that produces more heroes than anywhere, a country that exports to countries around the globe a state-of-affairs that seems more or less the precise definition of terrorism.
Leaving aside America’s complicity in creating and maintaining a constant state of terror, war, and the suddenly urgent War on Terror, we can at least all agree that no one deserves to suffer. No mother should lose her son, no father should have to bury his daughter. No one deserves that kind of existential agony.
Except sworn enemies. For them, no fate is too cruel.
The accused enemy combatants still moldering in Guantanamo — they deserve to suffer. The Yemeni “rebels” and starving civilians currently being massacred by Saudi warplanes provided courtesy of the United States — they also deserve to suffer. And so do the Iraqis and Afghanistanis and Syrians and everywhere else we’re at war, and maybe soon the North Koreans — they all deserve to suffer. They brought this on themselves. They messed with the best and died like the rest.
The overwhelming tragicomedy of ongoing and perpetual war is possibly the biggest and most pernicious lie sold to civilized societies. We’re made to believe war is a necessary evil, that, regrettable as all the killing and hurting is, we’re duty bound to attack strangers in strange lands. This is what Americans are told. This is what Iranians are told. This is what Germans were told. It’s what every sacred Homeland teaches its people.
The truth is the opposite.
War is utterly unnecessary. As the man said, war is over if you want it.
The reason we think we don’t want it over is because of a tragic misunderstanding of a simple fact: There is no Other. There is no Them and Us. We’re all on the same team. We are One.
This plain truth, born out by ancient scriptures and modern DNA testing, plays well with a pacifist/socialist/communitarian agenda. It doesn’t work so nicely when you’re trying to sell sports rivalries, salutes to “service,” and foreign drone strikes. Or capitalism. Which is probably why from a young age children everywhere are mistaught the fiction that They’re Fundamentally Different Than Us. Yes, obviously, we have tribal cultural differences; we have wildly different world views and aspirations. But when the ideologies and politics are stripped away, all of us want more or less the same thing. (To be loved and give love; to see and be seen). All of us wonder about more or less the same thing (Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?). All of us laugh and weep.
When a terrorist murders pedestrians or concertgoers or church parishioners, the killer has slain a version of himself. When one of our national heroes murders a terrorist, or a pedestrian or concertgoer or mosque attendant, the killer has slain a version of himself. We are the killers; we are the victims.
One day the madness will end. The astonishing advances we’ve made in technology will one day be matched by the advances we’ll make in empathy, compassion and wisdom. One day poor people will refuse to fight and die for the benefit of the rich. The violence will finally stop.
Until then, let us ask ourselves every day: What am I doing to disprove the big lie?