November 3rd, 2022
“To some men peace merely means the liberty to exploit other people without fear of retaliation or interference. To others peace means the freedom to rob one another without interruption. To still others it means the leisure to devour the goods of the earth without being compelled to interrupt their pleasures to feed those whom their greed is starving. And to practically everybody peace simply means the absence of any physical violence that might cast a shadow over lives devoted to their animal appetites for comfort and pleasure.
Many men like these have asked God for what they thought was ‘peace’ and wondered why their prayer was not answered. They could not understand that it actually was answered. God left them with what they desired, for their idea of peace was only another form of war.”
– Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and author
The mid-term elections are only five days away. These are being advertised by the media, liberal and conservative, and as being of enormous importance. The news outlets would have us believe that the fate of our country hangs in the balance. The politicians say the same thing. There may be some truth in all of this handwringing, but some things won’t change, regardless of which side wins.
Our country’s attitude toward war will remain the same. Our federal government will be run by hawks. No politician, Republican or Democrat, will risk being labeled as “weak on defense”. Full and unconditional support of the military is necessary for a person be elected to office at the national level. We have been at war for so long that it is risky for a member of Congress to even question our military exploits.
Let’s look just at our country’s current involvement with the war in Ukraine. It is true that we do not have boots on the ground in Ukraine. However, it should be obvious to anybody paying attention that we are participants in a proxy war against Russia. The reasons for our backing of the Ukrainians are complicated. Is it simply that we are concerned with Ukrainian freedom? Probably not. Do we actually want to crush the military forces and the economy of Russia in order to eliminate that state as a Great Power? Possibly. Is it wise for us to give full-throated support to Ukraine when the Russians can use nuclear weapons in this fight? Who knows? We don’t really know how dangerous this situation is, but we should at least talk about it.
The progressives in the Democratic Party were pilloried for even suggesting a negotiated peace in Ukraine. On the right, people like Tucker Carlson have critically examined our involvement in this war. They have also been loudly censured. Most citizens of our country don’t mind blowing up people and property that are far away. It appears that Americans seldom find a war that they dislike, at least until it causes them some discomfort.
I was never in a war, and that was pure luck. I served as an Army officer, but I never saw any fighting. My oldest son, Hans, was not so fortunate. He was deployed in Iraq. He got shot, and he killed people over there. I guess, through his experience, I vicariously experienced war. Both he and I were changed.
I know a number of peace activists. They belong to neither of the major parties. They are passionate about ending the killing. These people want something that may never come to pass. They want the United States to give up its addiction to war and violence. They are hopeless idealists, and I was one of them. Maybe I still am, but I have grown weary of shouting into the whirlwind, and having my words blown back to me.
I don’t go to anti-war protests anymore. I seldom contact my elected officials about our military activities overseas. I don’t write letters to the editor like I did in the past. It’s not that I don’t care. Maybe I just don’t care enough anymore. I greatly admire the peace activists who keep at it year after year after year. I’m not as strong as they are, or maybe I’m not as crazy.
Or maybe I’m just part of the problem.