Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Post Memorial Day Thoughts: War, A Necessary Violence?

Memorial Day is one of those holidays that so many forget why we even have it. They just know that they are getting a day off (for most, anyway). I'd be curious what kind of answers we'd hear from the public majority if asked "Why are the flags at half-mast today?" On the other extreme, I do think that there are a number of people that experience "Memorial Day" every day. My great-grandfather was one of them. I can't remember a time that would go by that he didn't speak on the days of war. So often I see veterans displaying their battalion on their ball caps and it's amazing the connection that happens when a fellow vet recognizes the name and strikes up a conversation. It's quite sobering actually because inevitably the conversation ends up reminiscing of the friends that died in war.

For me, Memorial Day doesn't have to occur just once during the year. It happens every time I visit the D-Day Memorial or Arlington National Cemetery (where one of my grandfathers is buried) and even now when I read the news of the war in Iraq. It happens when I see a man or woman in uniform. It's good to have a National Holiday that recognizes those that died for our country, a battalion, a team, or an individual. It seems that [we] live in such a mad-rush of life that we forget to remember. It’s important to slow down and remember.

I think that everyone should watch "Saving Private Ryan" to understand the complexities, trials, and hardships of war. If you are a native of Bedford, VA there’s a big chance that one of your relatives died on Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. One of the features about this movie is that it depicts the whole gamut of war - from those that experienced it at the sidelines to those that were in the trenches.

I had a friend say to me recently, "The military is about killing and making people willing and able to kill another person." However, it is also about protection. So I ask myself, "Is war a necessary violence?" If someone is willing to lay down their life so that I might live then how selfish am I to deride them for doing their job? Here's a thought to chew on...using the words fashioned by Forrest Gump, "War is as War does." War is only as good or bad as the people that organize it.


At 9:56 PM, Blogger Larry Bassett said...

My dad is 85 and spent three of the WWII years in the Army -- two years in France. He never talks about the war. And he was with the paper pushers a day or a week behind the battles. (Yes, the administrative bureaucracy of the killing fields and beaches.)

In the 1980s, my dad and mom became active in the peace movement. They were arrested and jailed for civil disobedience. They have put quite a bit of money where their prayers are: for peace. They still are.

But my dad does not talk about his war and what made him decide that "war is not the answer." He just finished writing a 67 page handwritten story of his life. He pretty much left out those three years in the Army. I saw a few photos of him standing in front of a tank wearing a helmet with his buddies; photos in a box that probably still is stored under my parent's bed. My parents burned the letters they wrote to each other during the war.

I am going to ask him to write a little bit about changing from a warrior to a peace activist. I hope he will do it. I wonder what he will say. I wonder if he would have been willing to kill another person. I don't think I have enough experience talking to people who have killed other people to understand how "protection" fits into the picture.

At 11:11 PM, Blogger Citylivn said...

Thank you for sharing intimate details of your parents. Your father's story sounds facinating and one that I would be willing to bet others have experienced. I believe my great-grandfather (who was a flight bomber) spoke about the war not so much as the "glory days" but more in a way that help desensitize his experiences.

Protection can have many connotations and skewed in various ways - no doubt. When I use the word protection I don't mean to say "by any means necessary." Violence is not the answer. Unfortunately, there are many that hold that mentality, which breeds justifying an ends to a means.

I wonder if anything has changed in the training of our young soldiers versus the way they trained your father or my grandfathers. Will your father be publishing his memoires?

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Larry Bassett said...

CityLivn opines: "War is only as good or bad as the people that organize it."

I am still trying to understand what this could possibly mean so I hope you will expand on this idea.

I think that people are basically good; I think that wars are basically bad. Bad people "organize" bad wars and good people "organize" good wars?

Help me here, someone!

At 9:37 AM, Blogger Larry Bassett said...

What follows is a story about war. The story has not completely unfolded yet but it has the ring of truth to me. War is about people (I will maintain, mostly good people, who have been trained to kill by the rules.)

"A sergeant who led a squad of Marines during the incident in Haditha, Iraq, that left as many as 24 civilians dead said his unit did not intentionally target any civilians, followed military rules of engagement and never tried to cover up the shootings, his attorney said."


Marine Says Rules Were Followed:
Sergeant Describes Hunt for Insurgents in Haditha, Denies Coverup

See the Front Page story yourself. It reads true to me.

I think the Washington Post just today (Sunday, June 11th) published the story of what happened in Haditha nearly seven months ago. The Marines did what they do all the time. They killed innocent people; and they did it legally using the "rules of engagement." What happened is what happens in warfare. What happened is what happened plenty of times in VietNam. Innocent people got mixed up in a lethal incident where trained killers were doing their job.

This is about the "business as usual" way that war is conducted. It is not about liberating a country, or democracy. It is about doing what you think you need to do to keep someone else from killing you. Yes, innocent people might be hurt and that is regretable. The US even pays the families of innocent casualities money to compensate for their loss. This is legal murder.

Plainly said: This is NOT right.

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At 7:00 AM, Blogger Citylivn said...

I am not sure about this one....why do you ask?

At 7:07 AM, Blogger Citylivn said...

Larry, I was just reading thru your comments again regarding Haditha. Your opening stmt suggested that the story was in the beginning stages. Any chance you followed this one to the end?? I'm going to do some more research on this. I took myself out of the loop for so long that I now have much catching up to do!

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