Fiddling while Rome burns
I spend many hours blogging at my local library. They regularly host events on a wide variety of topics. I rarely take one in; its tough enough for me to keep on track without one more distraction.
However, recently a program called “Still Coming Home” caught my attention-so I attended. Organized by the Colorado Humanities council, it was billed as a program featuring veterans reading what they’d written about their war experiences.
In a small, dimly lit auditorium, the barrel chested first speaker read his account of a drunken brawl he’d been involved in after Marine basic training at Camp Pendleton before he shipped out to Vietnam. The second, also a Marine and a Vietnam vet, read his account of how he, again drunk, had taken down and properly disposed of a giant but tattered American flag that was being used as a mere advertising device by an auto dealer on Havana Street, one of Denver’s main drags. The third, this time a younger Marine and vet of one of our current, perpetual wars, read about how his experience had led him to enroll in a Catholic seminary.
But what about . . .
The was a brief time for questions and answers after each speaker. Before asking mine I waited till everyone else in the audience had their chance. And, to be frank, the questions from other audience members were softballs; about writing style and whatnot. So then, a bit nervous, I asked each speaker in turn, “What’s your opinion of the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria?” Then I shut up.
To a man, they opposed them. But the last speaker-by then he knew what was coming-asked me a question: “But what’s your opinion of the wars?
“Well,” I responded, “initially I was an enthusiastic supporter. But now I’m completely opposed. After nearly 20 years, I can’t see that we’re doing any good. As far as I can tell, about the only thing we’re doing is making a bunch of defense contractors wealthy.”
At that, one of the previous speakers, exclaimed, “Amen!”
I didn’t, but wish I had added, that Israel is probably the main beneficiary of our wars because they do such a great job of deflecting Muslim anger away from the Jewish state. And turning it on us. Oh well, this won’t be the last time I suffer from delayed intelligence.
Whatever happened to “Peace Now!”
I came of age during the 1960s, the height of the Vietnam War. The country bristled with anti-war rage: kids burning their draft cards on college campuses, protest marches, riots, rock concerts. And the protests played a big part in bringing our involvement in Vietnam to an end.
So, 20 years on in our current perpetual wars, what’s changed? Why have we become a nation inured to war? It’s certainly not that the death and misery have gone away. Either for us. Or, for that matter, our enemies a half a world away. And these wars are every bit as futile and costly as Vietnam ever was.
But here’s one thing that has changed: the draft is gone. Sure, they’re still protesting on college campuses. But not, as far as I can tell, about our endless wars. Instead, college students are fiddling about “big” issues-like the largely imaginary slights to the LBGTQ community. And the countless other whiney groups that indulge in identity politics. While their largely white country and urban poor cousins join the Army, travel to distant, sandy lands. And get their legs blown off.
And, as far as I can tell, things aren’t likely to change so long as things don’t change.