Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Was Too Angry To Cry

People tell me, oh, you have to go there, but it will make you cry. Well, we went there. We walked from just west of the capitol down the Mall to the Washington Monument then through the World War II Memorial then along the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial, where the Civil War is brought to mind, then finally to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. When you realize that 400,000 of our troops died in World War II and 58,000 in Vietnam, it is easy to see why our government is not all that riled up about a mere 4000 so far in Iraq. Maybe it is just numbers to them. The average age of soldiers in World War II was 26. This means they had families. What a tragic loss of lives! The average age of soldiers in Vietnam was 19. This means they were barely done being children. The age of my college freshman son. Our capital is full of monuments to war as though that is the way to make a nation great, via a given, a neccesary evil. Is it? Are there other ways? What could have been tried instead of the Vietnam war? Let's say we didn't know better then and we had to learn that lesson on what little good is an invasion of many years into a country with a culture that does not want us and that we do not understand. Let's say we had do the Vietnam thing to learn that it was not worth the terrible price. So why didn't that lesson stick and permit or motivate us to find some other way in Iraq? Was war the only way? Was war even the best way to do whatever had to be done? What exactly had to be done anyway? So yeah, after an day of thinking about wars and more wars, by the time I got to Maya Ying Lin's beautiful and moving tribute to the 58,000 individuals who died in the Vietnam War, I was just too angry to cry. It was a terrible waste of lives and we have wasted 4000 more in this newest war and we need to stop it, now. Add one more memorial to the lawn and vow to never have the need to add another by vowing to find other answers to our disagreements with other nations. Young men and women are not disposable assets to be spent for some sort of gain. Their lives are not ours to ask for.


Gene Redlin said...

The vietnam Memorial was moving.

I only have one question, if you could go back in time to WWII and our non involvement policy, what would you have done different?

I know it's too easy to argue about Vietnam. Or Iraq. Fresh Wounds.

But, WW I and II. Avoidable. With whom do you negotiate?

I have placed myself mentally in the place of decision makers of that time. Knowing what I know today, what would I have done or not done.

Is there every a time when war, even at the price of hundreds of thousands or lives when it is the right and proper thing to do?

That's what the memorials say to me.

Doesn't invalidate your emotion or experience, but I'll submit that there are other experiences and emotions felt when visiting these sites.

Gratitude come to mind.

goprairie said...

I am petty sure no one argues with the Civil War because slavery had to end, as bloody and deadly and horrific as that war was. The World Wars had serious things at stake, especially the one where we were attacked on our own ground. And I honestly do not know enough about how or why or when we got into Vietnam to have a real opinion, other than guys like you who were a few years older when I was a kid who were strategizing on how to keep out of it without actually leaving the country. So it may have began differently than it became as I was old enough to be more aware of it. But I was here for the whole time of the Iraq process.

And to hate the war is nothing to do with being grateful to the soldier. The war and the soldier are separate issues. The country needs a ready set of armed forces and any one who serves whether they get called to war or not deserve our gratitude and respect merely for showing up and taking the risk.

Because there are those willing to sign up, be trained, give up portions of their lives or even devote their whole career to being part of a ready set of armed forces means we ought to treat them with the utmost of respect by not asking them to go to a war that is not absolutely neccesary and justified. I think we let them down as far as not getting them out of Vietnam sooner and I thnk we let them down as far as sending them into Iraq at all. To think they should have not been sent into Iraq in no way lessons my gratitude that they were willing to go and went when asked. These are separate issues.

And to say that I somehow disrespect the soldier by hating the war is wrong, for it prohibits us from working to get them home alive sooner and from working toward peaceful resolutions to issues in the future. They are separate issues and those who try to denigrate the peace proteste for disrespecting the soldier are just wrong. There is no disrespect against the soldier in wanting peace and hating war. It is the ultimate respect and gratitude for their willingness to serve that we want them kept safe and alive and not ask them to pay the price for our folly.