Anecdotal Evidence .

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What It Means To Serve, continued

Let me address a few questions that have arisen in response to the day before yesterday’s post on this subject.

1) I most certainly did not mean to suggest that I support George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. If I wrote it that way, I apologize. For the record, I am convinced that the war in Iraq was fundamentally flawed from day one, and since then it has been tragically flawed in execution. What’s more, I hate the idea that the President, his Secretaries of State, Defense, and Justice, and members of their staffs, lied from the beginning and have consistently continued to lie, to their employers, the American people, and to the rest of the world, about the war, its justification, its purposes, its execution, and its progress. I hate the fact that most of those in the Administration and in the Congress, who schemed and continue to scheme the country and the world into this war have never served a day in uniform and, for the most part, their sons or daughters are not serving in uniform, that in effect they are asking others to do what they and theirs have never been willing to do. I hate the fact that in the face of so many self-evident errors of judgment, errors of judgment that have brought about the death and dismemberment of thousands of men, women, and children, not to mention animals and landscapes, no one has accepted responsibility and apologized, and, what's worse, those few failures they have acknowledged, they have blamed on others. I hate the fact that the troops from Iraq who return home in coffins, on stretchers, and on crutches, troops who are being sent into harm’s way in our name, are purposely and deviously hidden from our view, not as a gesture of respect but in a continued effort to hide from us the disastrous reality of the war.

In a word, I hate everything about George W. Bush’s war in Iraq.

Except the men and women who are fighting it, and their families, who are enduring it.

2) I was once asked by someone who knew of my current perspective and of my prior service as an officer in the US Navy, whether or not I would be willing now to serve in the military as I had in my youth, to fight in a war. My response then, and my response now to any who may wonder, is simply this: Every day of our lives, each of us must decide for ourselves what we value, and having done so, we must recognize that whatever it is, it comes at a price, and we must acknowledge and embrace that price, and be willing to pay it with enthusiasm. Otherwise, it seems to me that our valuing the thing is empty and ineffectual.

I say we must ask this question of ourselves every day because every day every one of us grows and changes, and our values change accordingly. Thus, the things I value now are very different than the things I valued as a youth, and likewise, their cost to me is different. But there remains a cost nonetheless, and there needs to remain a willingness to pay that cost, otherwise I will never really have the thing, and it will never really be mine.

3) Specifically as regards the draft and its relationship to the war in Iraq, I am convinced that if the draft existed today, the Congress of the United States would never have agreed to George W. Bush’s feloniously flawed argument for going to war, in which case the war might never have occurred. And even if it had occurred, the nation would have long since been up to its ears in protests, particularly among the nation’s youth. I spent the last two winters on the campus of the University of Maine in Orono, where I do not remember seeing or hearing any evidence of the war in Iraq. And yet, during two years of the Vietnam era, I was at Columbia University in New York City, and there was nowhere on that campus where the war was not evident, and vehemently so! I do not doubt for a single moment that the difference is the draft. Again, as I wrote in the original post, a healthy democracy requires an actively participating citizenry, and participation requires motivation. Let's face it, being "only human", we are unlikely to get involved unless and until we can see that there's something in it for us. That is why I believe it is so important that each generation in a democracy be reminded that the rights and privileges enjoyed by us all, have a price.