Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thoughts on Patriot Day

We all remember where we were at that moment on 9-11 when we heard the news. It forever changed all of our lives. It changed what it means to be an American, the definition of patriotism, the meaning of freedom and security. People instantly became heroes or villains, and our country found solidarity in mourning the dead, healing the wounded, and hating our enemies. Those enemies, as they told us, were numerous and scattered across the far reaches of the world. We declared war on "terror", and we vowed that justice would be served no matter the cost. 

But justice and vengeance are often very difficult to discern. And if there is a difference, I'm not sure that it mattered to anyone after an attack the magnitude of 9-11. 

The tide of destruction flows blood on the shore
And out of the dust, the people cry war
Lives will be taken that won't return to us
But the words of our leaders soothe sacrifice as a must

But is this the way to end a war? By earning the hate of another million more?

Movement of the mass, the machine is in full force
Bombings of cities done without remorse
Vengeance at last justice slams down her fist
Take your place as her hand checking names off the list

But is this the way to end a war? By earning the hate of another million more?

We are told that only a treasonous coward would question the validity of vengeance after so many died, so many were injured - women and children and innocent lives. But isn't that the way of war? Isn't that the evil of it? Don't innocent women and children die by our hand as well. Haven't they died in the past? Ronald Reagan said, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." And that's just the problem, war is a self-perpetuating monster that reconstitutes itself with each act of retribution disguised as justice served. 

If all the brave and honorable are called to duty, to take up arms in battle, who is left to stand up to the zealous pitch forked masses and tell them, "Wait! Enough death! Enough killing! Enough war!" 

Is there no honor in peace? Is there no valor in diplomacy? 

The tradition of war passes on from one generation to the next as young aspiring heroes, eager to prove their own patriotic virtue, blindly run into battle on the instructions of our leaders. Leaders that tell us that terror exists; that our enemies seek to destroy us; that we must strike before we are stricken.  

Shockingly enough, at one time in our country, we didn't even believe in keeping a standing army. Our Founding Fathers thought that nothing was more dangerous and tyrannical than maintaining a large military. But that sentiment changed forever with Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson. In Wilson's 1916 reelection campaign, he promised the American people that they wouldn't join the bloody slaughter of WWI. The American people elected him, perhaps naively believing that he was telling the truth and that we could actually stay out of a war that we were investing lots of money and goods in continuing. But one year later after our interests were too great to ignore, we joined the fight to ensure that our side would win. And to guarantee that we would have a say in who got what when it was all said and done. But Wilson still had to sell most Americans on the war because at that time, we weren't as blood thirsty as we are today. Mr. Wilson told the people that this would be the "war to end all wars". 

If only George Carlin had been around to tell them that "War for peace is like screwing for your virginity." 

After the war ended, Mr. Wilson declared Armistice Day on November 11. It signified the day that we laid down arms and finally discovered lasting peace. The war to end all wars was finished, and a day to recognize the cause of peace was so proclaimed. What a noble declaration? 

Later in 1954, Eisenhower must have realized that "Armistice Day" was an inappropriate name for the holiday because war was and is perpetual and the rise of the military industrial complex will ensure that laying down arms is a utopian fantasy.

It's our perceptions of bravery, justice and vengeance that urge us to radical violent action. It's our ambition and fervor to spread progress and our idea of civilization to the far reaches of the world that leads us to meddling with the self-determination of other people. It's our malicious leaders in government that channel our patriotic anger into a brutally violent war machine that is directed to exercising dominion all over the world. But it's we the people that sanction it.

What happens to the champions of peace in our history? They meet their fate as a martyrs, victims of assassination, and the cycle of violence continues. 

Will it ever be broken? When will we honor the dead, heal the wounded and end the war?

Fire Away

I wish I could be a bold patriot
without picking up a gun
I wish I could stand up for my country men
without spilling any blood

But is there a hero in our history
who didn't kill or be killed?
If you're looking for glory
you get out on a battle field

and Fire Away
in the name of God and Country
you might go down in history
when you live through hell there's a story to tell
about bravery

Did you ever buy diplomacy?
Was that just some fairy tale?
Do you think that we'll find world peace?
Show me when that hasn't failed

When you look at the page of history
it's written in the blood of men
just when you think we've had enough misery
someone drops a bomb again

and its time to Fire Away
in the name of God and Country
you might go down in history
when you live through hell there's a story to tell
about bravery 

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