Category Archives: War

Anniversaries of Death

How odd it is to celebrate anniversaries of death. 55 years ago today the first nuclear bomb was unleashed on a civilian population–an act hailed then and today as a weapon that saved American soldiers by ending the war earlier, although countless people disagree, pointing out Japan’s willingness to surrender and the use of a second atomic bomb. 10 years ago today devastating economic sanctions were imposed on Iraq–sanctions designed to stifle the regime, when they’ve only served to starve children. It makes for a depressing day. Yet I wonder if people today care. It’s pure and simple apathy that allows world tragedies to continue. If Americans really cared about Iraqi children dying, they could change things. But they don’t really care.

Tonight I saw a commercial for Fox’s Teen Choice awards. One of the ways they tried to advertise the award show was by claiming that there wouldn’t be any tributes to dead guys. Were they implying that teens don’t care about the accomplishments of people who have died? That teens just aren’t interested? That’s a very sad thing to assume of a generation, although I can’t help but wonder if Fox has made an understandable assumption.

Polly the Protestor

Her name was Polly. A straw hat shielded her wrinkled face from the sun as she paced up and down the bridge. Her words were kind, yet full of compassion and urgency. She wasn’t the kind of woman who is content to retire and play shuffleboard. She smiles like my grandmother, yet carries a protest sign and is going three days without food. All for some children she’s never met halfway around the world.

5,000 children die every month in Iraq because of the U.N. sanctions. These sanctions are mainly kept in place by the United States as an effort to oust Saddam Hussein. The decade of sanctions have resulted in a million children dying while Saddam continues to maintain control of the country. The sanctions aren’t effecting him at all. Instead the innocent are dying.

And so Polly takes up a protest sign and marches along the Lake Street Bridge between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The gospel has an answer to war: Love your enemy as yourself. You are your brother’s keeper. But nobody really believes it. Except for Polly.

Protest on Lake Street Bridge

While crossing the Lake Street Bridge today I noticed a small group of protestors. Curiously I turned, wondering what they were protesting. I didn’t know of any strikes in the area, and I wondered if it had something to do with the election or the Republican convention. As I passed by the signs spoke of thousands of children dying daily. Hand printed words spoke of an embargo that was choking a nation, killing its innocent children. They were protesting against the American-lead embargo against Iraq. The Gulf War was ten years ago, yet we’re still blocking food and medical supplies from Iraq. The children are dying, and for what? Kuwait has been free and I’m pretty sure I remember the war ending. Yet the embargo continues and nobody really cares or knows anything about it. As the protestors disappeared from view, I didn’t think much of it. And that’s the tragedy of it.

So It Goes

Another day, another book. This one slightly off-kilter. It was a book about a crazy man who didn’t seem to be bound by time. All the good books seem to be about crazy guys. Or at least people every one else thinks are crazy. When you completely understand someone they seem kind of shallow and boring. Those people never make good characters. They make good action heroes, but I’ve never met anyone who would make a good action hero.

The book I read was about war. I’ve always wondered what happens to people in war. Your mind is turned upside down, the best of people crack up, and the worst of people come together. Everything that you know is lost and you never see the world quite the same again. It’s an odd little thing we like to subject ourselves to every now and again. Sometimes you see hollow old men with their eyes sunken and the skin hanging from their throats. They fought in the war. Now that have just have memories more faded than the stale black and white photos. But they’re still haunted. Their world was shaken and they never quite reclaimed. Or maybe their world wasn’t so shaken. They went over there, did their job and came home. Those are the people I understand the least. Those are the people with no soul. You have to wonder how most men get through it. Do you just suck it up and squeeze the trigger? How can you walk so close to death for so long? Perhaps it’s simply a more enlightened way to live.

The old man lying in the bed, with a child’s lost gaze, fought in the war. He doesn’t recognize me and just wants to know where his teeth are. They’re loosely clenched in the palm of his hand. He’s my grandpa. He sat in the trenches at Iwo Jima, squeezing the rifle in his hands until his fingers turned pale like an onion. He clenched his teeth as the bullets whizzed by and he swore and he ran and he fell and fired that gun to save his own life. Or so the story goes. I don’t really know what he did in the war. I’ve only seen happy pictures of him and friends in the Pacific with girls. In the basement my dad has a knife my grandpa brought back from the war. Somebody made it out of pieces of scrap metal. The end of the handle is shaped like a boot. My grandpa traded somebody for it. I wonder if that guy died in the war. I wonder if his grandkid knows where whatever his grandfather got for the trade is.

But now I can’t even ask my grandpa about it. Maybe I could, they tell me he’s gotten better. The last time I saw him he was barely alive, sucking on a cigarette like it was the only thing he recognized. I think it was. So it goes. That’s what Kurt Vonnegut always said. I wonder if anybody knows how many times he said that in Slaughterhouse Five. That’s the book I finished. So it goes.

Nuclear Nasties

I always thought that since the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union came toppling down, the Cold War must have thawed out as well, like a bucket of ice cream on the counter. But apparently the threat of nuclear annihilation still plagues us all. As naïve as I must be, the threat of nuclear disaster will be with us forever. Since that fateful day in New Mexico more than fifty years ago man has been cursed with the ability to destroy himself—and to destroy himself pretty damn good.

The Cold War was fought on the basis of deterrence: if we can nuke them as bad as they can nuke us, then they won’t want to nuke us. Brilliant idea. Of course if anybody decides to get testy, the meek get screwed and cockroaches inherit the earth. Of course the Soviet Union collapsed and we won the Cold War. I don’t really know what we won, but it must prove capitalism can kick communist butt.

Now we jump ahead to today and the latest nuclear holocaust scenario. Now we’re not so worried about Russia as we are about all these little ragtag countries with nuclear capabilities. They probably couldn’t completely wipe us out, but they could take a nice bite out of Los Angeles. And our brilliant notion of deterrence doesn’t work anymore. You can’t point intercontinental ballistic missiles at every country on earth and dare them to so much as look at us the wrong way. Now the brilliant idea is to build a missile defense system. If they launch a missile at us, we’ll just blow it out of the sky.

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Leo Szilard’s Plan to Avoid Nuking Japan

History lesson. How would you like to be Leo Szilard? The man worked on the Manhattan Project, building the first atomic bomb for the U.S. military. Then, when he realized its potential, he fought against any military use of the bomb. But to no avail. The bombs were dropped and Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leveled. Days later the Japanese unconditionally surrendered. What is the state of humanity when it becomes necessary to level a city to end a war? Many argue that the use of nuclear weapons was necessary. My grandfather fought as a marine in Iowa Jima, and would have undoubtedly been a part of any invasion force, had it been necessary to invade Japan. Such an invasion would not come without great casualties. Therefore many people argue that the atomic bombs saved American lives.

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Sporadic Ponderings

The pondering is kind of sporadic tonight, just to warn you.

The bombs are falling, the missiles are launching, and my young eyes are opening wide. People are dying as America, the great superpower of the 20th century flexes its military muscle. Supposedly it’s in order to save lives. To stop killing. Killing to stop killing? It doesn’t make any sense, but I suppose it’s the last option. The Serbs are fighting for Kosovo, a land they lost in a bitter war with the Muslims 600 years ago. Calling it the ‘grave of their liberty,’ they want it back. A sort of monument to their pride. So they butcher and kill the ethnic Albanians who make up 90% of Kosovo, an ethnic cleansing by none other than Christians. Or at least that’s what they call themselves. Why are wars always fought in God’s name? How often do you think God has put his stamp of approval on a war? And so the United States steps in, the mighty hall monitor of the world that we are, and tips the scales to stop the slaughter. Will there ever be an age in this world where people aren’t suffering? Where bombs aren’t falling? Where gunfire isn’t echoing through the night?

This relates to a lot of what I’ve said about the traditional way things are done. Why is it that everyone wants security? We all go off to college so we can have a nice, well paying job and be able to easily provide for ourselves. We want to work for the rich company, so we can make a lot of money. We all know that money doesn’t buy happiness, yet we all chase it. Why doesn’t anyone want to work in the slums so they can make a difference. Yeah, there are people who do want to do that, but the vast majority are going for the money. What good is your money if others are suffering? You can’t buy them love. You have to put forth an effort to see that a difference is made. You have to make that difference. Yet all we want is a nice job, in a nice neighborhood, with a nice house, a nice car, a nice wife, and raise a nice family. You know what? Nice sucks. Jesus lived a radical life. He didn’t have a nice job, live in a nice neighborhood, live in a nice house, ride a nice horse, have a nice wife, or raise a nice family. He didn’t have any of this nice crap. So why do we chase after it? I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad, but should that be our goal? Since when is average mediocrity a worthwhile goal? Is that what Christ has called us to? I don’t think so. Satan may call you to such a nice life, because then you’re too comfortable to worry about anything he’s doing.

A friend asked me today what I want to do. What a profound question. What do you want to do with your life? I suppose it’s especially poignant now because I can actually chase those dreams. This is the time in your life when you have the choice of whether or not to make those dreams a reality. The scary thing is, I’m not too sure what I want to do. I don’t have a list of things I want to do that’s been growing in my head for the past six years. I don’t know if I could rattle of five or six things that I really want to do. I don’t know if that’s bad or not. I suppose it makes me more ample clay in the potter’s hands. I know I want to write a book. Or books, however things work out. But what else? I don’t know. This one could require a little thought.

Kosovo Air Strikes, Community & Yellow Limos

Ah, what a day. Spring Break is coming closer, and I can certainly feel it. The big assignments are done and there’s not much left to do. A week of doing nothing will soon be upon me!

It’s been a pretty intense day in another sense as well. I guess NATO has ordered strikes against Yugoslavia, and they could come at any time. In fact, by the time you read this it could have already happened. Bill Clinton had this to say about why the U.S. was participating in the strike, “If our country is going to be prosperous and secure, we need a Europe that is safe, secure, free, united, a good partner for trading, wealthy enough to buy our products and someone who will share the burdens of taking care of the problems of the world.” Now that’s a mouthful. What’s he really saying? First off, he’s saying that we have every right to attack Yugoslavia because we want a united Europe. Why do we want a united Europe? Because we need someone to buy our crap. That’s a lovely reason to launch missiles and drop bombs. Does it make a whole lot of sense to preserve your economic well being by flexing your military muscle? If your economy is that troubled, and our isn’t, then I think you’re in way over your head. A few bombs and missiles isn’t going to do you much good. And don’t forget, we need a united Europe to “share the burdens of taking care of the problems of the world.” Since when was it our business to take care of the problems of the world? I realize that the United States is a superpower, and we have the power and the responsibility to watch out for the little guy, so to speak. But are we really solving the problems of the world by throwing bombs at them? Bullets and explosions don’t seem to solve any problems.

Another thing I’ve thought about today is the idea of community living and the “proper” notion of family life today. In America today you’re expected to get a job, get a house, get married, and raise a family. That’s your purpose in life. Of course variations exist, but that’s the gist of it. Economically, that doesn’t seem like the smartest way to run things. Especially when most jobs today require a college education, which usually means entering the work force with a substantial debt hanging over your head. Then you’re expected to buy a car, house, and all the rest? In my Concepts of Community class we’ve been reading a book called “Walden Two” which is really opening up this idea of community. Today in class we discussed a few real communities that are based on the fictional Walden Two. Now don’t worry, I’m not about to join some exclusive community in Mexico or Virginia, but I do find the idea intriguing. Why is it that Americans are expected to do it on their own? Why isn’t community living an accepted way to live? Why is it such a foreign concept to graduate college and live with a small group of people, pooling and sharing your resources? It sounds so simple and easy, but it’s not an acceptable way to live in America. Why is that? Wouldn’t such an arrangement be so much easier on those involved? It would ease financial burdens and provide closer circles of friends. Perhaps I’m just dreaming in an idealistic world. I’m a college student though, that’s what I’m supposed to do.

And finally, I found the following quote while I was looking at my old high school’s web page. This was on the main page of the West Bloomfield School District. If you know anything about West Bloomfield, you’ll think it’s pretty funny.

“Avoid the fuss. Take the Bus. It’s fast. It’s free. It’s convenient. Be Cool. Take the BIG YELLOW LIMO to school. Let us do the driving. Let your parents sleep in.”

The Sacrifice of the Hmong People

In one of my classes we’ve been reading a book about a Hmong family (The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman) and their clash with American culture through the illness of their daughter. Even though it’s one of those obnoxious books you have to read for a class, it’s been rather eye opening. We have to do a service learning project with some Hmong people in the Twin Cities, so there are actually practical applications to this. What amazes me the most is how little people know about the Hmong. For example, I’m typing this in Word 97, and the spell checker doesn’t recognize “Hmong” as a word.

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