Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rememberance Day

I cried this morning at 11am. That was when our nation observed a moment of silence for those killed and wounded in wars, past and present. I seem to be getting more and more emotional about this day each year, and to tell the truth, I was considering not putting myself through the emotional stress of watching aging veterans sadly recalling lost friends and terrifying ordeals, and hearing the plaintive strains of the "last post" played by a current member of the Armed Forces.

What made we watch, and inevitably cry, over the national Rememberance Day ceremony, was the desire to avoid falling into the trap that I fear is rapidly overtaking my country. The trap is believing that avoiding an issue can make it go away, and if the issue is unpleasant, avoidance becoming a virtue. It becomes a virtue if it is "spun" as diplomacy, or fairness, or righteousness.

There is no denying that war is a horrible thing, and absolutely should be avoided if at all possible. Citizens are always wise to question their leaders if they wish to take them into a war, and have the right to demand proof of the necessity of this decision. Citizens also have the responsibility, however, to be able to recognize when the only honorable decision to make, is to take on the horrible task of war. To avoid doing this, and indeed to try to depict the avoidance as some form of "courage", is worse than cowardace. I think the philosopher John Stewart Mill said it best:

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest thing. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

Last week in Afghanistan, members of the Taliban detonated a bomb next to a school that was being visited by a government minister. Young children were torn to shreds, and many Afghan families were left to mourn the loss of innocent lives.

War is a horrible thing, that needs to be avoided, if at all possible. It is considered by many to be a "virtue" to believe that there is no such thing as a "just" war, and that combat needs to be avoided at all costs. To those people I ask-what part of this event, and many others like it, is acceptable to you? Why do you consider it "courageous" to not want to oppose this?

I admit, I am now probably too old and fat to risk military service myself, unless an aggresive force marches down the main street of my home town, and even then I probably wouldn't be much use in fighting them off. I haven't had a close relative or friend die in military conflict, though some have served in past wars, so I can't personally speak to the pain of losing a loved one in a war. I guess I am asking- as bad as war is, is there something even worse? Is the "trap" of personal comfort and emotional distance making us lose our ability to recognize that, ultimately, there is such a thing as "right" and "wrong"? Maybe that's why I decided to take the infinitely tiny step of watching the Rememberance Day service this morning, despite the fact I knew it would make me sad. I want to remember that there is such a thing as the right thing to do. Sure, I probably don't have much courage or resolve in most parts of my life, but at least I still have the desire to want to see some good in the world. I guess that's my mustard seed.