Friday, November 10, 2006

Happy Armistice Day

When the anonymous commenter to this post chimed in that “Democrats don’t support the troops,” I tried, with questionable success, to be civil. Civility was an effort because I’ve grown so very weary of bullying accusations about my insufficient affection for The Troops given my dislike for The War.

Statement about Supporting the Troops don’t imply that supporting the troops is coextensive with supporting the war, they assume it. My internal reply, now external, is that people who say that love war. Not that they support this war or war in general or understand the necessity or any of that swishy liberal crap, but they love war. Love it like loving the smell of napalm inthe morning. Love the destruction and the waste and the ruined lives. Revel in the greatest evil on earth. Those kind of people.

That may be unfair, but it's no less fair than using "Support the Troops" as a tendentious accusation that anyone opposed to the war can't wait for the first opportunity to spit on a returning veteran.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a pacifist. I understand that evil exists in the world and defending ourselves against it is not always pretty. But I don’t have to love it. In fact I hate war. I am reading Franklin and Wintson, and in it found the wise counsel of another Democratic realist who hated war:

    I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood
    running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed
    lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I
    have seen two hundred limping exhausted men come out of line-the
    survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight
    hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of
    mothers and wives. I hate war.
Unfortunately, Americans have long conflated supporting troops with supporting wars, and have confused going to war with embracing war. That's my read on why Armistice Day in America is Veteran's Day. Sure Veterans should have their day. But so should celebrations of peace. Unfortunately that's not how we do it here.

During the runup to the election I ran across an essay by Kevin Tilman, the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran whose brother Pat gave up an NFL career to serve his country and was killed in a friendly fire incident. The whole piece is a must-read, but these passages at the end particularly struck me:
    Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.
    Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.
    Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.
    Somehow this is tolerated.
    Somehow nobody is accountable for this.
    * * *
    Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.
I thought about this during the election. The war is a box we can't get out of without a great deal more pain, strife and toil. The Democrats have no easy answers because there are no easy answers. But I feel much better knowing that now, as a result of what we did this week, men and women who hate war now sit at the table. Tuesday's result was a great way to support the troops.