Friday, September 18, 2009

Ponderings on War

Mom, Dad, and I have been watching a documentary series called The War. It is about WWII, and the base of the series is about how the war effected 4 towns in America. It branches out a lot, but it keeps coming back to the home front and the inhabitants of these towns. Really, it is a beautiful documentary and one I think everyone should watch. I've learned so much about the war - a heck of a lot more than I ever did in class. Also, there is a newspaper editor from MN during that time who has some excerts of his work read. And it is the most beautiful reporting. He was a great writer - simple and sweet, perfect small town newsman writing. That is my favorite part.

However, it is not the easiest series to watch. It's about war - and war is never a beautiful thing. This series is quite touching, and so often while we watch it I have to look to away because I am so angry and frustrated by it. It seriously angers me watching things like this. No wonder there is so much hate in the world. Violence begats violence and so much pain and hurt comes from that. I can't go through an episode without crying 4 or 5 times. It's emotionally ravaging.

I have always been conservatively anti-war pretty much all of my life, and documentaries like this and TV series like M*A*S*H have fueled that feeling in me. Although M*A*S*H is a comedy, there are some very poignent moments. My favorite is actually (I think) a combination of two: Col. Potter looses his composure and in one scene he says something along the lines that humans keep building weapons that can destroy human lives faster than doctors can build instruments to save them, and the other is just him half-crying as he said "...put an end to this stupid war." I know, it sounds corny, but they are very powerful moments. And everytime I think of war now, I hear those words and that anger and pain.

I want to gather world leaders who take us into these wars and I just want to shake them. It seems like they have no hearts, that they don't understand the human cost. I don't think anyone can understand the true human cost - not until we have a way to give a testimony to every single person who is hurt by the war. Or killed. And not just names. Home videos, pictures, writings about their lives, interviews with family and friends - everything. A document of every single life touched by it. Then you might have a glimpse of the human toll.

The trouble is, I don't know if that would even stop war. It seems like there will always be war of some kind. I'm not saying that all war is pointless and bad - because a large part of WWII was necessary. We had to stop Hitler from leading the Germans to taking over the world. And I have no doubt that is what he truly wanted. If the Axis had won the war, I have no doubt that before long, Italy and Germany would have teamed up aagainst Japan. And then Germany would have gone up against Italy. It's not even just taking over the world, it was also the atrocities that he was doing. But we didn't get into the war because of that. We got into it because Japan needed oil and we blocked it from them. So they retaliated. There will always be reasons for going to war, and innocent people will always have to suffer because some people just want control.

Now, I know every army has its reason for being. There would be no war unless there are some grievences. And with a couple of strong leaders, mixed with pride and a problem or two, you have reason. Add to that the right amount of patriotism mixed with radicalism, and you have an army - or rather, a dangerous army. Multiply that by two and you have war.

I know this is increibly depressing. But another movie I have watched also made me re-realize that out of something so terrible can come some things so great. Where there is tragedy, there will be triumph in the human spirit. Of all things, I was watching Hollywood Canteen on TCM the other night (By the way, love TCM!) and although it is not a very deep film, I was touched by the story of how the Canteen came to be and how everyone in Hollywood pulled together to give the soldiers a good time before they left or when they finally came back. Which also was reflected everywhere in that time. It was one of the last times America pulled together for a cause. Everyone, it seemed, did their part to contribute to the effort. We got a glimpse of it after Sept. 11, but that was very quickly overshadowed by outspoken, bickering singers and anti-war protests, and charging into a war with a country we weren't sure we wanted to go to war with.

So, while it was an atrocious time, the world wars have gone down in history as the good wars. The ones almost everyone wanted to fight. But truly, there is no good war. I wish there was a way to make people settle it themselves. I'm not saying that duels and fistfights are more humane, but at least they are one on one. No innocent bystanders. I support the military and I pray for them, but I would much rather that they didn't need to exist. Not the people, but the institution. I can't imagine they would feel that much different about it.


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