WEATHER »

Defining Acts of War

It All Depends on Your Point of View


We have been at war for 16 years now with no plan to discontinue.

Why is it that when we blow other people up in their country, it is war. When they blow us up in our country we are outraged at the “audacity of such cowardly acts.”

War for America is always something that happens somewhere else — no need for sacrifice or courage. We work hard, pay our taxes, patronize the troops as we encounter them on leave, and make heartfelt gestures at our sporting events.

Here in the New World, we live in a kind of bubble, untouched by the world wars that scorched the 20th century. Our idealistic colonies started off believing we were exempt from historical restraints, and this became the bedrock for the curious exceptionalism that makes us seem arrogant to the rest of the world. However, when the bombs do go off in our country, we stumble over ourselves to close the loopholes that allow the unexpected disruptions, and liberty is the next casualty. The PATRIOT Act is exactly what Bin Laden had in mind. We are at war, and we must resist the impulse to roll over and wet ourselves when it comes to our own door.

The American public has become a bit too comfortable with this state of permanent military involvement in the Middle East. One would think that might also involve acceptance of the danger that war always brings to all of the participants, civilian and soldier alike. A protracted war eventually means a certain amount of risk at home in a cruel symmetry. In order to preserve our liberty, we should just accept that some of us will die as civilian casualties resulting from a not-so-distant situation that we find otherwise acceptable.

America has a double standard on non-combatant casualties. When bombs fall on civilians in the Middle East, we call it collateral damage. When they fall on the same kinds of people in the U.S., they are acts of terrorism. What rules make us exempt from the consequences of war? Why are we outraged when it overflows the boundaries of TV and bleeds in our own streets? A citizen of London in 1940 would wonder what we were complaining about. Maybe the drone pilots won’t get hurt, but the rest of us outside the bunkers are subject to “collateral damage.” It does not matter who started it because the realties of war blow right by those kinds of issues. Everyone suffers during war, and we might just have to suck it up.

It has been quoted often how the republic is refreshed by the blood of patriots. Might that refer to those of us who will live free courageously and accept the risks of a free society in an age of widespread intolerance? Danger cannot be eliminated from our uncertain world. An acceptable level of risk is always played against the essential state of liberty. Our freedom is one of the main things that makes our country worth defending.

It is easier to see the benefits of peace when your own neighborhoods are on fire and the carnage is symmetrical. We can become a police state, trade all of our liberties and privacies for safety that wiil still elude us. Why not just find courage to stand for liberty at home no matter the cost? Maybe talk of peace is not out of the question either. Blessed are the peacemakers, but if peace is beyond our grasp, let’s not whine about having to suffer some measure of violence at home as part of the deal.

Peace and perfect safety is may not be an option right now, but being brave is.



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