During the early ‘70s, there was a must-see show for anyone with a son of legal age. The Vietnam war draft lottery was conducted on television, providing surreal moments.
By the time I approached draft age, the war had reached its tipping point but more soldiers were still needed. So men in suits would load capsules containing the days of the year into a large, clear drum. They’d spin it and pull out a date. If your birthday was the next one chosen, you were next in line to be inducted.
That’s how the draft order was determined. A bingo version of Russian roulette. And the privileged were given opt-out provisions, including college deferments and assignments to branches of the military away from combat.
My dad was a wounded Korean war veteran and would watch the draft show with me. He stunned me one time by saying, totally out of the blue, that he’d support me if I chose to protest the war. He had no stomach for what the politicians were doing with the war, how many lives were being wasted.
Also, he didn’t want his son to experience the horrors that he’d experienced, the ones that left him fighting his own demons for the rest of his life.
We forget about that part – the unthinkable, unspeakable things that happen during war and leave everyone associated with it wounded in some ways. Things so awful that those who survive them never speak of them.
We honor the victims of our many wars, but we should never honor war itself. Courageous and heroic things happen during war, but war itself is never courageous or heroic. And that’s an important distinction.
War is always the ultimate human failure — politically, religiously, morally, culturally, collectively, individually. It’s the final step in a long sequence of fearful attitudes, ugly words and selfish choices.
We head off to war when we think that anyone who is different from us must be dangerous to us. When we talk about building bigger walls and more bombs because those people can’t be trusted.
Ultimately, war is a repudiation of our shared humanity, a rejection of our greatest gift. The creator gives us life and the responsibility to nurture it – all of life, all of the time. War is our way of telling the creator: We refuse.
War is always a choice, never an inevitability.
So is peace. It’s always an option, but it never just happens. We have to co-create it.
It starts with actually listening to those whom we consider an enemy. Getting to know them. Giving them the same respect and value that we give ourselves.
Waging peace means finding creative ways to bridge our differences. It involves paying attention to how our attitudes and our words and our choices affect others – other people, other cultures, other nations.
Waging peace means saying emphatically and repeatedly: We can do better than this. We must do better. The horror of war must never be considered an inevitable outcome.
Waging peace takes a lot of courage and a lot of sacrifice. It’s the most noble and heroic thing that we can do.
Far more heroic than war.