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.
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.
The poor were sent to fight on behalf of the privileged. Those who had the least were forced to make the biggest sacrifice.
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 dishonest politicians were doing with the war, how so many human lives were being wasted on both sides.
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. The cost that is never fully paid.
Never courageous or heroic
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 we need to remember.
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. War doesn’t just happen — we bring it on through our many choices over time.
And when our many selfish and inhumane decisions have intensified the fear and hatred, we head off to war thinking that killing will solve everything. But it never does. One war begets the next.
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.
Always a choice
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. Recognizing our shared humanity.
Waging peace means finding creative ways to bridge our differences. It means putting our hubris and our selfishness aside and instead 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 — it never is.
So while we honor and support those like my father who sacrificed so much in the horrific conditions of war, we must also honor and support those who are trying to wage peace.
Waging peace takes a lot of courage and a lot of sacrifice. But it’s the peacemakers who are called blessed, not the war makers. Making peace is the most noble and heroic and blessed thing that we can do.
Far more heroic than war.