Saturday, May 5, 2007

"Honor the Warrior, but Not the War"

This slogan/bumper sticker has become popular among anti-war folk, including some Quakers. There's something appealing about it, but I've never been able to "rest easy" with the idea.

This came up for me today, when I was buying my Mom a Mother's Day card. The clerk said her kids were all older, and they sometimes forget Mother's Day. She looked sad. Then she mentioned her son was a soldier in Iraq, just went back for his second tour. I asked her if he was "out of harm's way" (as if that's really possible in Iraq). She said no, in his first tour he was a gunner on a Humvee, now he was on foot patrol. She didn't say what city. She said she was very worried. I said I hoped he came home safe. Then I took a risk and told her that although I was against the war, I still hoped he would be safe and that I would "hold him in my thoughts", which seemed very inadequate.

I've been wondering about this encounter. I didn't feel I could say that I would "hold her son in the Light", although I wanted to. The struggle for me, as a Quaker and human being is, how do I hold someone in the Light whose job it is to kill. Am I then part of the killing machine our "leaders" have unleashed in Iraq? Or should I say that I will hold him in the Light and all the Iraqis as well. That sounds good to me, but holding someone in the Light is not something to lightly toss around. I'm wrestling with this. I really do want her son home safe. I meant that. I don't want him to kill anyone. I don't want him to be there at all. I believe there is that of God in him and in all people. If I hold one person in the Light, is this a way of holding all human's in the Light. I'll have to let this simmer for a bit and see what comes up for me.

This is why I'm not comfortable with "Honor the Warrior, but Not the War"



Suzy said...

Chuck, I really appreciate this question. I think it is entirely valid to question the sentiment of honoring the warrior. First of all, would there be warriors without war? If you are opposed to war, then it follows that you must be opposed to warriors. Am I opposed to the individuals who become warriors, to the little boys and girls they once were, to what they represent to their dearest loved ones? Of course not. In that capacity I wish them all the best. And all the best includes not doing anything which will degrade their own humanity.

When my nephew was deployed (to Kuwait -- he was lucky) I told him I loved him, and to be safe, and not to do anything which he'll have to live with his entire life.

War degrades everyone. There is a new survey reported on this week that concludes that 1 in 10 soldiers mistreats civilians or damages their property. 1 in 10!! That doesn't mean that 10% of the military is made up of the proverbial "bad apple." It means that the stress of war forces men and women into positions they would not normally take.

Last night we were discussing a similar topic. Anna's good friend says he is joining the Army. This is a smart kid with very liberal parents, probably doesn't need the money for college (any more than the rest of us.) And Ed and I (being judgemental) agreed that this kid went down in our esteem, that knowing what he knows and becoming a "warrior" represents a kind of complicity.

I'm not sure that's an entirely fair assessment, but that was jy first reaction.

We honor warriors too much in our society and do not do enough to honor HUMAN BEINGS who are living on a very human scale.

Suzy said...

BTW, look up the SLC debate on impeachment btwn Mayor Rocky Anderson and fluffy Faux News talking head Sean Hannity. Rocky Anderson has become more and more outspoken against the war and the Bush regime. I hope I can share a cell with him at Gitmo. I wonder how he looks in orange?

geo said...

C - "Honoring the Warrior" - sounds to me in a sense like we are saying: 1.) Because you are in a War and 2.) Because you are a USian, Then: You are "right". It feels like a sort of "patriotism".

I don't want to say: "you are wrong", because it isn't the individual soldier's insistence on there being a war. At the same time I want to affirm a concern for the individual, without validating the "warrior" side of her/his essence.


It is important to me though to recognize that

poodledoc said...

After our discussion this morning, there's nothing I can think of to make the word "warrior" acceptable. And you are so right----war degrades everyone, if it doesn't kill them outright.....

Ed said...

I believe that individuals are responsible for their own actions, whether or not those actions are performed under orders, in the line of duty or serving their country (although it eludes me how participating in an illegal war constitutes serving one's country.) There is always a choice. Thus, I find it impossible to "honor the warrior" as a warrior. I can only honor the human being who happens to be a warrior and hope that, both for their own sake as well as the sake of others, they do not come to harm nor cause harm to others. Nor are they entitled to any more "honor" than anyone else simply because they are warriors. Is it appropriate to express these thoughts to the mother of a soldier who is "in harm's way?" I honestly don't know.

It also seems to me that statements such as "honor the warrior, not the war" or "peace is patriotic" are somewhat weasely ways of trying to say one is opposed to war but scared of being called unpatriotic. Sort of "I smoked but didn't inhale."

poodledoc said...

Ed, you speak my mind.....