War & Writing

I do not know why we allow it nor why so many men and women offer their lives in sacrifice to it but it seems that war is always with us.

What are we fighting for?

I am one of the Vietnam War generation. My parents and siblings were products of the two World and the Korean Wars.

There was never a brief suspension where we might begin to hope there would be fewer conflicts until this way of settling differences was eradicated.

I lived in Europe at this time and if the IRA wasn’t planting bombs in public places where they slaughtered and maimed children, the Serbs, Bosnians or Croatians were. Those were only the wars I knew about. There were and are so many others. There will be another and yet another.

What are we fighting for? Freedom, ideas, power? Land, food, dominance?

Is it foolish to believe that all of these are pitiful excuses for causing misery, suffering and decimation?

This morning, on my way to work, I read this from Louisa May Alcott’s Civil War Hospital Sketches:

“…John looked lonely and forsaken just then, as he sat with bent head, hands folded on his knee, and no outward sign of suffering, till, looking nearer, I saw great tears roll down and drop upon the floor. It was a new sight there; for, though I had seen many suffer, some swore, some groaned, most endured silently, but none wept. Yet it did not seem weak, only very touching, and straightway my fear vanished, my heart opened wide and took him in, as, gathering the bent head in my arms, as freely as if he had been a little child, I said, ‘Let me help you bear it, John.’ …”

 Today’s wars, as with Vietnam, are far away, in foreign lands brought to us by television, distant and unreal. Yet, the power of Alcott’s few words written 150 years ago, the suffering of this one wounded soldier draws our admiration for his fortitude and compassion for his pain from our hearts. We are not immune or indifferent.

Whatever we think of war, its causes and its consequences, the experience of any one individual is a test of our own humanity. Although we cannot go about everyday in constant distress and heartache, we can stop a moment and share the suffering of our fellow men and women, however much we wish we didn’t have to.



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