Monday, November 12, 2007

Hard questions

I few months ago I was at a Christian music festival, Spirit West Coast in Monterey. While out and about, we were collared by a roving pastor/organizer. They were sending bibles to the troops in Iraq and they wanted people to sign them to add a personalized touch and some encouragement. I might have blown them off but Angie wanted to do one together. So I took the first turn, opened up the front flap, readied my pen... and sat.

And sat.

I quickly realized that I never think about Iraq as anything other than a news item, safely Over There. Which is just how they want it, right?
Then I noticed that must surely be upper middle class because I could count on one hand the number of people I know from my high school class that have served there.

This bible could easily go to a combat soldier on the front lines, i.e. the entire country of Iraq. What could I possibly say to such a person?
I'm sorry you're there, fighting an unneeded war?
I admire your bravery and/or insanity in the face of danger and death?

I finally settled for 'May this book bring you some hope through the danger and darkness you face. I hope you return home safely and soon.'

Throughout it all, Todd Agnew was playing 'Peace on Earth', which was far too appropriate for comfort.

I was reminded of this all recently, when I head an NPR piece by a journalist who's father had been killed in Vietnam. She was continually bothered by people who would say 'what a waste' and completed her GI-funded education partially just to prove them wrong.
Seeing as how Iraq is our new Vietnam I hope we have learned how to treat our soldiers better this time around. From what I have heard pacifists during the last war treated them like crap, like it was their fault. This treatment sounds ironically combative, failing to refute the 'us vs them' mentality that enables conflict. Our political commanders ignored the historical lessons of Vietnam. Let's hope we civilians can react better.