Eastern Woman sent the following email to LeftyMN, attaching a letter written by the soldier son of a work colleague.
Here's her e-note:
"I have to share this with you for some perspective. This letter is from the son of a work friend. I meant to send it earlier.
"On Memorial Day, I went to the cemetery for the annual services. I was quite moved as the speaker--an anti-war friend of mine--spoke eloquently about the local boys who went to war and lost their lives. He named all those who are already serving in the Middle East or who will be going there soon. He did a great job and made the point that it's also a duty to stand up against those with whom we might not agree about the war because that, too, is patriotic.
"Finally we heard Taps played once and then again in the distance like an echo unseen by anyone. It was very moving."
This is the soldier's letter that Eastern Woman sent with her note:
Letter from the sandbox
"I do not know where or how to begin but here it goes. Every day I wake up in a country of millions that would love to make it my last. My job is a very important part of trying to make this hell-hole a better place. Whether it is blowing up houses where insurgents live or just plain blowing everything up when our brothers get pinned down and are counting on us to make it through another day.
"Right now it is about 110 degrees and I work a 24-hour shift and of that time I get about 5 hours to sleep. My time off is spent doing hygiene, laundry, and trying to relax. Do I like the Army? No, but I love what I do in it. We are called King of Battle for a reason.
"I am really good at what I do, but even you know that I've always been good at everything I do. When I leave this place, I will have been here for 15 months. By being over here I have seen people I know gone in a heartbeat.
"The point I'm trying to get at is life is way too short. There are no
guarantees and yesterday is gone. You can't change the past so there's no use being in it, and there might not be a future. All we have is this very moment and some don't even have that.
"I know that I have made mistakes in the past. Things seemed to never go my way, but that's just how life is. I feel like I shouldn't have walked away when I rolled my truck and other situations.
"I know I am here for a reason. I will probably spend my life trying to figure out why and still probably never find out. I put my faith in God and know that he has and will always take care of me. I'm trying not to live my life in regret or in wonderment. If I stumble in life, I will always get back up and then it just becomes another chapter in it.
"Don't worry about me, I'll be okay.
"Love (from your son)"
My thinking about war and this country has been changing a lot in the past three years. It's being crystallized by the book I am reading, "The Dominion of War," by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton.
The book's thesis is that America is a country in which war is one of, if not "the," dominating factor(s) in our existence as a nation. War for Americans is considered a necessity to defend our "freedom" and liberty, or in the case of even so-called "just" wars (WWII), to defend the freedom and liberty of others or the world. This notion is also historically combined with the concept of divine providence and we place religious ministers within our armed forces to provide religious justification for our pure motives.
I honestly believe the concept is so strong that it impinges on the
current politics of this war. On the one hand, more than 65% of our population thinks Iraq was a mistake that is being mishandled, that is going badly, and that we should withdraw in the next year.
On the other hand, because we view our military actions as a defense of our liberty, or in the guise of an altruistic liberation of people who are under domination, it's easy for the supporters of the Iraq war to claim we must support our troops who are idealistic defenders of freedom when they are in the field.
In fact, the action in Iraq cannot be viewed for what it truly is in our
collective psyche, a brash, imperialistic grab for control of the Middle East balance of power and protection of the oil resources in that area. Oil for our consumption, and of course the protection of the profit flow for oil companies and the entire American economy that depends on cheap and constant access to petroleum. Think for a minute about the attractive plastic packaging on so many products we casually throw away.
It therefore is problematic to disengage from Iraq because we as a nation cannot admit that we went into Iraq for reasons that had nothing to do with honor, liberty or freedom.
I do not seek to dishonor the service of the men and women of the
Military. I respect most of those who undertake this dangerous job.
But the letter above from a soldier in the field is very disturbing.
I believe it is representative of a certain portion of our troops in Iraq. In it are intertwined the concepts of "blowing everything up" with making Iraq a better place and finally with the notion that God will protect the soldier, which essentially makes the soldier a tool of God's designs. Should the same God not also protect the innocent Iraqi citizen blown up by that soldier or by a suicide bomber?
I do not seek to disrespect those who have died in battle. But perhaps we need to recollect Memorial Day, its trappings of patriotism, God, and pageantry for what they might actually be--a glorification and memorialization of the use of violence and might, not to protect our freedom, but rather to protect our way of life.
Our way of life is overwhelmingly mired in the consumption of 25% of the world's resources(and the profits to be made in and around that consumption) as our birthright because we are a divinely inspired nation. We claim ourselves "conceived in liberty." Our battlefields from Gettysburg to Fallen Timbers to Normandy to Chosun to Danang to Fallujah are "consecrated" and every battle in which Americans take part is ordained "under God" to be another event that gives "birth to freedom."
From 1492 to 2007, the common theme of our history is that violence and bloodshed has accompanied our expansion and well-being as a nation. If you doubt it, ask the Native Americans or Filipinos or Vietnamese or Iraqis. That makes us no more exceptional or divinely guided than the Old World countries whose histories are the same. We only seek to close our eyes to the reality by making fine speeches and playing "Taps" sublimely in our continuing delusion.