And for What?
Soldiers distill the most dramatic elements of life and of all its furthest frontiers. Not soldiers from one country or one cause, causes are not really theirs to decide, “theirs is merely but to do or die”. Nobility and self-sacrifice on the battlefield are endemic, they always have been; battle has always brought out the best and the worst in man. But a soldier in combat is always changed and rarely for the better (other than perhaps in the realization that the impossible is merely unusually difficult). Combat is always ghastly, whether one’s a victim or a victor; it changes a person, either making one callously indifferent to the harm one causes (too often leading some to relish it), or guilt ridden with a stain that won’t wash off. The casualties are not always those most seriously harmed, especially those granted the respite of passing on. Survivors have to keep on living with all of their scars, both the visible and those that soil their souls. This, despite all the modern efforts to depersonalize it, although such efforts are having an impact by making war less costly in terms of casualties for the more technologically advanced, thus making savagery seem more civilized and courage less necessary.
Politicians and journalists have taken more and more to hyperbolic demonization, minimizing the humanity of those who for some reason someone somewhere opposes, but the reasons are never really clear, at least to those for whom logic rather than emotion is relevant, more often than not because they have to be deliberately obfuscated in order gain popular support as most people would never accept the real reasons we find ourselves embroiled in ever more virulent emotional turmoil, insecurity and despair. And for what?
Justice, equality and the rule of law have lost all meaning and relevance in interstate affairs as the friends of the powerful violate them all with impunity while those less favored are accused of every conceivable violation and atrocity, regardless of the obvious hypocrisy, through an overwhelming and incessant barrage of propaganda, most of it false. The latter in turn permit themselves to be goaded into actions that further their adversaries’ goals, such actions frequently being planned and induced by secret clandestine operatives of supposedly friendly states who then betray the inept amateurs they’ve set up, reaping enormous rewards in the propaganda wars.
Our wars are pretty inexpensive now, at least as far as taxes are concerned; they’re being fought by volunteers with borrowed money, at least by those fighting elective wars; someone else someday will pay the price, and, oh yeah, the poor who no longer have access to credit but that’s a price we seem to believe we can afford, just blame the poor for the recent financial meltdown, not those that drove the interest rates up; credit is again for those who least need it, and of course, for the government. God love those chinks!
Today, on all sides, we’re creating a vast reservoir of hate, intolerance and fear, and why? We are turning the best among us on all sides into something both more and less than human but truly human no longer. And for what?
Endless propaganda, clandestine and covert provocations and out and out fraud, as well as easy credit as long as the proceeds end up in the pockets of the military-industrial complex Ike warned against, and the media of course, that keeps the fuel flowing and the fires burning and soldiers everywhere continue making noble sacrifices while suffering and inflicting suffering, killing and being killed, maiming and being maimed, inflicting and suffering psychological anguish and despair. And for what?
Profiteering? New settlements on someone else’s property? New ultimate solutions? What have those things to do with us? How is it that what we fought against for so long has now become our cause? Were we wrong then, are we wrong now or has all of this always been wrong, as a gentle Galilean once observed?
In times like this too many of us are indifferent to the existence of a heaven so long as there’s a hell; one different than the one we’re suffering through today; one where those ultimately responsible for all this suffering will go, far from today’s politicians comfortably hidden lairs.
 © Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2010; all rights reserved