Ten years ago I achieved a major milestone in my life; I became a teenager. After longing to be given freedom, privileges, and their attendant responsibilities, I finally joined the ranks of the coolest of cool. Someone on the same level as those high schoolers I so admired. The same category as people who could drive! Kids who could go to the movies without a parent!
The same age group as many young men and women who could go to war and die.
In the year and a half since 9/11, I, along with millions of Americans, had been whipped into a fearful frenzy. Scared of attack, scared of finding white powder in our mail, scared of people who didn’t look quite like us.
I spent the next several years being intermittently angry at this shadowy enemy, proud that we were bombing the hell out of them, and frustrated that the military wasn’t doing more to get it over with quickly. I hadn’t quite made the connection between non-violent cooperation in the domestic market, and a decidedly anti-war stance.
My brother served two tours in Iraq; I prayed for his safety every night. He was blessed enough to come home. There are thousands who weren’t. But even having a brother over there fighting, I didn’t quite get it.
Sure, the estimated American 4488 military deaths, the 111,827-122,303 Iraqi civilian deaths, nearly $2 trillion in taxpayer spending, and ten years of constant warfare (I don’t care what the president says, we’re still at war), have been taxing to our patience. But, what has the war really cost us?
We’ll put a boot in their ass, it’s the American way.
I firmly believe that we are still in this war because, like my formerly naive self, the vast majority of Americans just don’t get it.
My grandmother was my age during WWII. She endured rations, blackout drills, and saw many of the young men she grew up with go away to war and never come back; including the man she was engaged to marry. War was very real. Very present.
Many of our parents remember, or maybe even fought in, the Vietnam War. My fiance’s father shares a story about sitting in a truck on a balmy summer evening with one of his best friends, listening to the day’s draft lottery numbers being called out. His friend was drafted. He wasn’t.
War touched everyone in tangible ways.
Sure, many of us know someone who has served, and some of us even know a soldier who lost their life, but the last ten years have seemingly cost us very little in the terms of our everyday lives
For many Americans, this war has not seemed costly because the enemy has been so dehumanized that they can’t comprehend the death of an Iraqi man, woman, or child as a tragic cost.
For me, war became real when I finally reconciled my libertarianism with the main tenants of my pro-life stance; the sanctity of life and the importance of natural rights.
When you believe that life is a sacred thing, that all men and women are valuable, that everyone just for the sake of being is entitled to their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, those blurry definitions of “enemy” begin to clear. You begin to see beyond the color of their skin and their geographic location, and they step out of this shadowy dominion of your brain where they are implicated as the bad guy.
So, for those of you who still, in some way, support what continues to happen every day in Iraq, Iran, and many other places in faraway lands: Find what makes it real to you, because it’s real for those who fight and die in it. Reclaim your humanity, consider the costs of our country’s actions. End the war.