Saturday, June 19, 2004

Thinking about War

Driving through the German and Italian countryside these past few weeks, one cannot help but notice the beautiful fields of bright red poppies which have sprung up haphazardly everywhere. It is impossible for me to see a poppy, especially here in Europe, and not think of the First World War and John McCrae’s haunting poem “In Flanders Field”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw
The Torch: be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Having of late read several books set during the First and Second World Wars, and hearing news out of Baghdad every single day, I have been obsessed by war in general. Does anything change except the technology? Young people die and the world is horrified yet we still go on killing senselessly. I have thought about this a million times over the years and I keep coming back to a feeling that truly bothers me, that if man were truly peaceful and loving, war would not exist. I am an optimist and want to believe that man is good, yet when one looks at history, past and current, one is tempted to believe the worst, that we are exercising our free choice when we enter into a state of war.

I don’t pretend to have an answer. Looking for resources on this question, I came across a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that fascinated me, “While war and non-violence do sound contradictory, they are both conflict resolution vehicles. I have said time and again that Satyagraha (non-violent struggle) is not same as making peace. It is still a fight that has to be fought as bravely as a soldier in a war -- just the weapon is different.

Many people mistake non-violence as compromise or avoidance of conflict. It is not. On the other hand, it is standing up for what is right (truth) and justice. Fighting a violent war is better than accepting injustice. So, really there is no contradiction in fighting a just war, and believing in non-violence. Both are duties to be carried out to preserve justice and truth.”

Part of the problem is deciding what is and what isn’t just. Al Qaeda feels perfectly justified propagating violence on us. We felt justified enough in our outrage in the wake of September 11th to bomb Afghanistan. They think they are in the right and we superciliously believe we have the moral high ground. Lest you think I sympathize with them; I do not. However, I wonder if we are, indeed reaping what we have sown, for hundreds of years. I don’t know. I wish I did.


Post a Comment

<< Home