Discontented Discourse on the Value of War
“Let’s have a war/ so you can go die/ Let’s have a war/ We can start in New Jersey.” — Fear
“Where have all the cowboys gone?” — Paula Cole
Vietnam and Korea not withstanding, we’ve been pretty damn lucky no one has decided to drop the bomb on anyone else lately. Fidel had a few, China has a few, some breakaway republics still have a few… but that whole nuclear annihilation/mine shaft gap thing just never materialized. For all the paranoia the bomb brought, you have to admit that it has prevented another world war. From 1912-1945 we had two, count ’em, two world wars. In the past 52 years? None.
We’ve tried to invent some enemies since then, probably out of governmental boredom. Communists and Joseph McCarthy? Both died from free thought and alcoholism. Nixon and Vietnam? Both left in disgrace. Bush and Saddam? Both laughed away.
By nature and despite the media’s best intentions, I think Americans are, and always have been, skeptical and highly unwilling to go to war. It takes a hell of an event to get people pissed off enough to start a war. Case in point? WWII. No one, I mean no one and nothing could convince this country to join the Allies until the Japanese bombed the living shit out of us at Pearl Harbor. We were vehemently opposed to the war in Europe and we systematically ignored the genocide in Germany for close to four years because we valued the lives of our citizens enough NOT to send them to certain slaughter for what was, for all intents and purposes, someone else’s problem. As wrong as the Nazis were, we weren’t going to touch it with a 50 foot pole.
Until, that is, the Japanese MADE it our problem. Sure, it took the images of dead American soldiers amid sinking ships at Pearl Harbor to get our asses in gear, but it did, didn’t it? Within 24 hours we were at war. This country united itself and put forth the greatest industrial and technological effort ever seen by mankind. Women, who had won the right to vote not 25 years before, provided the largest workforce in the world (and we never looked back, thank you, war caused the women’s movement, but that’s another treatise). America sacrificed its best men and women to fight the horrible wrong, but we won, dammit. We won because you don’t just let someone walk into your backyard, kill a shitload of people, and let it slide.
Do you know what the image of dead babies being carried out of the rubble in Oklahoma City did to galvanize people against right wing extremist movements? What the image of bleeding schoolchildren on an Arkansas playground did to galvanize people against the gun culture? What the image of Rock Hudson, movie star and icon, wasting away of AIDS did to promote condom use? What seeing Rodney King and Reginald Denny getting the shit beat out of them did for race relations?
I say start another fucking war. Today. To restore sanity, to restore order, to restore the principles of what this country is all about.
But can we, without the face of an enemy to put on a poster? Shouldn’t those assholes who looted Los Angeles be on a poster? Shouldn’t Charlton Heston for all his gun-crazed lunacy? Why can’t we fight this shit the right way? Why can’t we see extremism, no matter what it looks like, for what it is: insanity?
To fight extremism, you have to fight back any way you know how against any one who tries to force you to believe that their way is the only way to do things because if you don’t obey them, they’ll kill you. Don’t believe me? Try and watch “Christian” television for more than 20 minutes. Listen to the psychobabble coming from the mouths of your elected officials. Try and talk to a redneck about anything other than Alan Jackson’s suds preference or Kathie Lee’s latest tearful opinion on bad, bad people.
This country was formed on the idea that each citizen has the obligation to respect the right of every individual person to do, say, think, and live however the fuck they want and as long as you don’t harm others in the process, you shouldn’t be persecuted, harassed, or for that matter, blown up for it. No matter how fucked up you may think they are, no matter how fucked up they think you are, in this country, you have the inalienable right to do and think whatever the hell you want.
And if you cant even respect that most basic of principles, you have no place in a civilized society. “An eye for an eye?” Yes. “Love thy neighbor?” Absolutely. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you?” Yep. Those are basic human ideals, not religious in nature. So the Christians said it best: let’s give them their props and move along.
Extremists do not, and will never respect those ideals. They may say they do, but in reality they couldn’t disagree more. Anything less than their point of view in no less than 100% of everyone’s mind is not enough for them. They must control everything in their power and they will gladly kill (you first, of course; what do you take us for, martyrs?) to get what they want.
Fact is, there aren’t that many people out there trying to take our freedoms, our thoughts, or our choices. It’s just that the rational people aren’t bothering to stand up to the assholes anymore. And that’s the problem. We’ve become complacent. We think the freaks will go away if we blame something else for their existence (TV, MTV, movies, art, nudity, jazz, rock and roll, rap, marijuana, liberals, sex, women, men… )
Maybe it’s time to make extremism our enemy. Maybe we should put our fucking foot down the next time someone shoots a 12-year old girl on the street and say fuck the Second Amendment, guns are killing children and children are killing children in the playgrounds and as a civilized society we have no place for this kind of crap, we’re banning all guns today and so what if you have to give up shooting deer twice a year for fun and profit, sorry, folks, that’s the relatively small price you’re gonna have to pay in order to raise our children in safety.
War requires sacrifice. Of life, of possessions, of values, of ideals. We’re so wrapped up in our “things”that we shudder at the thought of having to sacrifice them for the common good.
Here’s an idea. The next time some ratings-obsessed TV news director decides to air, live, some deranged maniac blowing his brains out at four in the afternoon, get all your friends away from their oh-so-important meeting or aerobics class or Oprah show and get in the goddamn car, drive to the station (or at the very least get on your fucking phone and call their asses) park outside their gates, and scream your lungs out because what got beamed into your house was frankly, unacceptable in a civilized society.
Picket churches you know that picket abortion clinics. Support artists whose work gets banned by people who, just because they got elected to make laws, are now your official purveyors of good taste. If you see someone in a grocery store hitting their child because they won’t stop being curious about the world around them, get in their face or at least get in a cop’s face and hope they have kids that they love.
Get mad as hell, motherfuckers. Don’t take it anymore. People accuse my generation of looking angry and listening to angry music but you know what, we never take action when we get pissed off about shit. My parents got pissed off about shit like Vietnam and even though he doesn’t take up signs my father will not buy Nike stock or their products and encourages his friends to do the same.
I guarantee if you get pissed off the extremists won’t like their own medicine very much. But maybe they’ll take a second look at what they’re doing. Then again, they might blow your head off. If you declare war, however, you must be willing to make any sacrifice to win.
“Extreme” is a marketing term to us. To others, it’s a powerful, active, weapon of mass destruction.