Photo by ttarasiuk
There are plenty of messy topics I don’t shy away from here—politics, religion, divorce, depression—but there are a few that I definitely avoid, mostly because I feel so confused and conflicted about them that I don’t know where to even begin my thoughts, let alone how to wrap them up.
War and peace, and the people actively participating in one or the other—and sometimes both at once—is one of those topics.
On Veterans’ Day, I know it doesn’t have to be complicated. All I need to do is think about those who are serving and who have served, and thank them in the most sincere way I can. But I’m still left with so many questions:
- Does a general “thank you” one day a year even begin to cover the cost of lives, heartache and injury of serving in the armed forces?
- How do I take my respect and compassion for people who are fighting in conflicts I don’t believe in and untangle it from an approach to power and violence that I don’t support? (Not only was I raised by pacifist parents, I am now part of a Mennonite-affiliated church and married to someone who went to a Mennonite college.)
- How do I take a meaningful stand against the imbalanced nature of the armed forces—that a large percentage of those joining the military and being deployed to combat zones overseas come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, where college and decent jobs are often not viable options. What do I do with my guilt that other people’s husbands and brothers and children and being deployed so that mine don’t have to?
- And how can I connect to any of this in a truly meaningful way when not one person I love deeply has died in a war, been indelibly impacted by one, or is currently risking their life in a dangerous part of the world? My grandfather was in World War II, but was stationed in the South Pacific with the Navy. My father was up for the Vietnam draft in 1966, but then my mom got pregnant with my brother. (Even though I wasn’t even born yet, I can’t help but feel thankful that he didn’t have to go.)
If I wait until I have these questions answered before writing a post about this issue, it will probably never happen. And that isn’t right, because it’s just another way of living in denial about something that is very real in our world, and very real in the lives of many individuals.
Plus, I bet I’m not alone with my collection of complex feelings. Earlier this year I wrote about Why we like imperfect posts—the one that aren’t all neatly thought through and don’t have all the answers. With input from many blogger and Twitter friends, I came to the tentative conclusion that “the posts we’re struggling with invite others to struggle along with us—to participate and problem solve together.” Those are, without a doubt, my favorite moments as a blogger, so I invite you to struggle with me, enlighten me, and share your own stories here. Through our honest struggle, may we honor all who are serving and have served.