Let's Talk

What are we doing here? Ultimately I think we are trying to change lives. Yes, we are reading books and watching movies and studying history, but that is useless if we don’t use it here, now and in the future. War, some people think, is the nature of man. I personally do not think this. I agree that war has been made by humans all throughout history, but I believe that demonstrates habit not nature. I believe there are options beyond war and there are examples of men and women in history who have rejected war, even violence altogether, and have since spawned at least new ideas and at most new world religions.

Who are we? Are we the future world leaders who will make change in the world or just people who read about the past and decide to repeat it without question? I hope we would care enough about the world and other people to not just repeat history but instead make history by trying something new. Like what? Like love for starters. Not the kind of love that you wear on a gold necklace, but the kind that makes you sell all your gold necklaces and give the money to people who need it more than you. Not the kind of love that defends itself but the kind that sacrifices itself without violence or resistance. Not the kind of love that kills an enemy but the kind that embraces them knowing they might be stabbed in the heart.

I’m not sure if that kind of love is action-packed enough to make its way into the movies 300 or Gladiator, but it was apparently enough to make it into the movies Gandhi and The Passion of the Christ. Why do we associate the words bravery, honor, discipline and loyalty more with the first two movies (300 & Gladiator) than we do with the last two (The Passion & Gandhi)? Maybe it’s because we like immediate gratification or because we like to imagine a world where good guys kill bad guys and eliminate them forever. I’m not sure. Why have we not headed the message of Abraham Lincoln when he said, “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?” Maybe it’s not glamorous, but I imagine a world where war is outdated and resistance is weakness, where peace is possible and nonviolence is strength and I like that. Maybe I’m crazy.

I have watched Vietnam movies, read Vietnam books, perused Vietnam poems, listened to Vietnam veterans, discussed Vietnam with my friends, wrote many pages on Vietnam, and was supposed to write my thoughts on Caputo’s book Rumor of War here in this thought piece on Vietnam, but I think there is something else I would like to do. Caputo himself says in his book, “So I guess every generation is doomed to fight its war, to endure the same old experiences, suffer the loss of the same old illusions, and learn the same old lessons on its own” (Pg. 81). I would like to debate that. Rather than remain a topic or lecture, I think war and Vietnam can turn from papers into practices and from controversies into conversations. Too often violence is a shelf item packed into articles and books and speeches every day in America, let’s talk about that. War is a political agenda stuffed into homes, foreign countries and international debate rooms, let’s talk about that. Love is an overused, ill-defined, comfortable, unsacrificial, flower-embedded, chocolate-covered, sappy word apparently unfit for use in our national politics, let’s talk about that. Why is it seen as strong to fight and kill others for our country but weak to object to war and seek peaceful reconciliation with others? Why do the words “friends” and “family” limit themselves exclusively to the people we grew up with and to people from our own country?

I think humans can change their course. There are many problems in our world including starvation, suffering, disease, gaps in wealth, corrupt leaders and disillusioned citizens, but I think there are very deep reasons why these problems are occurring. To say this is a natural state of man confuses correlation with causation, I believe. Humans do make bad decisions, but I think when provided with the education to understand what good options are available people will choose to do good things. There are people who take more than they give, but we could all do better at giving at least, if not more, than what we take. I like this model personally and I think this is what I would like for us to talk about in class. We can study war all day long and continue to make decisions which perpetuate war in our culture or consider it inevitable, but we can also study war and then start to consider new options. Let’s talk about that.