"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Thursday, August 19, 2004 Regularly, I have revelations that to other people have been obvious all along. This past weekend, I had a revelation that probably makes you say "well ... duh!"
Our wars are fought by children.
I'd heard people talk about this before, but it had never hit home before. Part of it is that, growing up, people in the military were all older than me, and then as I grew older they were my peers. And then recently, the only ones you see on TV are the officers giving the briefings. Sure, you see it in M*A*S*H* and in the movies, but that's TV and movies.
Last weekend, I was in Oklahoma City officiating at the wedding of a young man who used to be in my youth group at St. Michael and St. George. After high school, he joined the Air Force and we've kept in touch as he moved around from basic training to Kuwait to London and finally to Andrews AFB where he and his (now) wife are currently stationed.
After Stewart picked me up at the airport, we went back to my hotel room and he showed me pictures from his tour in Kuwait. They were pretty typical pictures ... people holding big guns guarding trucks and gates. Interspersed were pictures of locals and camels and stuff like that. But it was the pictures of Stewart and his fellow soldiers that struck me. As I looked at them with their huge guns and body armor, I could only think of one thing:
My God, they're children.
Now, in one way, they're really not. I live with college students every day, and calling them young adults is really much more accurate. But in even the most mature of them, there is still a lot of child there. It's not vice but something beautiful. As I approach the ripe old age of 36, I'm finally able to see it.
And so as I looked at these men and women in the desert ... and as I looked at the honor guard that held their swords over Stewart and Nicki as they walked down the aisle ... it was all I could do to stop shaking my head in disbelief.
My God, they're children.
I am used to thinking about this in terms of other countries. In terms of the Sandanistas arming 12 year olds with AK-47s. In terms of terrorist groups using teenagers with bomb-laden backpacks as human land mines. But it's not just them. It's us, too.
There's a logical argument. The human body is at its physical peak when you're Stewart's age (I can tell you for a fact that even at 35, mine is far from at its peak!). If you're going into battle, you want machinery that is in top, new condition ... not something broken down and used.
But that logic really gets to the heart of what is wrong with all this ... and why we have war to begin with. It's viewing human beings as machinery to be used ... used against each other.
I'm not naive enough to think that all wars can just stop ... or even that we stop having them fought by these children who fight them now. I wish it were so, but it's not and, frankly, it ain't gonna be any time soon.
But maybe, just maybe if we just keep remembering that behind all the rhetoric and all the stuff that makes it to us through the military pool reporters the truth is that when it comes down to it, it's pretty much our children fighting their children ... maybe if we remember that, we be more likely to follow the criteria of Just War theory and use war only as a last resort instead of as a first strike.
In the meantime, pray for Stewart and Nicki. Pray for Paul Scharre. Pray for all the children, ours and "theirs" (whomever "they" may be). Pray that they might not only be kept from harms way but be kept from having to choose to harm each other.
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."