Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day

I'm no poet. I have no great eloquent way to express my gratitude toward those who have put on uniforms and taken up arms to protect others. All I can say is that I kind of wish that I knew some surviving veterans well enough to go over and give them a hug without getting a punch or at least a bewildered look in return.

My attitude toward the military has shifted dramatically over the years more than once. My worldview has gone though a few major upheavals.

In childhood, during those prepubescent years when we first begin to form (what we think are) our own opinions on important matters, I was a pacifist. I remember writing a speech in the fifth or sixth grade on the terribly original subject of War. I researched and reported on the human and economic costs of war, coming to the terribly original conclusion that war is bad. It costs a lot of money, and people die.

The idea that there are worse things than war, that nobility and sacrifice are virtuous, that right must sometimes take up arms against wrong, never occurred to me.

My teacher ate it up. She led the class in giving me a round of applause, and offered me a chance to present this speech publicly in some silly forum or another. There I would stand a chance to win a ribbon or perhaps even a certificate with my name embossed on it.

I declined the invitation, taking the excuse that I would be too nervous. At the time I probably believed that, not yet understanding that my personal shyness does not translate to stage fright. I realized before much longer that I'm perfectly comfortable getting up to speak in front of groups of any size. I only panic once I set the microphone down, walk offstage, and need to try to make conversation with a single human being. Audiences are easy to deal with - actual people aren't.

My pacifism was eventually replaced with a strong militaristic streak. A couple of years later I was reading magazines like Gung Ho and Soldier of Fortune, planning to apply for ROTC with hopes of getting into the airborne and jumping out of planes, and thoroughly romanticizing all aspects of military life.

This too had faded before it actually came time to start preparing for adult life. By the time early adult life rolled around, I was back on the pacifist side of the fence, but this time because I had become a Christian and thought that Jesus demanded pacifism of his followers. I no longer think that, having since studied the Scriptures and theology in some depth. I still don't think that Christians are ever called to be aggressors, but I don't think there's any moral problem with taking up arms in defense of yourself or others.

I now think that devoting yourself to the defense and protection of others is laudable, and I deeply appreciate those who do it. I include police officers in this as well as members of the military, and think that soldiers who have never seen combat are as much to be admired as those who have. By enlisting, they are offering themselves up and saying that they are willing to die if called upon to do so.

To all those who have volunteered to protect and defend in uniform, thank you.

As for that stupid kid and untrained Christian that I used to be, I apologize for them. Not only did they not know what they were talking about, but they were each really, really sure that they did. I'm glad they had the opportunity to survive and learn, in no small part thanks to you whose service we remember today.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son pointing at a squirrel, who seems to be trying to hide from either him or the camera.

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