There are few people for whom writing, singing, or drinking to “Peace on Earth” during the holiday season will mean very much. But after nearly four years in a sticky war, it should.
So here’s a suggestion: spend one hour thinking about War and Peace (not the book). Think about being American. Think
about moms and dads. Not just moms like Cindy Sheehan, who lost her 24-year-old son in Iraq, or dads like Senator-elect Jim Webb, who
desperately wants his son to return from Iraq, but even those parents out of the spotlight, parents of babies or teens or Naval Academy
plebes, because all of them have probably reflected on war in a different light in recent years.
During the last presidential election, a colleague and I had a conversation about war. It was a time when I repeatedly lost my
patience with anyone who did not reject the President and his unjust invasion of Iraq. I knew nothing about my co-worker’s politics, but I understood he was a weekly churchgoer with Midwestern roots, a Ph.D., and the father of two college-age children, so I bit my tongue just in case. Then he said something that spoke volumes and seemed so wise to me then, and even more so now that I too am a parent. He told me he could not support a war that he would not, in good conscience, send his own children off to fight.
If only everyone felt that way. We would have demanded more evidence of WMD before risking American lives in Iraq. Like Michael Moore, we might have insisted administration officials send their children too. Imagine world events right now if, say, Barbara and Jenna Bush were stationed in Basra. If Mary Cheney had been guarding an oil processing plant in Kirkuk, or Nick Rumsfeld took mortar fire in Baghdad.
There is an unconscious human instinct to keep one’s children safe, and so, as inhuman as I perceive President Bush to be, I am also
reminded that he is a father. If I really put forth some effort, I can believe he too felt a pang every time one of his girls got a boo-boo on the monkey bars. So how is it that he can continue to ask America’s parents to put faith in his utter failure, one that claims the lives of their children (not to mention thousands of Iraqi children) every day? He’s the patrol on duty, and he’s watching our children run across a busy highway. It must stop.
The families of those who are serving and of our war dead are the only people in this country sacrificing anything in this war, voluntarily or not. The rest of us go about our daily routines and dare to complain about gas prices, while our lame duck President sits on Santa’s lap and asks for an exit strategy.
There is no other time of year when Peace and Goodwill are so present in our lives (look in your mailbox, for starters!), when families are gathered together, when we all aspire to a healthy and happy life in the New Year. And while Peace may be an abstract and implausible concept, a word with so much and so little meaning, we can still pursue the ideal by ending the war and bringing our children home, now.