Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Taking Down the Sign

More than a few years ago, we put a sign in our window that said, “Keep 'em safe – Bring 'em home.” It was bright yellow and red. We just took the sign down, now that the President told us that the war in Iraq is over. The sign was in the window so long that the colors have almost entirely faded away.

It hardly seems worth quibbling that the war was never officially declared or that we still have thousands of armed personnel in Iraq and tens of thousands more in neighboring countries. I choose to celebrate the fact that, by ending our total occupation of Iraq, we have taken one small step in the right direction.

Obama is trying to get as much political advantage as he can. Naturally. I choose at the moment not to argue about whether he kept his promise or whether he should have acted more quickly. Nor do I feel compelled to debate the extent to which the war, which was started under George Bush, was supported by both major political parties. I'm not in the mood to contemplate the overwhelming influence militarist corporations continue to have on our country.

All I feel right now is sad. It was all so unnecessary. It accomplished so little. So many lives were lost. So many people have been injured.

We are being told that after the Viet Nam war, our soldiers were traumatized because they came home to an ungrateful country. But that is only part of the story. The soldiers who came back from Viet Nam felt alienated because they knew themselves that they had been fighting a pointless war. They knew that the people had been lied to. They knew that their fellow soldiers had died and been injured for nothing. Even if we had welcomed them with parades, they would still have known the truth and had trouble fitting back into civilian life.

This time we are being barraged with news stories about soldiers being welcomed home by motorcycle motorcades and flag-waving neighbors. The politicians who sent these soldiers off to war encourage us to join in these displays because they want us to feel good about what they sent the soldiers to do.

I don't think the soldiers will be fooled by a few parades and welcome-home banners. They know what they did. They know what they saw. They know what an awful waste it was. They will have trouble fitting in for the same reasons that a lot of others who stayed here in the U.S. have trouble feeling at home in their own country. It bothers us that we keep sending our young people off to fight wars that should not be fought.

1 comment:

  1. I've always felt uncomfortable watching the news stories of the soldiers coming home. Those stories rang false, somehow. Making a spectacle of a homecoming with flags and motorcycles, setting up a surprise father-child reunion in front of an audience and tv camera . . . these scenes, while authentic for those involved, was too 'manufactured' for me. I felt like I was being told how to feel about the war.

    And now you've written about this in a way that helps me understand my reaction to the stories. And, further, you've expressed how these soldiers, too, will have trouble fitting in. Because the war was a waste and was violent and horrible and a big lie.

    Thanks, Lee. I think you've really hit it.