We are not at war. But if we’re lucky and smart, Trump might be just as good as.
War is hell. I’ll take that as a given. But humans seem to have an addiction to it. Sometimes they come close, a veteran of The War to End All Wars coming back to start the next a couple decades later, but overall in the modern era, we have a roughly 70 year loop. Why?
If a generation is vaguely 30 years, then it’s about as soon as enough people don’t grow up with firsthand stories of how awful it was, don’t get that ingrained memory of what we’re really talking about when we rattle the sabers. It’s not politics. It’s not pride. It’s suffering of a scale and intensity most of us can’t imagine, no matter how many times we see Saving Private Ryan.
As I study history, comparing nations and centuries, I see a recurring pattern. It’s a blog so I’ll summarize:
We have a war. Then we spend the next generation and a half improving human society. Reminded of just how important peace is, of what really matters in life, and of our communal humanity, we don’t mind contributing a piece of our paycheck to create a social order that preserves us. We know that this is not only ethically right, but in our own self interest.
Then we forget. Those years click by and we start to see Us and Them as different, and say “They don’t deserve My time or concern or money.” Especially the money, god help us. So we clamp down, get mean, regress, let the hot momentary emotions overrule the deeper warm ones.
And so we repeat.
70 year loop? It’s been years since WWII. (The Vietnam War in all this is another post.) I look at the actions of the Trump Administration and the cheers of the people who think They Muslims don’t have a place in Our America, and I see forgetfulness. I see people who’ve forgotten what it is to be a refugee, to be vulnerable, to be threatened by guns instead of terrorized by Fox News.
So what now? Do we have to go to war? I don’t think we do. God I hope we don’t. We can remember what’s at stake, how foolish it is to respond to concerns and suspicion with aggression. That dropping bombs on one terrorist makes 10 more in his place. That turning our backs on those in need shows moral bankruptcy and reason for villification. We can realize that demonizing Islam is working with ISIS/Daesh to create an artificial religious war.
Basically, by seeing the awful policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration, if we do it right, we can relearn the lesson of what really matters in life. Without pulling a trigger.
Or we can do it the old way.