Can’t We All Just Get Along?


I get blazing mad whenever one of those knee-jerk “patriots” cry, “You don’t support our troops!” if anyone should criticize the military, our government’s foreign policy or any specific wars, invasions or other actions we’ve taken in this brave new millennium.

I was in the peacetime United States Army. Since my honorable discharge, I’ve served several Veteran’s Administration medical facilities in several states, and in private practice, I’ve made a special study of the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – which the military routinely denies even exists and doesn’t even try to treat in many VA facilities.

Yes, I was in the Army, and No – I wasn’t in combat. Nevertheless, with the idea of war always hanging over my shoulder, my life was different. I never really understood the “grunts” — the infantry without appreciable rank — who wanted nothing more than to see “action.”

Gung Ho! A brief attempt at dating one confirmed this.  He could not understand why I needed to drive to the University of North Carolina to hear a concert or walk through an art museum, let alone see a sidewalk (those were in short supply around this bucolic southern town). I could not understand why he got so excited about a classified military exercise about which he would tell me little. I remember him telling me that it had something to do with checking into a cheap motel in Texas somewhere and showing how he and his buddies could save U.S. oilfields.

That mindset, and the devotion to it, is the reason this poll and its findings are so powerful. I find it nothing short of wonderful that anyone actually cares what a veteran thinks or feels.  This is, of course, as it should be. A veteran knows what war is like.  Even the non-combat types like me are trained to at least understand what it can be like. Whether or not a soldier has actually chosen a military career — and we haven’t drafted anyone into the military for many, many years — there is an intense psychological conditioning.

I have seen them chant, as they march along, and heard about rituals of chanting as they jump from planes.  They are trained not to think about danger or any kind of context of life and worth and value. Not only does nobody care what these dedicated warriors think, they are held back from thinking.  This is necessary to have a fighting force, this numb mentality about which civilians know nothing.  If not experienced in the first person, it can be experienced in proximity.  As a psychiatrist, I found it chilling.

The day I came home from the military, I remember telling my mother and father of blessed memory that I wanted to join a pacifist organization.  They didn’t want me to, of course.  They were strictly of the “Don’t make waves” mentality.  They would not let me wear a “Jewish Power” Button in the 8th grade, even on the back of my lapel.  They were afraid that anything I did would call attention to myself in a potentially bad way.

No, I have never joined a pacifist organization, even now.  But I have gotten over my fear of making waves. I have actually believed that as the world became closer, war would become harder.  I thought that with the internet people would talk to people from other countries, and find out that everybody was the same really, so we should not kill each other.

HA! What happened instead, I think, is that the internet has been used for nefarious propaganda. So when my husband pointed my attention to a story about getting express travel to anyplace in the world in only two hours, I felt a thrill of excitement.  Places in the world becoming physically closer is a joy. I hope it stops war.  But my fear is that it could be a reality only for the really rich.

I don’t see anybody trying to “Beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…” as described in the Bible.  In other words, I simply do not see people retooling, changing wartime tools into peacetime tools.

Attempts to bring people closer have not made them any less warlike. Our beautiful government has not succeeded.  My belief is that they have not tried.  They have created an amazing underbelly class of disenfranchised people scraping for survival.

Maybe the way to stop war is to learn what it does to people. Taxpayers who are supporting this need to know.  They need their children and their children’s children to know.  No oil, no natural resources, no ideology of the masses, is worth loss of human life, or for that matter, the distorted human life that is promoted by military combat experience. Taxpayers should have access to all facilities.

Whether you take your family to visit veterans at a hospital, or obtain (through a congressional office) the right to visit a military unit, do it.   When you know about war and what it does to people, you will want to stop it as badly as I do. It is not the fate you want for yourself or your children.

I am a child of the sixties.  I remember the protest against the Vietnam war. I believed then that Darwinian evolution of human beings would end war. That hasn’ t happened, either. I wish I knew how to make it something we do with robots instead of humans, if it had to be done at all. I do not know how to make that happen. I do not know how to rise above simplistic Right-and-Left politics, and get to these serious issues. I do not know how to make (allegedly) bible-reading war hawks in our government read the verse of Isaiah and take it seriously.

In the words of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”


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