The Destruction of War: Illusions of Innocence, Wisdom, and Glory

May 28, 2008
“Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?” Holly Near, an anti-war activist, singer, and writer, poses the contradiction that many of us try to ignore when we choose to support a war. Everyone has their own excuses, saying our principles and morals make it the right thing to do, but the motivation does not justify the act. War is filled with destruction and violence, and it never solves a problem- it only silences it.

In the book My Brother Sam is Dead, by Collier & Collier, Tim, the protagonist’s, mother makes it clear that she does not approve of the violence of war. In the beginning, Tim disagrees with his mother’s opinion of war, and considers his brother Sam as being incredibly brave for fighting for his country, but by the end of the book, Tim just wants the war to end, and decides that neither side deserved his support. Though war doesn’t literally turn men into animals, it can take away their humanity. As José Narosky once said, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” War scars a person forever, whether physically or mentally. Once a person witnesses death and devastation in such a large degree, they are forever changed- often for the worse.

For instance, in eighth grader Ben W.’s poem about the Holocaust, “The White Flakes”, he writes “Children play / in the endless snowflakes / Catching them on their tongues / Only stopping / Because these little white flakes / Never melt.” The children are playing happily, oblivious to the chaos and despair around them. Their innocent fun only ends when they realize that the “snowflakes” they are playing with are really pieces of white ash from the crematoriums, and they begin to understand the full extent of the desolation around them.

“Dress it as we may, feather it, daub it with gold, huzza it, and sing swaggering songs about it, but what is war, nine times out of ten, but murder in uniform?” Even though Douglas Jerrold, an English dramatist and writer, lived in the 1800s, his words still ring true today. We build memorials, hold parades, and put up statues to honor our soldiers. They have done a good deed in serving their country, but what if their country is wrong? Bertrand Russell rightly said that “Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country.” War shouldn’t be put on a pedestal; this is only done because if everyone really knew the truth about war, no one would support it.
If you seriously consider our reasons for war, you will almost immediately come to the conclusion that it is one of the most illogical ways to resolve our issues. War only ends when enough people die that one side is too weak to go on fighting, not when the problem is successfully solved. Even for minor lawsuits, we make sure that the situation is judged fairly and everyone gets what they rightfully deserve. So why do we have such different methods of fixing our nation’s disputes? David Friedman once said, “The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.” Mothers reprimand their children for fighting amongst themselves. But who will reprimand our governments for doing the same on a horrifically larger and bloodier scale?

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