As I listen to news of a UN convoy being attacked (driver killed, relief suspended) and GPS-marked schools and hospitals being bombarded (more dead and injured, including many children), my throat shokes with fury and sadness.
What–if anything–shall I post on the blog? The unevenness of firepower and the brutality of the invasion must be obvious to anyone, regardless of which “side” they’re on. There’s no need for more words, especially as mine would be regurgitations from other sources. (Note that international journalists are not allowed into the war zone.)
So I turn to investigate the nature of my disturbance. What is it that makes me loathe war’s brutality and unfairness? What lurks darkly in my psyche? Aside from war-time memories in our hometown, the death and maiming of many in our family and community, there is, of course, the shame of belonging to a people who committed atrocities beyond comprehension.
Reflecting on his actions as a US soldier in Vietnam, his return home to depression, guilt, rage, alcoholism, and his subsequent training as a Zen monk, Claude Anshin Thomas suggests we look at our own attitudes towards violence.
… if we look deeply into this matter, we can know that those who don’t fight are not separate from those who fight; we are all responsible for war. War is not something that happens external to us; it is an extension to us, its roots being within our very nature. …
I believe that nonveterans don’t make the effort to understand [former soldiers], because to touch the reality of our experience would mean that they would have to touch the same sort of pain and suffering inside themselves and consequently recognize their responsibility. …
We can pretend we are not violent. Whenever we are confronted with violence, we as individuals and as a society can attempt to hide from it, we can attempt to push it away. But if we don’t touch this part in ourselves, if we don’t own our complicity in the many wars that are being fought around the world and at home, if we don’t become aware of our own potential for violence, then we’re not whole, we’re not balanced.
source: Thomas, C.A. (2004). At hell’s gate: a soldiers journey from war to peace. Boston: Shambala, p. 50-51.