I don’t know

March 9, 2009

I’m not sure what this post is about or where it is going to go.

You see I have been feeding my brain for the last 2 months and it hasn’t fully digested the information yet. Usually when it has it burps out a blog entry. It hasn’t really done that yet. Maybe because it has been such a big meal.

Anyway, what have I been feeding it? I watched the Ken Burn PBS series on the US Civil War, then his series on the Second World War. And finally I watched the Ten Thousand Day War about the Vietnam conflict. I have been trying to put this into context. Huge numbers of men, women and children died in these wars. 620,000 in the Civil War, 400,000 in WW2 and 50,000 US Soldiers in Vietnam. Huge numbers by any account. But then those numbers lose all context when we look at the Chinese civil war where 20 million people died. I can’t get my head around that.

Then I have to juxtapose that with our current conflicts. In 5 years of “war” in Iraq the US has lost 4,000. Canada has lost just over 100 in Afghanistan. And we are devastated?

In the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864 the US lost 4,000 in one morning, on one side. A slaughter by all accounts.

So what am I trying to say? I don’t know. Do we measure a conflict by its losses? By the number of “innocent” victims? Its duration, percentage of population lost, brutality?

Do I put it into my context? In some wars 50% of young men were lost. If I pick 3 of my best friends and take away 2, including maybe me? How would life be different. What if my city was bombed, or I nearly starved because no food could get through. What if my town was overrun by the enemy, or I was sent to a prison camp for my nationality, religion, colour?

Have we been lucky? Or leaders been more careful. Have we evolved to a higher level where we don’t fight big wars anymore? Not likely. Maybe white European people have seen the futility of it all and avoid it at all costs. Our African friends certainly have not learned this, see Darfur or Rwanda.

So what did I learn from all these programs? Good programs where most of the history was first accounts, not some wizened professor’s interpretation. The Civil War was dictated by 4 diaries, the Second World war by its survivors and the Vietnam war by the people who fought it. They were there and they told it like it was. Generals, politicians, soldiers, civilians. An honest account. And they all let you make up your own mind. Maybe that is what I am struggling with. I have made up my mind and it still seems so unreal, so wrong. I cannot even place myself in their shoes it is so out of context for me.

When my father emigrated, he chose Canada because there was no chance of me being conscripted. Was he telling me something, what did he know? He never served, never knew anyone who served and no war ever touched his country in his lifetime.

I guess maybe I am wrestling with what I would do if I was put in a situation where my country decided to go to war. I have no faith in our political leaders. Mainly because they are politicians, they have no experience of war and some seem too eager to fight, as long as they don’t have to pick up a gun.

But what would I do? Enlist? Run? Become a war profiteer? If I was 18 I would enlist because I knew nothing then. I was accepted by the Armed Forces to go to officer training when I was 18 but did not follow through. Maybe I did know what I was doing. At my age and situation I would never be conscripted, but if I was asked, I would not go. I know the horrors and I know I would not survive. Even if I was not killed I would not come back the same. Would I run? Not with a family to support. So I would stay home and not go. And that may be what I struggle with. Because there would be people that would go and would die and would come home damaged. They sacrificed and I did not.

I was raised to be a good citizen in the true meaning of the word and I am raising my family to do the same. Being a citizen means to help others in need, contribute to the whole. Be considerate of others, pitch in when needed, sacrifice when asked. All for the greater good, because I know that if everyone else does the same we will all be in better shape.

Now I know some do not, some take advantage and you will have to live with these people because you cannot send them away. But the vast majority are good citizens. And we do look out for each other but would I go and die to protect that?

Perhaps it is again a “perspective thing”. Would I do it for Canada? Maybe, but probably not. Would I do it for Ontario? Nope. For my city? No. For my religion? Maybe. For my family, yes.

If we lived in small city states where we depended on one another for survival and we were under threat, then I would defend. Yes.

But we do not live in city states, or nation states. The lines are blurred and are almost meaningless.

And that may be the crux of the problem. I would defend a situation that no longer exists. And I would not defend what we currently have.

I think society has grown beyond what our DNA can handle. And we started these horrible wars. Applying old mentalities to new situations with disastrous results. And we are not safe or protected from doing it again for there are those out there who would try to force their outdated way of thinking onto a world which is unable to accepted is as it has evolved too far.

I guess we will have to hold fast while they catch up, or hold out while they destroy themselves in order to learn what we already know.

Maybe. I don’t know.

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