Sh*t To Help You Show Up February 25, 2022
Integrity and War
I’m sitting here this morning thinking about war. Unless you are one of the unlucky few with loved ones in the military who have already been deployed there, the war in Ukraine has not yet touched you directly. This is true for me, which makes it tempting to simply block the whole thing out. I mean, what does any of it have to do with me?
And, yet, I don’t think people of good conscience can ever ignore the realities of war.
I remember when I was in college and the first Gulf War kicked off. The government seemed to have learned its lesson during the Vietnam War when the nightly news covered the brutal, violent realities of that conflict up close. Americans could not hide from the carnage, and scholars have suggested that was why protests against the Vietnam War became as widespread as they did.
So, in the first Gulf War, the U.S. government was not going to make the same “mistake”. The images of that war that filtered through to the nightly news were distant and sanitized— U.S. troops decked out in combat gear and high-powered weaponry yet unharmed, footage of bomb strikes that looked like nothing more than scenes from a video game. All of it was carefully packaged to provide justification for U.S. imperialism while not upsetting Americans overmuch.
Am I a pacifist, with all this skeptical talk about U.S. military action? Ambivalently, yes. By which I mean that I do not presume to tell oppressed or victimized people that they have no right to rise up in their own defense, individually or collectively, and the reality is that sometimes those situations involve violence. I pray and work for there to be other alternatives. That’s all that’s within my power and I hate this truth. It keeps me humble, though. I’ll say that for it.
The current war in Ukraine is, therefore, complicated. Does Ukraine have a right to defend itself against an imperialist invasion from Russia? Yes, I believe it does, having repeatedly tried everything else in its arsenal to avoid armed conflict. Should allied nations step in militarily to help? The honest answer is, I don’t know.
What I do know is that today my integrity requires me, within the safe confines of my home far away from the center of this conflict, to sit with the terrible discomfort that comes from contemplating the realities of war. Not to get carried away by the news, or the war propaganda about just causes, or the bickering between the Left and the Right about what America’s role should be. Right now I can hold the reality of the destruction and death that is likely even now as I type this raining down upon soldiers and innocent civilians all over Ukraine. Today I can refuse to look away.