There are two friends that I have, both of whom I admire and respect, who are entirely different in terms of socio-political outlook. One of these friends is an adamant peace-insisting individual who organizes national rallies in opposition to war. The other friend recently returned from an eight-month deployment in Kandahar, has worked in the particularly violent province of Zabul, and lives out his belief that freedom needs to be protected from terrorists. Both these friends of mine are educated, traveled, intelligent and fearless, and so their differing views evoke many heated, though thought-provoking, debates.
Not being a political aficionado by any means, I’ve often found myself confused about my own stance on war. There was a time that I believed that the U.S. was getting what it deserved for meddling so extensively in other countries’ business. But I began questioning this belief when more and more people I knew began joining the military, fully prepared to risk their lives to protect me and my way of life. I also questioned if war protesters were as willing to die horrible deaths for their beliefs.
I’m not saying that war protesters don’t believe deeply in what they preach, and perhaps there are a few who would die for their beliefs. Generally, I find that war supporters are the bigger risk-takers, and my own fears for my friends overseas made me rethink my opinions. Further, a recent trip to Europe in which I visited various WWII sites, including Auschwitz and the underground Nazi factories, decidedly made me an even more ardent peace lover, with the realization that sometimes peace must be fought for.
Conversely, I can understand anti-war protests, since hatred often generates hatred, merely perpetuating the very thing we’re trying to get past — conflict. The logic is if people were better educated and able to talk out their differences, then the world would be a far better place. The problem I find with this logic, however, is that it’s an ideal and impossible to attain. Even if we were able to get everyone in the same classroom (although the desirability of that is moot in itself) everyone would understand the same message differently, whether it is because they are from a different social class, religious background, ethnic background, or so on. And if we can’t agree on the same thing in a classroom, we can hardly expect everyone to get along outside the classroom.
From my understanding, the basis of anti-war protests is the belief that at their core, people are good, moral, and desire peace. So, of course, war protesters, such as my one friend, can’t agree with people like my other friend, who has skirted death on many occasions as his regiment was blasted by rockets. You can imagine the two extremes of opinion that these two friends present and create enough friction to produce a rather consuming fire. Even today, these two friends refuse to be in the same room together, because they can’t agree to disagree. They care too much about their beliefs.
Such relatively petty conflict makes large-scale war understandable. Inherently, people are different, and the more they hold on to their beliefs, the more they will grate against people of different beliefs. Whether war is the solution to these disagreements is a whole other story.
One thing I know for sure is that on a small scale, people enjoy their freedoms. I’m not only talking about the basic freedoms such as freedom of speech. I’m talking about the daily freedoms, such as the three, four, or five o’clock home time from school or work; Fridays as the start of a weekend; and golf as a break from daily hassles. People enjoy their periods of de-stressing no matter what form it comes in. It follows then that freedoms on larger scales matter too. One of the golden points of Islam is that it’s supposed to be a “freely chosen” religion; one of the golden points of America is the freedom to choose your lifestyle. If only we could learn to stop meddling in other people’s affairs, everyone would be happy.
And the debate continues.