Sit down, please. War is the answer.

When we are children, we are told that we are Americans, and that we will always be Americans. We stand for what this country stands for, we have to. When I was in second grade, we spent our time writing letters to soldiers, putting together care packages wrapped in popcorn, so they could eat it. Apparently in the first Gulf War, the troops weren’t very well supplied, either.

My letter to a soldier included a drawing of a swaying army tent, blasting music for the world to hear. Its lyrics went, “I want the real world, no war!” Over and over. The teacher wouldn’t let me send it.

I didn’t understand why and I never questioned it directly. Back then I didn’t even see the underlying message. To me war, justified or not, was something undesirable and we, everyone, would certainly want things to go back to normal. Now I realize an anti-war tone led the teacher to intercept my drawing.

I was no activist. In fact, I believed in the war, for no other reason than I had no choice but to believe in my leaders unless my parents showed some strong opposition to it. Certainly my teacher wouldn’t dare oppose it.

Later on that year, I read a story about several heroic soldiers in front of a panel from the PTA, with an illustrated yellow ribbon on the cover. The parents cheered and clapped, I was a minor celebrity.

What kind of society is it that reprimands children who see value in peace? I very much doubt I would have read an essay in front of those parents that read, in all childhood innocence, “war is bad at all times, and we should wish for this war to be over.” Everybody loves a good war.

I learned about big, important wars past. Like the Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II. Those wars were all for great causes, I was told, and we won them and we were right to do so. I was also vaguely aware of something past called Vietnam. Once as a child I remember quizzing my father about whether we won or lost certain wars. When I finally got to Vietnam, it was the only one when he said, “we lost.”

Many would like us to look at war that way, like a game, drawing up scorecards of winners and losers. In the arena in conflict, destruction and death, our team comes out ahead each time. The way to sell a war to the people is to tell them it will be easy, that we can take that country down with a minimum of deaths on our side.

Modern wars are quick and surgical, our planes do all the work, bombing a country into submission. In politics, only the tally on our side is worth any concern; Bush can dismiss the deaths of 30,000 Iraqis with a shrug.

Much is made that the United States is a “civilized” country. I contend that a country that glorifies and encourages war in rhetoric, action and popular fiction, and discourages peaceful thinking in children, cannot possibly be civilized. And even growing anti-war sentiment often represents the sinking heart of a losing battle. Everything we do is war: war on crime, war on drugs, war on poverty. We are bred to believe that war is the answer, but war only leads to monstrous deed and action, and therefore can never be the answer.

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