War Is A Force That Gives Me Meaning

While delivering flowers today, in the midst of a soupy fog that caused me to turn on my headlights at two 'o clock in the afternoon, some gears in my mind started turning. I was listening to the This American Life podcast. A handful of American soldiers in Iraq who told their stories in blogs were reading those stories on the show. I was entirely consumed by the combat stories told by two of the soldiers. My reflexes took control of the van as the road I barreled down disappeared. These stories transported me to the battles. Two weeks ago, as an American-raised Afghani teenager spoke out of my radio from the midst of an ambush against US troops in Afghanistan, the same peculiar transcendence had occurred.

I realized then that war is a force that gives me meaning. Bear with me. I read a book just over a year ago called War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning. It is written by Chris Hedges, a New York Times journalist who has lived in war zones that some of us never even knew existed. His book is about the hell that war is and the myths that cover up that hell to enable those in power to wage their wars. His title is all too true. For those that put their body and soul behind the war, the war gives them meaning and purpose- a rhyme and reason behind the dreary day-to-day task of existing. For soldiers like the ones that were heard on This American Life and others living war, such as Chris, war is a drug that destroys mundanity and provides a dangerous, but addicting thrill. For people like me, war is a force that gives us focus by opposing it. How could pacifism be so deeply ingrained in my being if there weren't such a counter weight as war to give my position strength? Pacifism would be an empty concept without war. Without pacifism, an immensely important piece of my existence would be gone. Life would be duller. War gives me meaning.

Its true that I abhor war. But it is just as true that I ingest this drug. I don't marvel at the machinery; the guns and the tanks and the bombs. I don't aspire to discard my ethics in order to hunt a faceless enemy. I do, however, imagine the excitement of breathing in war from within it. I imagine war filling up the emptiness of my life, translating every moment into a struggle for existence. I imagine war sharpening my mind and my resolve against it. I imagine living through the hell to come home and then devoting every ounce of my being to stopping this force that has benefited me so wholly. It's a paradox that I'll never escape. Opposing war gives me meaning. I will lose that meaning if I ever prevail.

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