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Thursday, September 11, 2008

On War

In Uganda we write the date logically, day/month/year, so all morning at the hospital I was noting 11/9/08 on the charts, which has much less emotional impact than 9-11.  But I remember well huddling around our short wave radio as we listened to events unfold, and the feeling that the world as we knew it was imploding, and the eeriness of wondering what it would be like to be untethered here in Uganda if America fell apart.  My family was all within a few dozen miles of Washington DC, and we had no easy communication access then to know if they were OK.  It was weeks before we saw the terrible video images that by that point had already been seared into the collective memories of most of the world.  
9-11 shattered many lives. And it shattered the illusory assumption that America was safe, and Africa was dangerous.  For the first time we felt more secure than our supporters, at least for a while (until reports began linking Osama bin Laden with the very rebels who plague our border).  
We're watching Band of Brothers (a ten-part HBO drama on WWII - really, really well done) with whatever team mates wish to stay after pizza on Thursday nights.  The next episode is entitled "Why We Fight", and pictures the shocking discovery of a concentration camp by the American forces as they enter Germany, and certainly leaves me with the assurance that the sacrifice and suffering of those soldiers was meaningful and worth the cost.  But I also just read All Quiet on the Western Front, which describes trench warfare in WW1 from a young German soldier's perspective, and the cruel horror and waste of war.  Heidi said she saw a bumper sticker in Kampala: "When Jesus said love your neighbor, I'm pretty sure he meant 'don't kill them'".  I'm not sure what I make of all that.  I'm glad and proud that my uncles (5 on my dad's side and 2 on my mom's) fought in WW2.  But I don't want my sons to be in a war.  But I'm thankful for the UPDF soldiers who patrol our town and mission, and protect us from the greed and whims of unscrupulous rebels who roam across the border.  I've been under gun-fire, and while I didn't fight back personally, I'm glad someone eventually did.  And so we go, around and around, in dilemma, never fully innocent in fighting for justice and yet never fully convinced that all fighting is wrong.  
Meanwhile today is a day to remember American lives lost to the evil of attack, in my own lifetime.  And to honor the courage of men like my uncles who were willing to resist that evil before I was born.  And to be thankful that my family has survived our brushes with war.  And to pray that my sons never have to face the need to hold a gun and choose whether to kill or be killed.

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