It’s hard to have a rational, compassionate discussion about violence on Memorial Day, the day after, or any day in a country in which we strongly believe that violence solves problems without creating new ones. It is uncomfortable for many when we question the role of our military in foreign affairs and the way we have supported dictators, toppled democratically elected governments, and created false pretenses for war.
The focus should never be on criticizing the rank and file of our armed forces. They are indeed brave and courageous people, most of whom have noble reasons for joining the military such as fighting for freedom.
The questions we have to ask are those directed to our leaders. Are our leaders’ motivations for war accurate and true? Is the worldview their motivations stem from actually supported by evidence (i.e. do their wars actually solve problems they say they will, or any problems at all)? Are they really just interested in establishing and broadening control over other countries?
And more broadly, how does power tend to corrupt people? What is the role of power in bringing peace? Is there a role? If so, what is the potential role of armed or unarmed peacekeeping forces as opposed to invading forces?
And let’s look for parallels in our own lives, because all around the world people are people, are human beings. So maybe people in other countries respond to violence similarly to how we might.
Does force solve disputes, problems, and differences within our families and friendships, with people who are close to us and understand us pretty well? I don’t think so. Will force then work in other countries, where people don’t understand us well and there are pronounced differences in race, religion, and culture? Sounds worse to me.
It’s difficult to have our worldviews shaken, and to see that the United States has a very real dark side in addition to the freedom and prosperity many of us experience. But recognizing and addressing this dark side is actually more patriotic than ignoring it, because we can express our love of country by making it better.