July 4 2013: An Open Letter to the War That Took My Best Friends
You made me cry this July 4 morning. Your unnecessary existence frustrates my usual affable demeanor. Draped around my neck, two dogtags nap on the middle of my chest. They remind me of my two best friends, who because of you are reading this in a war-torn land. Admittedly I'm being selfish. My mother greets each day with the reassurance that 45 minutes away her son is afforded the same freedom and security she, like most Americans, enjoys and expects. My friends' mothers and fathers no longer understand the concept of sound sleep. They welcome the simpler times when they would verbally berate us for breaking curfew. After we were sent to our rooms and their anger abated they would recount their foolish escapades during their youth and how their parents partook in the cyclical cycle of reprimanding the same misbehavior. Now you force them to communicate with their son via Skype and Facebook, two insufficient mediums of communication that mildly quell their unrest until their boys must resume serving this country. At which time their worry resumes, as does their hatred for you.
See, you seem to be an unavoidable evil that plagues humanity. You inflame our latent desire for power and dominance. In your absence, we reside in peace. Our differences don't divide us and we simply avoid the water cooler when those we dislike are filling up their cup. In your presence, however, we squabble about arbitrary characteristics like origin of birth, dialect, and skin color.
Irrespective of your outcome, neither combatant can truly be called the victor. Those recently departed never return and the lives you ripped apart never fully mend. To cope we rationalize you as a proportional response to "unwarranted" acts of cowardice or as the only adequate means by which to rid the world of evil. When I'm frank with myself, I realize your ability to produce real change in the world is nonexistent. Maybe that is because my generation, like my mother's, only knows you as Vietnam and Iraq. For us, the romanticism — if you can be said to have any positive attribute in your nature — of fighting the Axis of Evil is a relic of the past, which we are unable to fully comprehend. Now we sit befuddled by why our friends and family were and currently are unwanted houseguests.
I'm unsure why my best friend must fight you, but still, his doing so fills me with endless pride and patriotism. Today, like tomorrow and the next day, I'll take for granted my safety and security. Today, like tomorrow and the next day, my friends will provide me with that luxury. I'd like to think our children will ridicule my generation for partaking in such a regressive transaction of causalities, but then I acknowledge the fallibility of humankind and my optimism for that prospect is suffocated by reality.
This July 4 morning, I'd like to close with the following:
To all those past, present, and future women and men of the armed services, thank you. We dedicate days, prayers, songs, and movies to your acts of heroism, but no matter our expressions of appreciation they fail to capture what should be our infinite gratitude and indebtedness. We may question the legitimacy and necessity of your occupation, but never you. To you, I, like all Americans, am forever grateful.
To the millions of civilians like me, realize our good fortune and act accordingly.
Oh, and to War: