Thursday, July 07, 2005

Saving Solemn Freedom

It is very seldom that I would ever proffer my opinion here, but, I feel compelled to do so. Let me first state that you will never find a more peaceful person anywhere. I have never owned a weapon of any kind. I have no desire to ever own one, and I never will. I am tired of the confusion going on in our country right now.

When I was a freshman at Hunterdon Central, in Flemington, NJ, the history department collaborated with the old Hunterdon Theater to show all high school history classes a special screening of Gone With The Wind. It was, in effect, an effort to show us what transpired during the Civil War years, albeit, Hollywood style. One morning we went to watch it. Back then, any chance to go on a field trip to get out of school was very desirable. I'm sure times have not changed in that respect. I remember it was a very powerful movie, depicting life in the south before, during and after the Civil War. In spite of the fact that it was more of a love story, it did show the horrors of war in graphic detail. Certainly very graphic for 1939 when it made its theatrical debut.

It reminds me of an incredible movie I recently saw, Saving Private Ryan. I cannot think of any other movie of this magnitude that could possibly represent the atrocities of war in more gruesome detail. The last time I had seen it was when it came out in 1998. It was chilling.

During World War II, on November 13, 1942, the light cruiser, USS Juneau, was sunk by Japanese torpedoes. Five Sullivan brothers were on board and none survived. Since that incident, the U.S. military changed the rules. No brothers were assigned to the same ship, nor were in the same unit ever again. In the case of Saving Private Ryan, a fictional account, three out of four brothers were killed in action and an all out effort was made to bring the surviving brother home, to perpetuate the family structure. After securing Omaha Beach from the Germans, a captain was given a new assignment. He and his hand picked squad were sent to find and save Private Ryan from somewhere deep behind enemy lines in France.

What makes this movie so powerful is the realism of the film's battle scenes and the all too real degree of sacrifice our soldiers dedicated themselves to. Over 9,000 American men were lost in a single day between the beaches of Normandy and Omaha in France on June 6, 1944. What compelled these men to drive forward? An intense respect for freedom and the never ending urge to protect it at all costs? To keep our lands safe from foreign intruders bent on the destruction of what we hold near and dear to our hearts? Of course. Men of all persuasions fought and died there and in both the European and Pacific theaters of World War II. Blacks, whites, Indians, Christians, Jews, Muslims. Death sensed no prejudice. In victory, Europe and the United States remain free.

"I fear that we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve," Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto stated on December 7, 1941, after the attack against the United States at Pearl Harbor. He was right. Today, we are in a war of a different sort. After the 2001 attacks on our own soil, most Americans sought revenge. We all knew who did it. They tried to take the World Trade Center down in 1993. We laughed in the face of terrorism then when it didn't succeed. You will never destroy us, we said, you will only make us stronger. Yet, we did nothing. This war does not play by the old rules. Here, there are no rules. What civilized group purposely kills thousands of innocents, chopping off heads along the way? The old rules went down with the World Trade Center.

There are people today, in this country and abroad, who feel it was a travesty to drop atomic bombs on the two cities of Japan. That war was going nowhere fast. Did the war stop after that? You bet. Were many lives lost as a consequence of those bombings? Of course, but were many lives saved? Although impossible to count, it is certainly true that untold thousands went on to see the light of day for years to come. Don't let anyone kid you, the Japanese were on the verge of creating their own bomb. They would have used it against us. Anyone who thinks otherwise is extremely naive or stupid or both. For what other purpose would they have it? To dangle in front of us in awe? I don't think so. Remember, they were the aggressors to begin with.

As the Vietnam war era was coming to a close, many facets of the world looked to the United States from a standpoint of weakness. There was total discord at home. We were a nation in confusion. We were getting out of Vietnam in a not so honorable way. We had a president who was fighting his own personal demons. In the meantime, our soldiers came home in humiliation, not as war heroes they certainly deserved to be treated as. It was an unpopular war and we as a nation took it out on them. How unjust and unkind, coming from a nation willing to forgive and forget. Well, we did forget them. The rest of the world saw this and many construed it as a sign to attack. Not in a physical sense, but more of a "kick a dog when he's down" sort of way. Many tried to take advantage of this. It opened the floodgates that fostered terrorist groups. We were in no position to retaliate in any form. We had no stomach for it. We were in internal turmoil. We were no longer the international police force looked up to and admired. We came back strong when Gerald Ford healed our nation from strife. We felt whole again. But, not for long. Along came Iran and the hostages. This came about from years of fomentation over the U.S. stance of propping up dictatorships around the world, including the Shah of Iran. It was the quintessential bursting of the proverbial bubble of American superiority and impenetrable strength. Along with it came fanatical festering, much of it generating from the middle east and some from home. Militant groups looked at the U.S. government from a standpoint of no longer being in control of itself. "Let's go, we got 'em now!" (I always wondered what the outcome would have been with those hostages in Iran had Jimmy Carter not negotiated into the final hours of his presidency. Would the government of Iran have let them go anyway for fear of the incoming president, Ronald Reagan, and his cowboy image of shoot first, ask questions later?)

How quickly terrorists adhere to their own brand of hellfire when it suits their own political agenda. Much of it has its roots deeply based in religion. They interpret their scriptures to fulfill their own destinies. What difference does it make whether quoting from the Bible or Quran, in order to use it as an excuse to blow up federal buildings or abortion clinics, or to fly into buildings or blow one's self up, killing as many as humanly possible? They are interchangeable. When Christians want war, they quote from the Old Testament. When they want peace, the New Testament provides the proper scriptures. Islamic tenets tend to be the same way.

We have gone through years of torment and death at the hands of these terrorists. Not just Americans. People from all walks of life have felt the anguish of murder and destruction. On an international level, many feel that "if" we just give up on Israel, for example, to let them fend for themselves, the Islamic terrorists would go away and leave us alone. That is, by far, one of the biggest ideological con jobs perpetuated by man in my lifetime and a sure sign of real weakness. We should cower to bullies? Even if we did that and sucked up to these lowest forms of life, we would somehow, by the grace of Allah, live in perfect harmony? Offer a vicious pit bull a steak and it will take your arm along with it. Once it smells blood, it will go in for the kill. Try to teach that old dog a new trick. Do we then destroy all the pit bulls of the world? No. Many are good, harmless and faithful. It is only the ones born and bred into violence we need to worry about. But how do we distinguish between the two? That's a pretty tough call. Some say we should just nuke 'em all. How ludicrous. I'm not going to separate my head and destroy my body because of a cancerous mole on my knee. Let's just drop bombs and wait for the nuclear fallout to waft its way back to us. There are always simple solutions to people with simple minds who do not understand the complexities of the world. Instead, what if neighbors weren't afraid to get involved more? How often we see interviews on the news of neighbors who say, "I knew they had bad dogs over there," after a neighborhood child has been mauled to death. Why didn't you get involved earlier? Was it not your problem, too? Maybe not, until you lost your own child. You saw the potential for impending problems, didn't you?

Now, we are in a war with no rules. We might play by our own set, but, the adversaries do not. We bring our men and women to their turf and they rejoice in the fact that it is so much easier to blow themselves up along with us now. They don't need to come to us. We go to them. But, if you believe they won't come to us again, forget it. No olive branch or promise of leaving their lands will ever prevent that. Ever. What made us so evil and why would you ever remotely agree with that perception? Why would you feel guilt while the rest of the world is innocent? Where is your national pride and self esteem? It is of utmost importance to show the world our unity in this conflict. We do not all agree with what we have gotten ourselves into. Many people do not agree with the president and there are thousands of opinions from all sides of the fence, but, we must stand tall. If world perception of us is that of the gun-toting cowboy, then let's be that gun-toting cowboy. It doesn't mean you agree with it, but, it is the surest way to resolve. We must stand united. We are in a mess, a quagmire of sorts, and we are not going to walk away from it. We are stuck with it. It's fine to agree to disagree, but to show the world our internal struggles, we will be perceived as weak once again and that will fester more terrorism at home and abroad. These people are like a cancer. We have brilliant minds. Let us take our minds and try to find cures and answers for its causes. Let's cut out the cancer cells at its source. There are thousands upon thousands of benign virgins awaiting them.

Terrorists have no belief in turning the other cheek. It is a sign of weakness. To do so offers another spot to wreak havoc. And another chance to laugh. I want to laugh back one day, with the premier of a new movie, Gone With The Desert Wind.

Peace One Day.

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