Originally published October 30, 2014
I was a tool of history. I was a soldier. I followed orders, which I believed to be righteous in their intent. I never doubted that I was on the side of God; that our mission was His.
I killed without ever looking the enemy in the eye. Modern weaponry allows a certain moral remove. Vanquishing those who do not believe as you do becomes purely theoretical. From the air, from afar, one does not feel as if they are extinguishing a human life. Deaths are merely numbers, calculated and displayed on graphs and charts.
Soldiers are not encouraged to think about such philosophical matters; or to consider that the lives taken likely belonged to a father, a son, a husband or lover. Such consideration would render a fighting force impotent.
There is no such thing as a killing machine with morality.
But, then, what is morality? It is so much more complex than the way humans, in their limited understanding, define it. It is easy to say, simply, that killing is always wrong. Or that killing to defend oneself or one’s loved ones is justified. Or that destroying your enemy — an enemy who would destroy your very way of life if given the opportunity — is a righteous cause. Anyone can find justification for any of these positions, but in the end, these are human justifications.
War is built into the human experience. It has always existed and always will, despite naïve calls for world peace. Peace might be achieved in a limited arena for a limited time, but it will always erupt again somewhere else. Always. War is human emotion and relationships, writ large; the personal human condition, played out on a grand scale;
People call for peace and understanding yet cannot even get along with their own neighbors or stand to be within the bosom of their own family.
War and conflict are part of the fabric of worldly existence. They create the shadows in the pattern, and it is this darkness which defines the edge of the light.
Pure light is only knowable in this realm.