Like most veterans, I believed that serving my country was the noble thing to do, so I joined the Army. As we all did, I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States, then was sent to war to fight for Freedom and Democracy. In the middle of my tour in Vietnam, I discovered that most Vietnamese were not really “communists”, but people defending their homeland from foreign invaders like me… just as we Americans would do. But for the last couple of decades I’ve been hearing the same rhetoric that sent me to war… just substitute “terrorist” for “communist”.
When people thank me for my service, I feel an inner conflict. I have some pride that I served, but some shame and guilt for what I was actually asked to do. The “hell” of war is not the threat of death, but learning the worst that I could be as a human being. This has been a life-long conflict, but I do recognize that experiencing war changed my life for the better. Since I have tried to be the best I can be as a human being, though this is also a lifelong struggle. And I have sought peaceful and constructive alternatives for resolving conflicts.
Many Americans, and probably most other peoples, tend to be against things that violate our values, but not many think about the positive vision of how we can be. The most comprehensive vision I’ve found is The World We Seek.
The Quakers also provide a guide for seeking positive resolutions in Peace Through Shared Security. This reminds us that effective solutions have to have benefits for all sides of a conflict. The strong tendency is to force others to do things our way, whether in international relations or in our streets. But I have found that when we all begin to look at the overlaps in our human values and needs, we can find a common ground for working together.
Please join me in exploring how we can pursue positive alternatives for living up to the best we can be as Americans and human beings.
US Army 1963-1968