Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Choices.

Toby is a man, who has chosen the path of the warrior: he is a marine, 46 years old, fit and strong, now serving as a contractor for the armed forces, and who has done terrible things in the defense of the interests of his country. We talk, frequently, at the local bar that I retreat to after long days of work.

I asked Toby, recently, if he was haunted by the ghosts of the many people he has killed. “Why do you think I am here, drinking beer with you,” was his response. Fair enough: I felt a profound pity and admiration for Toby, all mingled into one—he has been a slayer so that other people don’t have to be, and yet must sleep with the fact that he has deprived families of fathers, bereft wives of their husbands, taken life so that other life may prosper. That is, doubtless, a hard burden to bear. It is a weight that has destroyed his marriage, cost him his children, and now, plays itself out in conversations with a man he hardly knows.

There is no need to dovetail into the greater divisiveness of politics, an art I presently find so distasteful that I quickly wash my hands of it: Toby and I might not see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues, but he has been the man on the wall, as Jack Nicholson, in a mediocre film, described him, guarding the gates of civilization, dealing with the unpleasant, violent realities that such duties entail. Such has, in return, leveled and ruined him. Now, a basically naive graduate student with little direct knowledge of the chaotic world he speaks of is the outlet for his entirely justified resentment.

I am, it should be noted, a patriot—not in the modern, nationalist, jingoistic silliness of the word, but in the sense that a Washington might have understood it: I believe that what has been built here, this nation, is a thing worth defending rather than an object for worship, and would drive an ambulance, recite a broadcast, run supplies or build fortifications to preserve it. I could not, and would not, take another life to preserve it.

Toby is a man who has had to make a harder choice: whether to obey orders, save his own life, and advance a cause he believes in by watching other human beings die in front of him by his hand, or to be a victim, dying by the like in return. He has done what he has had to do, badly disrupting his personal life in the process, and I am grateful to him for it.

But I do not envy that decision.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dublin Saab said...

Is there no circumstance at all that you can envision yourself willing to take a life in defense of liberty? If say the paratroopers of the Taliban style regime from Hypotheticalistan are swarming around Wilmington, murdering mothers and enslaving children would you still stand motionless? Mind you this is not merely a rhetorical exercise but an honest query into whether you won’t cross that line or if it would merely take an awful lot to push you, i.e. the impending beheading of your family that only you could stop by killing their attacker. Now put yourself in the situation, visualize a mother and father, bound, heads on the block, their children forced to watch and you have a clean shot. Is the answer still no?

If so, okay. This is not an attack, just clarification of your statement. You’ve never heard me bad mouth the Amish and they wouldn’t lift a finger, so let’s be clear if the answer is still, “no, never” I really and truly have no issue. There’s a league of difference between seeking to bring down and a general unwillingness to kill. Besides, folks like Toby are willing to ensure others have the freedom to say no.

But! (and you knew it was coming). If the answer still is no then I must question your contention that Washington would see you as a patriot. Washington was willing to kill for the idea of an America half as egalitarian as the one we have today. He is quoted as saying, “
To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”, and being prepared for war means being ready to kill. There is nothing I know of in his actions or words that would back up the claim that he would see a patriot in one unwilling to spill the blood of a would be tyrant, unless while unwilling to kill you were willing to die. (think Gandhi) .

Man, this would be a great one for a bar conversation.

Wed Aug 17, 05:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger The Evil Jeremy. said...

Answer A, the self-flattering one: I am thinking Ghandi, willing to be killed for a cause but not to kill.

Answer B, the honest one: How on earth can I really answer that without being in that situation? It would be, simply, a pointless, wild guess, an empty prediction that might have litle to no correspondance with reality.

I have seen things today, and you will read about them soon.

Wed Aug 17, 07:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Dublin Saab said...

B it is, and that's a fine answer. Not that there could be a wrong answer. If visualize it and come back with "don't know" then alright. I just was pressing cause I've known a few who answered a certian way simply to avoid acknowledging part of themselves they wished to ignore. Not that I'm accusing you of that, lord no. just basically avoiding the two papers I have due on Tuesday. One for Trig, yes... I have a TRIG paper due and the other on a play I haven't even watched yet (She Stoops to Conquer). You understand.

Wed Aug 17, 08:02:00 PM EDT  

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