If This is Back, Then I'm Sorry We Were Ever Here
I was getting Jim ready for school this morning while a morning news show was on in the background. A senator was talking about the first hundred days of the current presidential administration. He was spinning his tail off to say that it had been almost universally great. But, you know, that's what politicians do. Yet there was one thing that sent a chill up my spine:
"With the bombing of Syria, that proved America was back."
America has returned to prominence because we rained destruction on a country. That's taking Occam's razor to his statement. I am sure that this senator would say that is not what he really meant, but let's not kid ourselves. The idea that value lies in might is a common sentiment.
I'm conflicted because I want to tread lightly here yet I don't want to water down what I'm thinking. I understand that the issues of war are massively complicated. I'm not naive that a cruel dictator--an individual who tortures and kills countless people--is going to simply listen to reason. And I think that the men and women who serve in the military are remarkably brave.
Yet I will never understand what drives a person to desire war. Or to see it as anything other than a necessary evil. This is a nation that glorifies battle, which is one thing when you are reading it on the page of a history book. It is another thing entirely when you consider the scores upon scores of people who were ground up in the wheels of theoretical progress. Getting back to the senator's statement, I don't understand how one can think that a nation's worth is bundled up in its ability to bomb another into submission.
I think the reason that the statement disturbed me so much is that Jesus once said that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. When "America is back" by show of force, I fear for the violent place where the country's heart is. What does it mean that devastation a world away is what gets our patriotic hearts pumping? What does it say that death--including innocents in collateral damage--is the sign of our superiority?
It's been said that the bombing took place because of the atrocities committed against Syria's children. I don't completely buy that, because if it was solely about defending those who are oppressed, then a simple bomb drop would not signal a return to prominence.
If the senator meant the show of force indicated America would not let others be oppressed then he is gravely mistaken. For a nation to be back in the sense of protecting the oppressed, it would need to offer sanctuary and aid to those oppressed. The nation would need to recognize that many in this country are oppressed for a myriad of reasons and provide aid in that. The nation would need to be cognizant that some of its actions may have caused oppression at home and abroad and try to figure out a better way forward. And then that nation would need to recognize they're not truly "back" until those oppressions cease. To do anything less is hypocritical in a violently damaging way.
If this is what it means for our country to be "back," then I hate it with every ounce of my being. And yet I have to consider my role in all of this. Where my treasure is, there my heart will be also. Do I love power? Do I do tangible things to back up a desire to help those in need? I can rail against the politicians for their moral bankruptcy. Yet if all I do is just rage against the machine then is it not just as ineffective as a bomb is in stopping oppression? If I don't hold myself accountable, I too am a hypocrite.
If this is back, I don't want to be here. But if we're talking about a place of goodness and justice, then I don't know if back is the right direction. I'm not sure we have truly seen that land. So wherever goodness may lie, I hope God gives us the courage and imagination to get there. And I pray that we will not go back.