Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Right and Left

A young refugee girl and her father near Faisabad, Afghanistan
(Image Afghanistan | Steve McCurry)
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left."
~ Bertrand Russell

Warfare has been offered as a noble conquest, a campaign against uncivilized or wicked people, waged by a great ruler and willing soldiers; the long march, the great battles, the magnificent heroes ....

Reality is harsh.  War reaches out to subjugate peoples, to capture wealth from the provinces, to rule the land ... or the world.

War is perhaps the ultimate expression of selfishness.  Every lesser crime, every sin, every moral violation, all are visible in the wake of advancing armies.  Beyond soldiers killing each other, war brings pillage, bloodshed among the innocent, theft, murder, years of deprivation, and  inconsolable anguish for the victims who manage to survive.

Leaders are the responsible agents.  Most among the soldiers and sailors hope to serve well, with honor and integrity.  In centuries of retrospect, we see many such good folks in the field doing their best, unknowingly serving an ignoble cause.  Propaganda and lies, deception and misrepresentation ...  Given the chance to understand what their leaders knew, most would have turned against the ruling elite.  Citizens would likely rise up in arms if they knew.

War is not a solution, it's the explosion that concludes an escalating competition.  At stake are lives, land, rule, and wealth. Characterized by violence, social disruption, and economic destruction, war should be understood as an intentional and widespread armed conflict, convened by political players, most commonly with an underlying economic agenda.

In the days of power players and their cronies who are willing to sacrifice a few thousand or million lives, how might the rest of us find a path that allows a good conscience?  Curious?

Hans and his foster daughter Liesel whom he came to love
dearly.  Caught up in a corrupted culture, Hans did his best
to stay on a path of good conscience.
Liesel and her dear friend, Rudy.  He
was swept up by the Hitler-Youth
movement and persuaded it was for
the best.  He couldn't have known
more than he was given.
Death himself narrates the best seller, 'The Book Thief'.  An extraordinary movie (and book) that illuminates the issue well.

Set in war-torn Europe, the focus is on regular people caught in the middle, struggling to hold on to what's right and good.  In Hitler's Germany, Hans and Rosa have taken in Liesel (the book thief) as their foster daughter whom they come to love dearly.  Hans spends his life doing his very best to be loving, kind, and wise.

Death himself recounts his task of collecting souls of persons in the story as they perish.  Of Liesel's dear foster-father, Hans, and others, Death says,

So we're reminded, even in the worst of times, in the veritable valley of the shadow of death, we can give ourselves to that which is right and good and even noble, thank you Father.  And we hope to bring a few or perhaps many along with us.