What price glory?
November 25, 2009
BY ALEXI JENKINS
In the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln argued that the family members of those who died fighting for the Union should “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain” and that they should “be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have so nobly advanced.”
Though President Lincoln’s patriotism is admirable and his intentions good, his promotion of vengeance and violence is wrong. Using someone’s grief to instill in them the obligation to fight, and even the institution of war itself, is a twisted cycle of greed and devastation that can leave no hope for a happy outcome.
A citizen easily persuaded by the inflammatory language of an elected official can then be easily manipulated into compliance with that politician’s personal agenda. In the pictures of fallen soldiers, many of whom were just out of high school, I see again and again the desire to fulfill their “patriotic duty,” to “protect freedom,” and to become “army strong” reflected in their eyes.
But the outcome of war isn’t peace, more liberty, or a sense a fulfillment. What is left at the end of a fight is an agreement to finally stop, perhaps along with a settlement of money or land. What is left of the young soldier’s heroic, idealized dreams are tears in the eyes of their mothers, spouses, and friends over the sight of a flag-draped casket. And all of their hard work “bringing justice to the enemy,” with every bullet that found its mark, this devastation is spread through thousands of families on the other side, whose children were raised with the same dream of protecting their country.
In the current war in Afghanistan, we are again instigated to fight by our leaders’ rhetoric, in this case to stop terrorists’ hostilities towards America. But by doing this, we are providing a way for terrorism to thrive. If you saw your country torn apart by bombings, your city ravaged by shooting, and your family caught in the cross fire, how could you not hate those who did it and see the country supporting these actions as evil? Americans are inspired to fight by revenge, but we expect our enemies to be less fallible and to not succumb to the consuming desire to avenge the deaths of their people.
It has been said that sometimes war is the only solution and that the ends justify the means. All of these arguments are stated by those who haven’t truly felt the effects of the violence that they condone and promote. The families of the people who have died would never be able to say that their son’s or daughter’s life was a reasonable price to pay for economic or political gains. How can the outcome of a war ever be truly glorious if the victorious side lost even one life full of aspirations, courage, and love? No amount of territory or power, money or oil is worth that.
Alexi Jenkins is a junior at San Luis Obispo High School. Her relatives have fought in WWII, Vietnam, Korea, both Gulf Wars, and Afghanistan.