Saturday, March 29, 2003

Just a few thoughts before I embark on what I hope will be a fruitful weekend of work. Doubtful, because despite all my big dreams, I hardly ever get any work done on the weekends, although this time, the weather's lousy and the older kids are away, so maybe....

I have to be honest with you and say that as the days go by, almost every time I turn on the news, I wonder, Who the HELL ever thought this war would be a good idea?. I really think that the only way this would have worked is if the Coalition had killed Hussein and as many of his fellow creeps right away. If we can decimate the defenders around Baghdad quickly, there's still hope, but once we're fighting in there, even if we "win," I can't help thinking that we are bound to lose. The longer this goes on, the less it looks like the war the Administration promised. It looks more like a war against the Iraqi people, instead of just the regime, and more like a burgeoning regional conflict. The longer it goes on the more civilians will be killed and the more images of those killed civilians will be played on television throughout the Middle East, over and over and over.

But that's just the opinion of one midwestern civilian chick on military strategy, which means you probably should have skipped it, anyway.

What follows is random, because that's what I'm feeling these days, a feeling perhaps generated by the fragmented nature of the coverage I'm admittedly immersing myself in.

Critics of the anti-war protesters have quite correctly wondered where the heck all these people have been when protests against various outrages against various regimes have been necessary. Good point, but where have the rest of us been?

The Church scandals of the past year and this war have birthed a feeling of dis-ease within me, to be honest, and not a dis-ease with what I see outside, but with what I see within myself. I am a witness to terrible evil and tragedy. It's in the newspapers, it's on television, it's on the internet..but it's over there. It's in that diocese. It's about those people.

A typical cocooned middle class Westerner, I go about my business here in the Summit City, ferrying my children about, preparing meals, writing my books and commenting on a world gone mad.

But what I feel is a pull in another direction. The events I am witnessing call me not towards more commenting or the importance of me establishing the correct views, but towards awareness of my ties to the suffering and my responsibility for them. This is hard to explain, but bear with me.

It is common and traditional for Christians to contemplate the sight of the crucified Christ and use it as an opportunity to consider our own sins - the sins that put Him there. That is the feeling that fills me when I contemplate the sight of the crucified today - the victims of abuse, the young men and women facing death in the desert - their own and that of others, Iraqi children trembling under a hail of bombs, Iraqi victims of Hussein and his thugs. There is such a thing as direct personal responsibility for sin, but there is also a sense that the world keeps birthing sin, over and over, and we are a part of the world, so we are midwifining it. Our sins put Jesus on the cross, our sins - the sins of humanity, of which I am a part, not separate from - let evil people do evil things.

One of the things that most disturbs me about some supporters of this war, especially those that use religious arguments and imagery to support it is apparent reluctance to admit that war is the result of sin - and not just the "enemy's" sin. Iraq is where it is today because of the pride and greed and short-sightedness and arrogance of generations of people, from Hussein and his supporters, to the Stalinists who inspired him to the American interests that supported him to the British that created the country to the tribes and competing religious visions that have inhabited the land for generations engendering an ethos of retributive justice and mutual hatred.

So perhaps we are "right" in trying to "liberate" the people of Iraq - an argument I can understand but still profoundly doubt, both for moral and practical reasons - I cannot be comfortable with a vision of this action that fails to take into account that war is, indeed, an expression of a failure of humanity. It may, in the end, turn out to have been "necessary" and God can certainly bring good out of anything, but even so, while some see the action as evidence for the goodness of the Coalition nations, and evil of the other, but I can't shake the general grief for humanity as a whole that this evokes in me. Do you see? This is not an exercise in "moral equivalency" at all. It is a recognition of the way that war tells us all, in the boldest relief, that we have failed.

So back to the beginning. The events of the past year have shaken me - not in the sense that I found out things that I didn't know, or that I was shocked. I'm an historian and a realist. But they've shaken my complacency about what I'm here to do. The Church is crying out for seriousness and reconciliation. The world shivers on the brink - the clash between civilizations is real and the explosion comes closer every day. Where am I in this? Am I just an observer? Am I a victim? Or am I called to be something more, to accept what responsibilty I have, as part of the Body of Christ, as part of the human race, for the sin that runs rampant, and to involve myself more than I am?