As a boy, I remember hearing this phrase during the Vietnam War. My oldest brother served a tour in the Central Highlands, and I remember well events like the killings at My Lai 4. The country was in deep shock at the notion that our soldiers could act so brutally … so inhumanly. I was old enough to understand the debate about the changing nature of war, the chain of command and responsibility.
Noncombatants die. That has always been a fact of life. Throughout history, the women and children, the farmers and shepherds, the poor innocents have always paid the price for our inability to resolve conflict. The events during Vietnam, however, numbed us deeply to the notion that these victims deserve our sympathy.
Friendly fire rages all around us. Our nation drops bombs all over the world every day. We argue that drones kill terrorists and that we are justified in using this great technology. We cut food stamps for millions of children. We argue that our government must be fiscally responsible. We starve public schools, cripple organized labor, and ship jobs overseas. We argue that our economy depends on “free markets” and capitalism.
Here is what I say. If we cannot stop terrorism without murdering children, then we are no better than the terrorists ourselves. If we cannot balance a budget without making children go hungry, then we have become morally irresponsible. If we cannot support an economy without lining the pockets of selfish special interests, then we doom our public welfare to financial slavery.
How did we become so heartless? When did the unfettered purchase and possession of any firearm start to trump children’s lives? When did our pursuit of profits become a higher priority than our entire global climate? When did grandstanding and brinksmanship become the only tools in our political repertoire? When are we going to grow up and put out the friendly fires we are lighting everywhere?
If you support democracy, and you feel as I do, then the time has come to speak out. Until people of faith place moral values above conquest, people above balance sheets, and economic self determination above trickle down lies, then our nation will continue its spiral into moral decay. As citizens, we must let our voices be heard and stop listening to the corporate media spin machine. People are dying, starving, living homeless and hopeless. It is up to us to stop it.