I was a child during the Viet Nam War. Images of destruction, napalm, death, protests, tears, verbal and sometimes heated physical altercations between those in favor of the conflict and those opposed to it, streamed across our television screen daily. War never made sense to me, even though my father had been a vet of World War II and the Korean War and some of his favorite shows were Combat, McHale’s Navy, Hogan’s Heroes and M*A*S*H; the first a gritty depiction and the others spoofing and comedic. Although he was not gung ho about war, he felt that sometimes it was necessary. I had my doubts.
In my head, I can hear the lyrics from Edwin Starrs’ song “WAR…what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” Since the beginning of time, people have justified taking lives because they have felt threatened by the beliefs of others or desiring what other people have. As a species, we haven’t yet learned how to play nicely in the sandbox without throwing sand at the other kids or stealing their shovel and bucket and hitting them over the head with it.
In 6th grade, our Friday afternoons were filled with music as we had what were then called Hootenannies. Guitar and voices rang out. Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary and Woody Guthrie tunes were staples. One of my favorite was Where Have All The Flowers Gone? which followed the thread from love to death at the hands of war and weaponry. When we take a look at the toll war takes on families on any sides of the battle, it is astounding. Each can justify action taken in the name of God, ‘right’, political gain, ideology or who fired the first shot.
Another blast from the past musical exploration of the impact of the Viet Nam war is the musical Hair. A chilling interlude comes at the end when one of the characters takes the place of another and enters into the ‘belly of the beast’, paying the ultimate price.
In my work as a therapist who has counseled vets with PTSD, one in particular remains with me. I can see this man’s face in front of me now. He had been compelled to seek treatment, since in flashback mode, he had assaulted a family member, believing she was the enemy. Tears in his eyes, he explained that as a medic, part of his job was to pick up body parts. He had taken lives in the jungles ‘In country’. “I was a healer and the army turned me into a killer,” he shared, in lucid moment. I could do nothing at that point, but cry with him and pray for his healing.
A few years ago, I discovered the music of a an activist/yogi/singer-songwriter named Michael Franti who took it on the road to war zones throughout the world, guitar and video camera at the ready. What he discovered is that there are people who do desire peace and reconciliation. His song called Bomb the World has the profound lyrics “We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace.”
Each of us has the power to be peaceful, to live in a manner that does no harm to ourselves or the world around us. I am convinced that we feed the collective soup pot with our thoughts that are either divisive or unifying. We can choose love or fear, war or peace. I Choose Love
In my yard is what is called a Peace Pole which is an obilisque that has the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” inscribed on all four sides. It stands as a testament to what I hold sacred.
Photo Credit: Peace in Mongolia by ohinsanity