Houses of War?
Yesterday during the Friday peace vigil, a woman yelled to us from a passing car that "Without war you wouldn't have a place to live", a truly odd statement. Certainly better than the occasional upraised finger but puzzling. I'm thinking that she is referring to defending the "Homeland", the idea that foreign aggressors will attack and force me out of my home. For an American, though, that possibility is pretty remote. But the conflation of war and security is pervasive. As long as people believe that others want to dispossess them, the rationale for war will be strong. And since Americans have everything while many others have little or nothing,we will always be on guard lest "they" take what is "ours". The yelling woman believes that her home is at risk and the only way to defend it is by killing others.
Since I am not a pacifist, I can understand the utility of using force against an attacker. If you physically attack me with harmful intent, I WILL respond with equal and quite possibly greater force in order to stop the attack and preclude further danger. The same is true of nations; I don't gainsay that responsibility. But just as it makes sense for me as an individual to work with others to create an environment where we all are free from threats and the likelihood of attack is nil, so too do nations have the same responsibility to create a secure international environment.
If I could have an extended conversation with the woman, I would point out that war often creates just the opposite result: people without homes. The world has plenty of people displaced by war--Iraq, Darfur, Palestine Pakistan and many others. War seems to have done little for their living conditions. My own experience in war was of not having a place to live. Sure, I had a place to be for about a week out of each month but the rest of the time I was just wherever I was at the moment and still alive. When the war finally ended four years later, it didn't change the fact that I had a place to live.
Of course, looking back on it, the US has been at war in one form or another during my entire lifetime—Korea, Vietnam, Central America, the Middle East not to mention the Cold War and all its clandestine operations and near catastrophes. Maybe that’s what has kept a roof over my head all these years.