Monday, November 16, 2009

When the war came. Peace fled.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. Dwight D. Eisenhower [1953]
He was nine when he remembers the war coming for the first time. It was how he said it, "I was nine the first time I remember when the war came."

When the war came.

I had never heard it said that way. I think of men going to war. Of soldiers going off to war, but never of the war coming to me. To my family. My home. My city.

For Sam, the war came to him and his family. It came to his neighbours' homes. To his city. His country. The war came and he hid. In a basement. All night. All day. "We'd be allowed out sometimes for a couple of hours during the day. For sunlight. To get food. Water. We weren't allowed to play. You don't play during war," he said.

He is from Lebanon.

The second time the war came he was about fourteen. And then nineteen. "By then," he said as he clipped and shaped my hair, "by then I didn't much care about the war. I didn't think about it. It came. It went. I knew it would come back. I tried not to think about it. It just was."

He had to join the military. "I didn't like that at all," he said. "I didn't want to be there. I didn't fit in."

"I couldn't figure out why we had an army anyway," he added. "We didn't really have any guns. We didn't want to have a war."

He clipped a bit more hair. In the mirror, I watched his hands deftly wielding the scissors. His shaggy black hair. Full lips. Deep brown eyes. Late twenties, handsome. But his shoulders are hunched. His chest curled forward, huddled over his stomach. I think of a turtle crouched in its shell protecting its soft body.

His eyes are downcast. He concentrates on his job. Stops. Punctuates a comment with his hands. The scissors snipping at air.

"They made us march. And line up. It was so tedious." Snip. Snip.

"I was lucky. The war came back the year after I left the army." Pause. "I'm glad I was gone from the army. I could not have killed another man."

Snip. Snip.

"It is wrong what happened. I was just a boy. I should have been playing with my friends. Kicking a ball around. Instead, I hid out. Eventually, it became normal."

The war kept coming back and finally he left. "The last time the war came, my mother and cousins left for safer places. My father and I, we didn't leave. It was our home. We couldn't leave it."

Snip. Snip.

"I don't want to be at war. I don't want to fight. I want to get married. Raise children. Have a family." He paused. His hands stopped moving. His body stilled. "I want to have peace."

Harry Emerson Fosdick the Liberal Protestant preacher who wrote, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" wrote after the First World War, "I hate war for its consequences, for the lies it lives on and propagates, for the undying hatreds it arouses, for the dictatorships it puts in the place of democracies, and for the starvation that stalks after it. I hate war, and never again will I sanction or support another."

For Sam, war came and drove him from the arms of his family. It tore him from those he loves to send him half way around the world to a land he'd never been, a city he'd never heard of before. It took him from the sea he loves, a city, for all its war torn streets, that was familiar to him, a place he called home. It took him away and deposited him here, in a cold and northern clime he had never imagined. And, it drove him to a place where 'war doesn't come.'

I pray it never does. Come to him, or me, or anyone I love, or anyone in the world. And I know my prayers are already unanswered. Today, there are over 40 wars/conflicts taking place right now. Over 40? I can name a few. Afghanistan. Iraq. l know so little about war. I do not want to know more.

Perhaps, it is not time to speak out against war, but to speak up for peace. For that which keeps lives and families intact. For that which keeps us safe.


In my prayers, I commit to speaking up for peace. For speaking up for those who do not have a voice to speak out against that which is taking the lives of those they love away from the hearts who hold them dear. Sons. Daughters. Nieces. Nephews. Cousins. Husbands. Fathers. Mothers. Wives.

For those, who, like Sam, were never given the right to stand up for that which they believe in, the sanctity of human life.

I speak out against fighting to find peace. Peace never comes when mother's children die or are forced to leave their homes to find the life they desire. Promises of peace are futile when bellies are empty and arms are filled with guns and bullets designed to take the very thing mother's cherished when they brought their sons and daughters into this world.

Peace can only come when war comes no longer. For with everyone mother's child who dies, a seed of sorrow, of anger, of hatred is sown.

War gives birth to animosity. To tears of sorrow. To future wars.

It is time to put down arms and stand up for peace. It is time.



Joyce Wycoff said...

Louise ... what a beautiful, powerful, true way to start the week. And starting it with that very powerful quote from President Eisenhower is brilliant ... Thank you so much!

Maureen said...

It is time!

So we must all, together as one, join voice and demand an end to violence. Stand up for peace.

On Sunrise Sister's blog the other day, I commented that I can imagine a world at peace, without war, though since my birth 57 years ago such a world has never existed. What I cannot imagine is that such a world can exist only if it is without people.

A new peace institute is being built in Washington, not far from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which bears so many names that no matter how many times I visit, tears rise. A valid juxtaposition that, a homage to loss, because we need such reminders. I shall pray that the institute does not become just another memorial.

knoxy said...

Beautiful. Bless you today, mama.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughtful piece. I resided in Lebanon during the early years of the war. For a contrasting perspective, you might read "Why I Am Not a Pacifist" by C.S. Lewis. Do not grow weary of well doing!


M.L. Gallagher said...

Hello everyone,

I went in search of C.S. Lewis -- found excerpts from his speech and am now hunting down the book, The Weight of Glory.

Working in a homeless shelter, I am surrounded by angry people. Anger, like war, steals human beings of the gift of their lives in peace.

Perhaps -- like those who want to 'end homelessness' I need to ask myself -- can we end war? Good question.

And then, the other question becomes -- can I create peace in my world.

And the answer is -- yes. By being the change, as Ghandi said, I want to see in the world.

Nameste and thank you for your feedback. I love food for thought!