"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snow in the desert

I promise, folks, this will be brief. I just found this little flashback to the Iraqi snowfall of '08 to be very appropriate, as we find ourselves struggling through difficulties at home that the people of Iraq would gladly trade for their own problems. I remember how that light dusting (by East Coast standards) caught all of us completely off guard the morning we woke up to it. It caught Iraqis off guard too; apart from the mountains to the north, this was the first recorded snowfall in Iraq in almost a century. Parents in Baghdad took their children outside to see it and remember it before it melted away. It's not as if all of us, American troops and Iraqis, looked at the whiteness around us and had deep cosmic thoughts (initial reactions on our part were a combination of "dude, did not think I would see this here" and quickly trying to gather enough to make snowballs); but it was something different, unprecedented, new. As the author says,

"At first, I thought of 2007 as the year I missed Christmas. But my wife helped me see things differently. After hearing my stories — what it was like for the people of Diyala province before our squadron arrived, and then the “awakening” that followed as we slowly and at great cost cleared and held the ground — she said, “You didn’t miss Christmas. For those Iraqis, you were Christmas.”

And in a real and meaningful way, she was right. Christmas is the ultimate story of birth and hope: How a light (the Light) came into the world to make all things new. Of course, we can’t make claims that grand. But in our Christmas, we brought our own kind of hope. We brought the most basic comforts of life — food to eat, fuel to heat their homes, and, most important, a chance at a new beginning. And as I look at Iraq now and see how far it has come since that cold, muddy — and snowy — time two years ago, it seems that perhaps, just perhaps, enough people have seized that chance to allow real rebirth."

A world made new; it will not be completed by our own meager efforts, but we can nudge it along, slowly, painfully, with a thousand small sacrifices like those made by Capt French and his men. So that perhaps, someday, we will finally see when "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

No comments: