America has become a nation marching to war in lockstep, left foot following right foot towards the all-too-certain future that has already befallen the body’s other half. Crushing electoral defeats serve as little deterrent in a political system where the pendulum swings comfortably on the same axis, the defeat coming at the hands of the opposite extreme which just as aggressively pursues the same noble goals via the same dead ends with the same overdrawn credit card.
What are the American people to care if their government’s missile strikes land in the bedroom of a young boy who was guilty only of being born in the wrong nation, to the wrong family, at the wrong time? That missile was far enough away from the American’s suburban home not to leave an impression in his more sophisticated brain – you know, the one with the attention span that lasts longer than 10 seconds only when celebrity gossip or local rumors or evening sitcoms are on the agenda. The same brain that can comprehend the suffering of an upper-middle income child who needs more government grant money to get that Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, so they can go to Washington, DC and feel self-important, lobbying a tiny cell of the organism that is the American war machine.
That machine is marching, left foot following right.
That young boy looks down in spirit alongside a newfound friend from a faraway land called Afghanistan. Thousands of miles away, a child’s family is no longer weeping. The older brother has given his life a new meaning, driven by the emotion that could only be delivered from a plane high above. He doesn’t know who the missile was intended for, but he knows where it came from, and he is determined to exact revenge within his lifetime, for his brother, for his family, for his God. He’s training with a group he had no interest in just a year ago, far away from his family, who quietly, tearfully told him they understand.
His parents see the men in uniform patrolling the streets where they grew up. They march by in lockstep, left foot following right.
They’ve seen the strange men before – different uniforms, hammer and sickle where stars and stripes now sit – and they wait for the day when their homeland will once again be theirs, and theirs alone. They rush home to meet curfew as the sun fades below the barren mountains to meet the other side of the globe, giving rise to a morning that will see political speeches on the glory that democracy has bestowed upon such an ungracious people who are unwilling to accept responsibility for it.
Americans greet the day with a fill-up and a subsequent lament about the outrageous price of oil over their five-dollar lattes. In the corner of the marble-floored coffee shop, a muted television shows a talking head offering his take on the political ramifications for the next election cycle. Trendy twenty-somethings are too busy discussing the imminent danger of global warming for sea otters to look up and notice. Fiscally conservative thirty-somethings on the opposite side of the street are voicing their contempt at another tax dollar wasted on health care.
The missiles are too far away to matter – if a Libyan dies in the chaos and no American is around to hear it, he apparently doesn’t make a sound. Left side of the street agrees with right.
War isn’t personal, especially those of the humanitarian variety. Profiteering government contractors, self-righteous politicians, and Americans on Main Street have one thing in common: they all want to keep it that way. They all march in lockstep, left foot now following right. Previous generations have dragged their feet and forced the gears of the war machine to come to a halt, if only long enough for the leg in power to flex and leap forward once more. Nothing close exists in the modern-day war machine. Our generation has needed no story about the humanitarian causes for their violence, for they’ve managed to pretend it simply doesn’t exist. Of apathy and outrage, apathy was the easier pill to swallow, poison though it may be. The government and the media won’t stop selling it, FDA regulations be damned.
One day, the realities of war will set in, and it will be far too late to take back the lives, the money, the apologetic excuses for why the politician on my side means well, unlike the politician on the other side who did the same thing. That day can’t come soon enough.