A Letter to Service Men and Women
Secondly, it should be known now that I do not support the conflict in Iraq and I am a bit suspicious of our roles now in Afghanistan. I think that we were led to Iraq in a time of fear under the guise of a lie (or at the very least unsupported intelligence). I also think that these two conflicts go a lot deeper than 9/11 or one bad leader. I know that this is a conflict that is a long time coming due to the way we as a nation behave, that we as a nation treat other nations, and that we as a people treat other people.
So now to the guts of this letter:
I, as a Christian, would like to apologize for the part that I played in this war and its continuation. I wish I could apologize for all Christians, but I am hesitant to speak for all believers in Christ, especially since many believers in Christ in this country see nothing wrong or incongruent with the way they are living. I will confess to you my sins that I believe are perpetuating this war; leading to more deaths of innocent lives, combatant lives and American lives.
1) I am addicted to gasoline. I cannot help myself. I have taken some measures in scaling back. I recently traded in my gas-guzzling American car for a more efficient import. I have increased my fuel efficiency by 1/3, but am still addicted. I am going to be try to be more intentional about my driving. I know I am only one drop in the bucket, but maybe that one drop will be all that it takes to bring someone home.
2) I have been part of the consumer machine that gives America the image of being uncaringly wealthy while people around the world starve. I have a new car, air conditioning set on 75, an iPod, two computers and food in my pantry from when I moved in last August. I have lived in excess. I pee into safe drinking water that so much of the world doesn’t have. I need to be more intentional about helping people with my wealth. Maybe people in the Middle East would view us differently or treat you differently if we were dropping as many micro-loans as we were bombs or drilling water wells instead of oil wells.
3) I have demanded lower prices “at any cost.” I want cheaper coffee, cheaper clothes, cheaper shoes and cheaper food. I don’t care how they get price down, I just want it down. I turn a blind eye to the fact that this often means younger labor, worse conditions and more dangerous environments for the manufacturers. While we are getting a shirt cheaper today than we were yesterday, resentment is being created in those sweat shops among the children who are working so hard for Americas material comforts. This resentment just perpetuates the need for service men and women for generations to come to lose their lives in conflicts we have not even imagined yet.
4) I am not as educated as I could be about my fellow man in the Middle East. I believe that fear, confusion and ignorance fuel much of American’s feelings toward people in the Middle East. People prefer to be educated on Islam by pundits rather than by scholars, thinkers or believers themselves. Many of us would rather watch extremist anchors discuss Islam than take it upon ourselves to learn from a Muslim. I should have been seeking out people of different opinions to learn from rather than further entrenching my own by listening only to people who agree with me.
5) I have lent my support to systems of injustice by not doing my research on companies, candidates, products, organizations etc. I have either bought from these companies, voted for these people, consumed this product that trickled down to hurt other people in the world. Robert Kennedy once said that each time a man stands up for what if right he sends out a tiny ripple of hope that can sweep down the mighty walls of oppression and injustice. I believe the opposite can be true also. Each time a person doesn’t stand up for what is right, he strengthens the walls of oppression and injustice. I will commit to do my part to stop contributing to this wall.
Like I said earlier, I am only a small drop in a bucket. But I don’t believe I am the only one who feels these things. I think that there are others who know that we only need defense when people feel the need to defend themselves against us. I believe it is a growing consensus that a world of peace cannot be maintained by oppressing our neighbors and then asking them to be our friends.
Thank you for the work you do day in and day out. I am sorry that the bulk of the attention that you get is only for your time in combat, for that is only a small part of what you do. I pray that we all support our troops in ways other than slapping on bumper stickers. For the way to truly support our troops is to make sure they are not needed for combat in the coming generations.
Just one Christian