17 September, 2005

Consuming Fires (addendum)

The reason for this post is found below.

Reading a poem, book or essay is always a collaboration between the reader and the author. The author has tried his best to communicate his ideas (with varying degrees of skill), but the reception of those ideas is always colored by who is receiving. We all bring our individual experiences, or lack thereof, and mental or emotional biases to every text we encounter. In fact, that's one of the fundamental conflicts in any religion--the question of what the holy book(s) really mean.

As to the specific question of whether or not Lex is romanticizing war and killing in his short essay, he can defend himself. I however, do not believe he is. If I did, I would not have linked to it and praised it. I know many of my friends have come to different conclusions on that question. If anybody wants to know how I've come to my conclusion, I'd be happy to discuss the details via email.

As a civilian and a sheltered American who has never had the battlefield come to my front door, I'm a prime candidate for the accusation that I am ignorant of and insensitive to the horrors of war. There is some truth in that, of course (and it is the American warfighter himself who allows me the luxury of that ignorance). But I am also unusually empathetic when at my best, and I believe I have been the recipient of a great deal of education at the hands many military friends and contacts. And so, I would be horrified to think that I was seen as some starry-eyed idiot who thinks war is just a video game with dashing pilots, big strong infantryman, and lots of glorious equipment that makes things go "boom." As Lex wrote in the essay in question, "We can wrap it up in the cloth of duty, honor and country (which are no less true even for our having thus used them) but we cannot escape the naked truth beneath, that all war is a kind of savagery." It's still all about killing. And that is never romantic. It's a tragedy. A tragedy for all involved, and a tragedy that we live in a world where at times it is necessary.

And on a very personal note, it hurts my heart to see my friends talking past each other. Almost as much as it hurts to think that I have alienated some of my friends by endorsing a text that we read with such different eyes.