Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5 years later

Today is the 5th anniversary of the US's invasion of Iraq. Today President Bush gave a speech defending his decision to start this war and his resolve to keep fighting it. Today many other politicians, including presidential hopefuls McCain, Clinton, and Obama, will give speeches touting their positions, saying why the war was and is a good idea or was/is a terrible idea. Whether it's appropriate or not, today is a day filled with rhetoric.

I've weighed in on this war before, so I won't rehash my position. If you want to know how I feel, just look to the left for the pink button. That will tell you all you need to know. So instead of policy talking points or even a lengthy theological interpretation thereof, I want to share my memories of where I was five years ago when we started this war.

Five years ago, in March of 2003, I was a Senior at Butler University getting ready to graduate and move to Nashville to start at Vanderbilt Divinity School in the Fall. On this particular day I was in the informal room of the fraternity house where I lived, along with about two dozen of my brothers watching the opening rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament. Most of us didn't go to class that day because we didn't want our schedule of beer drinking, pizza eating, and basketball watching/ amateur commentating to be interrupted by something as silly as academics. Like it or not, this is the logic of guys in college.

This yearly basketball viewing ritual was a little different, however. The games continued without interruption (because God forbid viewing of a single free throw be interrupted by breaking news of people dying), but during the commercials Dan Rather would come on the screen and show us live footage of Baghdad being bombed. Since it was nighttime in that part of the world, we saw the bombing in fuzzy green night-vision.

Fueled by a combination of too much alcohol and too many video-games, most of the guys cheered for each explosion the way they did a three point shot. The cheers were accompanied by laughter, very creative racial slurs, and impressions of people with Arabic accents running from falling bombs.

I wish I could say that I spoke up and told my friends that this wasn't OK, that each explosion meant that people died, and that people we knew might be killed in the invasion. I wish I could say that I took a moral stand, but I didn't. The whole experience was so surreal that I sat there transfixed, unable to believe what I was seeing on TV, never mind being able to process the reactions around me.

You can support the war or oppose the war, but people dying is never funny. All wars, no matter how positive the outcome (and I firmly believe that positive things can come out of any situation, no matter how bad), the death of anyone, civilian or soldier, is a tragedy. We can and should debate with one another whether the war was the right thing to do and whether we should stay in Iraq, but as we do, let us remember that lives are being lost every day that are never coming back. People lovingly created in God's image are dying, and God is the first one who cries any time any person meets a violent end.

I hope and pray that we we reflect on, debate, and disagree about what has happened over the last five years, that we can remember all the precious lives that have been lost, and that whatever position we support, we do so sincerely trying to honor those lost lives.


Whitney said...

Hey Matt - While I do happen to support the war and its continuation, I enjoyed reading your blog on the topic and agree with you that (necessary or not) all war is a tragedy. Hope you are well! -Whitney (Bransford) Goble

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully written.
I agree wholeheartedly, especially with the last few paragraphs.

Steph said...

I actually teared up while reading this. It was so refreshing and honest and just the real deal. I have been there. I sometimes find myself still there--- laughing with people when I should not. Not taking a stand when I should.....I remember that day, as well. I actually have changed my mind since then. Whatever my views--- it is still a human life. Still someone's son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother---best friend....cousin...."cause thet's what it's all's about LOVE LOVE LOVE....JOY JOY JOY.....PEACE PEACE PEACE."

I remember that song from church when I was no more than 6.

Peace and love and joy,