Casualties of Numb

When we first invaded Iraq, I would go outside every morning to grab the paper waiting to see a “War Ends in Middle East” Headline plastered across the Texarkana Gazette. I can’t for the life of me tell you why I did this. Maybe it was because I wanted to be the first to know we won. Perhaps I just hoped it’d be a quick little war.

Sometimes, my dad would beat me outside in our race to the driveway, and be sitting in his recliner reading the paper. In these situations I’d ask the same question: “Did we win the war yet?” Eventually he ended my continuous inquiry with a loving statement, “Buddy, when we’re done fighting in the Middle East, I promise I’ll let you know.”

He’s never told me this yet.

We have been fighting for sixteen years. I have known us to be in war more than at peace. And I am weary. But I remember a time when we weren’t at war. When fighting was not our default position. When attacks were wept over; not celebrated.

Seniors, graduating and going to Prom this year, do not remember a time we haven’t been at war. They’ve spent an entire lifetime with us fighting. And last Thursday we took a large leap forward to sending young men and women back out again. You could say this was a one time thing. That’s not the stance we’re taking in Afghanistan and North Korea. Our actions and your ideas are inconsistent.

I cannot join the celebration of force without weeping for our casualties. Not just soldiers but for the loss of ourselves. The loss of innocence. We used to be so sensitive to war. If we went to war, we all mourned that it had come to that. The loss of one soldiers life was a shock to us all.

Now we are numb. We are the spiritual and emotional tooth that’s been infected too long by the War Cavity. Numb to the fact that people are dying and we celebrate their deaths. Numb to the fact that we want the violence and the bloodshed. Numb that we call those innocent civilians who we kill as “collateral damage”; the cost of doing business. We’re too dosed up on Novacaine to feel pain anymore.

But what will I tell my sons, when they come up to me as I sit in my chair and read the paper? When they ask me “is the war over yet?” Will I tell them that I’ll let them know when the fightings over? Will I tell them that they shouldn’t fear or weep over the loss of a generation’s innocence? What will I tell them?

I will tell them that this too will be made right. That one day, we will beat our plowshares into pruning hooks. One day, I will see that yes, everything sad does become untrue.

And maybe, just maybe, my children will return back to the time before the war.

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