Americans love to think of themselves as morally virtuous, people who are, at heart, decent and kind. Yet our history paints a vastly different picture, one of a violent people prone to bloodshed, often at the slightest provocation.
Our forefathers, not long after they landed on America’s shores, turned to violence to rid the land of indigenous people who stood in the way of “progress.” For the two next centuries, American soldiers systematically hunted those we call Indians, indiscriminately killing indigenous men, women, and children. Our political leaders rightly point out the genocidal horrors in other places, all the while ignoring our own dark, shameful history of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Several years ago, the United States government dropped the mother of all bombs on Afghanistan, hoping to destroy ISIS tunnels. Steps were taken to limit “collateral damage,” we were told. I wish government spin doctors would be honest. Saying “collateral damage” hides the truth of American military actions. “Collateral damage” really means women, children, and aged men. What’s the limit when it comes to dead children? How many dead children does it take before the American government changes their death and hell from the skies bombardments?
We Americans are insulated from the human cost of war because we fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here. American children and their mothers don’t have to worry about lethal drone strikes, missiles, bombs, or machine gun fire, but children and their parents in places such as Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, and the West Bank spend their days worrying about being marked for destruction. While American children gleefully play in their yards, children in the Middle East carefully watch the skies, worried that a nameless U.S. drone pilot safely ensconced in a military facility has decided that it is their day to die.
In June, I turn sixty-six years old. The United States has been at war my entire life. My grandparents and parents lived through the World Wars and the Korean Conflict. Millions of civilian men, women, and children were slaughtered by America’s military machine. From the firebombing of Dresden to dropping incendiary and atomic bombs on Japan, the United States showed it was willing to kill anyone anywhere to achieve its political and economic objectives.
Vietnam was my generation’s war. Upwards of two million people died in North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as the United States unleashed its mighty arsenal of killing machines on peasants and soldiers alike. And who can forget — we dare not — America’s use of napalm on the Vietnamese people? Scores of children were roasted alive, and those who survived were left wishing they hadn’t.
Since Vietnam, the United States government has embroiled itself in numerous military conflicts, including ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and many points in between. Currently, we are spending billions of dollars and providing support to fight a proxy war in Ukraine against Russia. Make no mistake about it, the U.S.A. is at war.
The U.S. military sees civilian deaths, including children, as a necessary cost of war. I wonder if these hawks would deem the cost too high if it were their children and grandchildren who were being killed? As long as the children being slaughtered are brown or black, and live in a faraway land, their deaths are considered necessary sacrifices for the spread of capitalistic democracy.
Flag-waving, war-mongering patriots want blood, any blood, as long as it isn’t American. These God-loving killers lament the death of brown- and black-skinned children, and perhaps even shed a tear, but when American exceptionalism and national pride are at stake, what’s the murdering of a few Middle-Eastern children, right? What makes matters worse is that justification for the mayhem unleashed from the skies on unsuspecting civilians is found in the pages of the Christian Bible. America, according to Evangelicals, is a chosen people, a city set on hill, a people with a manifest destiny given to us by God. God is on America’s side because American Christians say he is. Proof for these calls for bloodshed can be found in the Bible. Look at how violent, maniacal, and genocidal the Christian God was, as any honest reading of the Old Testament will reveal.
The American government doesn’t care one whit about children in faraway lands. The darker their skin, the less politicians care. While American leaders might shed an opportunistic tear, their goal is the advancement of America’s domination of the world, and if that means killing children, so be it.
Think of the children, the pictures tell us, but don’t think too hard about who it is that is killing children and why they are doing so. Hurry, new photos to view. Dammit, can’t we stop just for a moment and think about the lunacy of war; that war always ends up killing children and innocent civilians; that no war has ever brought peace?
Let that last line sink in — no war has EVER brought peace.
Cessation of hostilities, yes, but never peace.
Americans need to ask themselves: what has all this violence, bloodshed, and massive expenditures gotten us? Until we are willing to honestly account for the true costs of war, we will continue to think that killing children and innocent civilians is just the cost of doing business.
We say it is about the children, but it’s not.
Let’s quit kidding ourselves.
If it really is about the children, be they Syrian, Pakistani, Ukrainian, Russian, Palestinian, or American, we would stop the violence and bloodshed and find a way to world peace. As long as the United States has sufficient weapons to kill everyone on the face of the earth ten times over and make it uninhabitable for thousands of years, no one will take seriously our calls for peace and disarmament. We are a people who say to the world do as I say, not as I do. Surely I am not alone in thinking it hypocritical that the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons (on primarily civilian targets) is demanding other nation-states get rid of their nukes while the United States hangs on to theirs.
Perhaps someday it will be about the children, but for now they are just props in deadly games being played by power-hungry men who are desperately determined to show the world who has the biggest cock. And once we find out, it will be too late — our world will cease to exist. The means of war that powerful men have at their disposal are such that, unless demands for disarmament and peace are heard and obeyed, we run the risk of not having to worry about global warming because we all will be dead from radiation and economic collapse.
Perhaps, but what other conclusion can we come to as we watch the United States and North Korea and the United States and Russia play dangerous games of chicken that could result in the destruction of every living thing on Earth?
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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When no one cares about the slaughter of innocent children in their own schools (Sandy Hook) among countless others, it’s impossible to think they care about children around the world.
And those who give the command can point to the stories of good vs evil and easily slaughter children, just as their “God” did.
Cynical? Maybe realistic.
Zoe–We are in a country where millions of people worry that “they’re coming for our guns” rather than the children who are slaughtered with said guns.
Is it any wonder, then, that we have leaders who care more about building weapons–nuclear and otherwise–than schools, hospitals or other facilities that nourish and nurture children?
“Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium, atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.”: They ravage, slaughter and usurp under false titles and call it empire; they make a desert (wasteland) and call it peace.”–Tacitus
MJ: “Zoe–We are in a country where millions of people worry that “they’re coming for our guns” rather than the children who are slaughtered with said guns.”
Zoe: Yes MJ. Amazing about their worry. Why are they worried? Most of them claim Jesus as Lord. Are they afraid someone will kill them? Why are they afraid? Aren’t they going to heaven? As for the little ones. Maybe they figure they haven’t reached the age of accountability yet so they get heaven anyway. Shrug.
It’s insanity. :/
I think a lot of Americans love the concepts of military, war, combat gear, weapons, thinking we’re badass and exceptional. Look at our movies, games, fashion – so much is centered around fighting and war. We think of ourselves as civilized badasses with the moral superiority to tell the rest of the world what to do. In reality, that’s a lot of hubris.
I actually thought there might be some push back in the form of whataboutism on this post. For example, what about the children of the Holocaust? Can they be liberated without war, violence &/or some form of aggression? It’s not uncommon to hear this from the religiously inclined . . . ‘Yeah but what about . . . ?”
I know it’s complicated. I’m musing as I consider the whataboutisms I hear in everyday discourse.
Complicated, indeed. I’m a pacifist, but an inconsistent one. I recognize that nothing would have stopped Hitler (or Putin) except violent force. Gandhi argued that people should have silently, non-violently stood up to Hitler; that, yes, he would have slaughtered them, but the Germans would have eventually gotten tired of the bloodshed. Six million dead Jews suggest otherwise. 😢😢
I agree Bruce.
Silent resistance . . . usually in war/genocide leads to death.
CODEPINK has a lot of information about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on their webpage. Turns out we’ve been involved in that region for a long time, and we’re actively blocking peace talks because we want our proxy war with Russia. Listening to the goons on corporate media makes me sick. Even my progressive UU church believes the hype. Thank you for writing this post! I wish more Americans thought like you.
One thing that astonishes me is how narrow is the beam of jingoistic patriotic perception. For example the (extremely right wing) brother of one of my high school chums likes to applaud his patriotism for his service in the military. Yet won’t serve his fellow American, himself, or his family by getting a simple round of Covid vaccines. If something isn’t human, riding in a tank, it isn’t worthy of defense. It’s too bad we can’t as Carl Sagan put it referencing the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens consider ourselves “cosmopolitans”, citizens of the universe. But with 8 billion humans and growing, I suppose it is easy to see why life, in its overabundance, has become cheap.