soldiers defend us from our enemies; everyone seems to agree on this. what are those enemies? the number one killer of our soldiers today is suicide – which to me means that the number one enemy we face in the world is the madness induced by seeing its ugliest parts. soldiers directly face the fucked up things that afront our moral senses and laugh in the face of human dignity.
our soldiers defend us from this madness by going into the world and directly experiencing the ugliest, most brutal, most hateful parts of it. they face it with care, concern and purpose – dulling those most valuable senses in the process. they give their lives so that we can maintain our sanity. ‘bad guys killed my friend’ is upsetting, but it makes sense to us as part of the world. a baby with its head cut off does not make sense – and neither does ‘our bravest are killing themselves’.
i believe we contribute to this ugliness in the world whenever we act without regard to the full consequences of our actions. when we blind ourselves to the suffering we cause on the part of others, we push that suffering away from us, to tiny dark places where it festers and grows into simpering hatred and callous rage. “loose lips sink ships” was the phrase then. “careless minds drown worlds” is better now. the evil of “not my job”, the evil of “it would have happened anyhow”, the evil of “let someone else deal with it” – the evil of uncaring – those are the enemies that kill our soldiers daily, in greater numbers than any foreign power or terrorist organization could dream of.
when we add that madness to the world, we push it away from us and away from the parts of the world we deal with. the madness grows in the tiny hidden spaces where kindness never visits, where apathy and selfishness are kings, judges and teachers. the horrors living in these places defend themselves with shields of apathy, indifference, and scorn. “they should make better choices” and “they should know better” defend “not my problem,” “too far away”, and “they’ve always been like that”, who are guarding “fuck this”, “i want them to hurt like i do”, and “there is no goodness in this world”.
concern arrives in the faces of soldiers with badges that gleam and hearts that bleed. our soldiers destroy this uncaring through the force of their courage, their tenderness of their concern, the solidity of their belief in each other and what they know to be right and good and true. our soldiers are often permanently scarred – as would happen to any psyche foolish, unlucky, or brave enough to be near the places where madness reigns.
when you glimpse the face of madness, it becomes you. it uses your body to infect others, like a virus. a soldier committing suicide takes some of this madness out of the world – protecting the rest of us from seeing the horrors they’ve seen.
i know i’m guilty of adding to this madness in the world. i’m sorry for that. thanks for keeping us safe, guys. thanks for ensuring that some things do matter, that values have impact, and that choices have consequence.