More Thoughts on the Military: In the End, We Are (Still) All the Same

[A father greets his 7-year-old daughter in a special reunion at her elementary school. Photo by DVIDSHUB.]


Hi there, friends.

I so appreciate the thoughts shared on my last post, wherein I confessed my recent struggle to know how best to behold military servicemen and servicewomen these days.

Sarah's comment, in particular, gave me a lot to think about:

Many members of the military are just doing their jobs. They chose to join for college money, and stayed because the retirement is amazing, or because they have a family and it’s the only way they can count on to make ends meet. So while I might disagree with the decisions made in the upper echelons of leadership, most of that doesn’t apply to the individuals I see.

This comment made an impression on me because it reminded me of the humanity of those in uniform. And I find it ironic that I somehow lost sight of this simple truth, as the point of my post in the first place was the subject of our shared humanity. When viewing that military reunion video, for instance, I thought of the mothers in Afghanistan and Iraq who most certainly embrace their sons returning from war with the same tears of joy that the American mothers did in that video. The point of the post was that, in the end, we are all the same.

And yet somehow, when encountering men or women in military uniform of late, all I have been able to see is their uniform. A military uniform became an immediate label in my mind, something that divided me from the one wearing it because they represented a worldview I've been coming to reject. And just as I critiqued the military for training men and women to distrust "the other," I was exercising the same flawed prejudice toward those who choose to serve in the armed forces.


Last night, as I was reading in bed, I came across a section in Gandhi's autobiography that pulled me right back into the reality of this nonviolence journey:

Man and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed should call forth approbation and a wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of the deed, whether good or wicked, always deserves respect or pity as the case may be. 'Hate the sin and not the sinner' is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practised, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.

. . . It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself. For we are all tarred with the same brush, and are children of one and the same Creator, and as such the divine powers within us are infinite. To slight a single human being is to slight those divine powers, and thus to harm not only that being but with him the whole world.

All of this reminded me that this journey is about learning to regard my neighbor -- each and every one -- as a human being worthy of my respect and kindness. In the same way that God has, for some reason beyond my knowledge, given me an ability in recent history to look upon those who bring harm to their citizens, who torture their enemies, and who commit crimes against others with an incredible degree of compassion, concern, and love, I am meant to regard my brothers and sisters in uniform with the same degree of care and equanimity.

I need to remember this:

On the nonviolent journey, I am seeking a better means to create a more just and humane world. I am not seeking to demonize those who hold different views than I do.

If today were Repentance Thursday, I would confess my ill-founded prejudice against those who serve in the military. I would confess having distanced my heart from those individuals based on their clothes and their livelihood. I would confess the need for greater love.