Iraq, Afghanistan and the American Psyche

For those whose loved ones are there now or who suffer after effects from time they spent in combat, Iraq and Afghanistan remain an immediate concern. For others, like myself, the conflicts are an abstraction. The sufferings of the soldiers and the civilians do not pain my psyche. I have to remind myself again and  again, despite regular news coverage, of the real pain that war causes. Am I alone in that respect? I suspect many Americans find themselves in the same place, given the relative scarcity of antiwar protests for some time now. How much more removed from our psyches are the conflicts elsewhere in the world, with far greater casualties. Few American families have a substantial stake (i.e., loved ones) fighting elsewhere in Asia or in Africa. There are dictatorships as bad or worse than that of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein yet America makes no efforts to replace them as we did Saddam. There are perhaps people and situations that require a military response; dictators with whom no negotiation is possible or useful. Yet war inevitably leads to massive suffering. Each war in which America has been involved over the past fifty years has resulted in more serious and longer lasting injuries over the immediate trauma of death. Families suffer and soldiers suffer. Typically, it is the young who are sent off to fight and die (or suffer horrible injuries). In Africa, children are conscripted to fight. If the leaders of all the countries in the world were to agree that no one younger than age 50 could be sent into combat, do you suppose a substantial reduction in  wars would result? I do. An unlikely proposition perhaps, but one worth considering. Then again too, it is far past time for the people, not the leaders, to make such decisions. How could they do so in dictatorships? It all comes down to a matter of will. As for me, a belief in the power of prayer–specifically the invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the critical element. For others, a different prayer will be their focus. But in all cases, the intention to view fellow humans as other than villains or the enemy and instead with respect is critical.