War … what is it good for, absolutely nothin’ … ~ lyric from the 1969 hit Temptations song “War,” sung by Edwin Starr.
Now, you might dismiss these words from the Vietnam-era counter-culture movement during the height of the Vietnam War as just another protest song.
But, if you sit down on your couch and think about it a while, with an open mind, you will realize the words ring more true than anything else you have ever read.
War is really good for nothing.
Now, don’t get me wrong, good things — noble things — have come from wars, and I could list a few here with no hesitation.
But, the bad far, far, far outweighs the good.
War has shaped America, from its very founding. And, I’ll hazard a guess, war has just about shaped every nation upon planet Earth, at some point in history past — or present.
Look at the Middle East as you read these words, and you will see war killing and changing and altering the course of the peoples of Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan et al.
Step a handful of decades back in time, and virtually the entire world was enmeshed in the greatest war to ever befall mankind, when the Second World War killed upward of 85 million people — 3% of the world’s population.
All it did was completely remake the face of Europe, and leave scars on the land and on the psyche of an entire generation.
OK, now go back to the First World War, and if there was ever a monument built to the stupidity of mankind, it would be this war.
It achieved absolutely nothing but decimating a generation of men, who died in muddy trenches from bullets and disease and chemical warfare. The butcher’s bill? — 16 million dead.
It changed the boundaries of nations and filled cemeteries and assuaged the egos of politicians and military leaders of that generation, who looked on the lists of the dead and wounded as mere figures on the altar of nationalism.
The rivers of blood of men, women and children were of no consequence to world leaders of the day from 1914 to 1918.
There are other wars throughout world history that I could write on, that did nothing more than gain territory or prestige to the victors — and woe to the losers.
This all leads up to the American Civil War, for me another pointless war, but one that shaped America into what it is today — for good and for bad.
Now, you have to change your mindset from 2019 back to 1861, and those fateful pre-war days in America when Americans literally were at each other’s throats.
Slavery was the issue, with a garnish of states’ rights, and the fact that the North and the South simply were two distinct entities, that shared an economy and a continent, but which were far different from one another — basically agrarian vs. industrial, although that too is an oversimplification.
When two unbending, uncompromising sides face off, war almost always is the outcome.
So, I thought: What good came from the Civil War?
Some things got better, many things stayed the same, and some got worse.
Race relations, of white masters owning black slaves taken from their homes in Africa, was always unpleasant and immoral.
And, it has always festered beneath the surface of American society, even today.
But then, what should we have expected from the outcome of the Civil War?
You have the North beating the South to a bloody pulp economically.
While the battlefields were hotly contested, and the Confederacy stood toe-to-toe with Northern armies and won many key battles, in the end the industrial, transportation and superior population of the North and states that did not secede from the Union prevailed.
Yet, 620,000 Americans died, millions were wounded, the South’s economy was wrecked. Each side blamed the other, and both sides — to some effect — very unjustly laid the blame on blacks for all the death and destruction.
It’s hard for us to see today looking through 21st century glasses, at all the hatred, bigotry and venom that produced a war that very nearly ruined this nation.
That venom still runs under the surface of today’s politics, and today’s realities of life in America.
Former president and general Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke these words in 1946 after World War II: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
Although we are a melting pot of religions and religious freedom, we like to think we are a Christian nation that heeds the words of the Bible.
But, do we? Do we really?
Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
War is the antithesis of these words from Mark 12:31, and always will be.
It’s been said we chose hate over love because it’s so much easier to hate.
War? What is it good for?
Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Visit his column blog at davidchristyhistoricallyspeaking.blogspot.com.