Recently I heard the country song “I Drive your Truck” by Lee Brice. The lyrics are very moving, as they tell the story of someone dealing with the death of a brother, presumably in Army deployment overseas in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Few things are more saddening to reflect on for citizens that are thought to benefit from this tremendous sacrifice. It kinda makes you wonder.
I was only a senior in high school when the United States invaded Iraq 10 years ago today. I didn’t know anything then, but I’m not sure this excused my ignorance for the next five years. And of course I was old enough to be fighting myself any one of those years! Articles by the Economist yesterday and Sojourners today address the anniversary in a very critical way, but I think necessarily so. Half the problem it seems, thanks to our mainstream media channels, is that most people have no idea how much this war cost — not just monetarily or even in terms of the lives of U.S. troops lost, but Iraqi lives as well (a much, much larger number in comparison, the tragedy of the 9-11 attacks notwithstanding). Moreover, the U.S. under Reagan was willing to either look the other way or even aid Saddam Hussein when he was murdering thousands of Kurds two decades earlier. Why? Because he wasn’t threatening our security at the time, and in one case was actually furthering it. I’m not even trying to demonizing the U.S. for this. That kind of foreign policy makes sense when you’re a global superpower. It’s just amazing that people don’t recognize the logic. The information is readily available to any remotely thoughtful constituent.
For me at least this is a good reminder not to see our own country through rose-colored glasses, or any country for that matter, especially if it’s rich and powerful with cause to seek its own (often private) interest at the expensive of others (isn’t this the way the world has always worked?). And it doesn’t matter whether the president is George W. Bush or Barrack Obama. Right now under the Obama administration, for example, there is much to be concerned about militarily speaking, particularly regarding drone warfare and the extremely suspect National Defense Authorization Act.
The other day I came across this video of Stanley Hauerwas talking about the threat that sentimentality brings to Christianity and the Church. Whether or not it applies directly to the post-9-11 era politics, it’s at least a sobering message about the costliness of discipleship that is all too often forgotten by privileged and comfortable Christians. What would it look like if a large group of Christians in the U.S. became as outspoken and concerned about militarized and imperial forms of violence as some of us are about homosexuality, abortion, gun ownership, prayer in schools and the like? I don’t think culture would know what to do. People might actually start associating us with Jesus.