Lessons about War from an 11-Year Old
The Rev.Randy Woodley is a Keetoowah Cherokee Indian teacher, lecturer, poet, activist, pastor in the American Baptist Church and the author of Living in Color: Embracing God's Passion for Ethnic Diversity (InterVarsity Press). website: http://www.eagleswingsministry.com
I picked up my 11-year-old son from school the other day. The conversation was business as usual, until he shared how he was bored in class and wrote a letter to the president of the United States. Flabbergasted, I asked him if he would read it to me.
He was against the war and any escalation of troops. He asked for an immediate withdrawal and politely chided President Bush for sending other young people to war when he would not send his own children. Finally, my 11-year-old cautioned the president that he did not want this war, or any war, in his future.
Today my son is back to riding a skateboard and watching cartoons, but what he said the other day was important, and caused me to take his words seriously and re-think some basics from his perspective. My 11-year-old son barely knows that he has hit upon a governmental principle of our Iroquoian nations (Mohawk, Cayuga, Cherokee, Huron, etc.). The principle is that before any course of action is taken, we must consider how it will affect the next seven generations.
I see short-term thinking as a great malady in American society, especially in government policy. Instead of thinking through the consequences of our actions and policies, we sell out to short-term solutions and pragmatic compromises. This propensity for making decisions for immediate political gratification or corporate profit influences all areas of life.
But for my son's sake, I want to consider just one of the major concerns on his and many others' minds as it relates to short-sighted solutions - namely, war as a means to resolve conflict. While the first casualty of war is truth, in an atmosphere of spin and disillusionment, the human casualties are immeasurable - the so-called "collateral damage" that is inevitable in modern warfare.
Human beings were not created to rule over (or kill) one another, but rather to love one another and to respect one another - even when they hold ideologies that are very different. War takes away human dignity from both the winner and the loser. For the loser, hatred just goes underground and resurfaces in later generations. Hatred takes many forms, of which aggression toward the old enemy is just one. Self-hatred is another. Both the winner and loser end up hating themselves for their breech of humanity. This form of self-hatred leads to self-abuse and abuse of others, and like ripples on a pond, the abuse follows through to subsequent generations.
It is short-term thinking to disregard these natural consequences of war. The only people who prosper from war are those who can make money from it. These companies are able to secure public policies that allow them to continue disastrous environmental violations and an unhealthy dependence on unsustainable fuels. As long as we allow these corporations to shape government policy, war will forever continue. I could go on with this subject for a while - but I think the point is made. I owed it to my son to say this much.
Our actions leave our children, grandchildren, and subsequent generations with a debt that they will eventually have to pay, if they are able. We can change the future for our children by reasoning through our actions and re-thinking government policies for the next seven generations.
In the meantime, my son is waiting for the president's reply.