lyef & thymes

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I'm afraid of Americans...

I'm not really afraid of Americans, in general, but I met some scary ones this last week.
I was attending the Soulfest five day summer festival in New Hampshire, and met these two fellows training to be in the Airforce, waiting to be called up to active duty. One of them has been training to fly fighters, and can't believe his luck. More and more pilots are refusing to fly fighters in Iraq, so this fellow's chances of being selected are very good.

This guy is a Christian, and he explained his philosophy to me. Basically, you train and train for something, and then when the time comes, you want to be "in the game". So as other pilots are quitting because they don't want attack crowded cities, this one fellow "can't wait to go drop bombs".

This is how he said it. "I can't wait to go over there and drop bombs." I asked him why he didn't mind breaking one of God's commandments not to kill, and he said that he has been trained to follow orders, and that he "lets the thinkers do the thinking". Very stirring.

I found during my numerous conversations with this one pilot that he wasn't willing to discuss issues. If we talked about free will vs. predetirmination, he would quote a scripture verse, and that was that. No thinking, no discussion.

"What do you think about the afterlife?"

"Matthew 25." No thoughts of his own on the matter. No intrigue, no sense of wonder at the mysteries that seem to be sown into the scriptures.
"It says it will be like this, so that's how it will be."

I suppose it re-enforced the fact that I love to think about things, and talk about them, even if I don't have them figured out. I love the mystery, and was stunned to meet someone who shuns mystery. It was as though he knew there were deeper things in life, and found them to be harmful, choosing instead to settle for the pat answer. This verse tells us this, end of story. Drop the bombs on these buildings.

Is this typical of American Soldiers, I don't know. Maybe it's actually typical in all walks of life, everywhere. I don't know that either. Thoughts?

20 Comments:

At 3:01 PM, Blogger wilsonian said...

You've actually found the key to it all...

The armed forces have one goal in training above all others: to teach you to follow orders. Period. No thought, no hesitation. Hear the order, follow the order, Yes Sir. It is the only way things work in combat. Without that response drilled in... ugly situations become instant lose situations.

And as it happens, those who take orders well, do really well and go on up higher in the ranks.

Those who take orders well are the ones drawn in, in the first place.

Observations here... I've never served and am a small "p" pacifist.

 
At 6:56 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Dude - in Orwell's 1984 you would have been guilty of Think-Crime...

This guy would be a model citizen.

Scary, very scary.

Seen "The Island" yet???

 
At 8:14 PM, Blogger Sgt Steve said...

maybe his emotions are turned off or something, i dunno.

Hey, you left us hanging about the Kate story, wtc.

And reply to my email you punk.

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger Jake-M said...

Steve, the Kate story doesn't have an update yet. She went away for a week, and then the day she returned, I went away for a week. So nothing to report.

As for my friend the soldier, I am still sorting out why he sees things the way he does. Wilsonian, you make a good point.

And I noticed that he didn't use language like "fly around and bomb cities" but rather "Drop Bombs" which is a catch phrase these days for doing something awesome.

"I'm gonna drop a bomb on you kid" could mean that I am gonna beat you at basketball really badly. So it seemed with this guy as well, that he was using language that made his job seem really impressive.

 
At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey just to say i met an american soldier some years back when he was over in Edinburgh....we spent ages sat on a hill discussing, God, life, the universe..ice-cream etc....it was very cool...there are some american soldiers out there who are deep......well thats been my experience for what its worth :O)norrain

 
At 8:16 PM, Blogger wilsonian said...

yes, it's not fair to generalize...

Regrettably, I've got some of that insanity married into my family. I have one cousin and his half-brother serving with the US forces in Afghanistan.

The half-brother is in special forces. He refers to on-duty time as "going hunting".

The whole situation has been de-humanized. It's sick, really. But maybe that's the only way human beings can kill other human beings?

 
At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wilsonian....i understand your point of view...some people are kinda twisted....maybe war does that to folk??? who knows, pain can sometimes turn monsters out of us all.....i believe in hope and change and maybe prayer can soften your relatives hearts.....sometimes i forget that i should be praying for iraq...maybe i need to start today......sometimes i don't know what to think of this world...so maybe i try not to think too deeply otherwise i think i would've run away to hide in the mountains....maybe i still will:O0)n

 
At 3:35 PM, Blogger Jake-M said...

It's true that it would be unfair to generalize a typical attitude of soldiers, or Americans, so I hope I didn't give the wrong impression. I don't assume that EVERYONE behaves this way, I simply wanted to relate my experience in this particular case.

I appreciate your opinions and insights into this topic.

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger bobbie said...

hey jake, found your blog through wilsonian - great thoughts, and please know that not all americans are like that! i say that as one who lived in ontario for 10 years - there are some of us who aren't rabid bomb droppers!

this kind of thing makes me so sad. how god gets dragged into this kind of thing is so beyond me. this kind of philosophy is a horrid heresey and i pray it is one day purged out of the church.

the nazis were only following orders too... ugh.

 
At 12:20 AM, Blogger Handel said...

Don't get me started.

Meh I'm too lazy/tired to get started anyways.

Vote NDP.

I is done

 
At 9:48 AM, Blogger Jake-M said...

Bobbie, sorry to make it sound like I think this way about Americans in general. I surely don't. I live in a border town in New Brunswick, and no matter what my opinion might be about American military efforts of late, I still buy my gas in the states.

You mentioned that the Nazis were just following orders too. That may be true, but there are some ideologies implicit in Naziism that are a bit different from the "War on Terror" that we have seen of late.

The Nazis annexed Austria, then the Rhineland, then the rest of Czechoslovakia, because there were lots of germans living there, and Hitler saw an inroad through national self deteriminism. But when the war started to go awry for him after D-Day, he actually brought troops back off the line, to assist in speeding up the "final solution" to his perceived problem with the jews. It seems that wiping out the jews was in his agenda more than conquest.

American foreign efforts of late have been aggressive, and there is a sick ammount of Nationalism, but there isn't the same level of conquest, or any discernable ethnic bent. The American ideology seems to be that they will do anything to preserve their current way of life, while the Nazis were attempting to restructure the political, military, and even ethnic situation, placing themselves solely at the top. An important distinction in my eyes.

 
At 2:02 PM, Blogger The Ken said...

Hi Jake,

Just to throw another angle on this whole thing - I want to question your idea that the bible says not to kill. For a long time I was of the same impression until I noticed that in the 10 commandments, the word "murder" is used rather than "kill". (I looked up 10 translations and only the KJ and KJ21 used "kill" instead of "murder". Maybe we need some Hebrew here..)

In conjunction with the fact that there's a whole lot of wars and battles going on in the old testament, often approved of by God, I would suggest that to kill in battle is not the same as murder.

Now, I don't want you to think I advocate the reckless bombing of civilian targets or anything like that. I don't. In fact, I personally would like to go to Afghanistan and actually rebuild some stuff instead of blowing it up. It's just that there was this time when I was thinking about the second world war which we seem to be using here as a comparison. I figured that for the British army, there was a clear justification in picking up guns and starting to shoot people. Our nation was clearly being attacked and would have been overrun if we hadn't done what we did. It seems like a much more clear-cut war than the recent ones we've been seeing.

So, just another thought. Maybe to kill in battle's ok, as long as you can justify the battle in the first place.

 
At 4:43 PM, Blogger Jake-M said...

Hey Ken, interesting thought.

To set the bible aside for a moment (how's that for a premise), I recognize that my own stance is based on a belief in life as important, and others lives as equally important as my own. The bible gives some instruction as to when to kill and when not to, and prohibits murder as you pointed out, but I stand in the camp that says it is wrong to take a life. '

However, wrong can sometimes be right. My mind tells me that flying in an airplane is wrong (it really does tell me this) but sometimes flying in an airplane is right.
My beliefs tell me that war is wrong, but studying history shows me that in some cases it is right.

For the people of Israel, God often allowed them to do things that were not his view of right. This began with divorce. Moses was initially instructed that it was not allowed, then later, due to the hardness of heart in Israel, God allowed it. Later it was the Theocratic governance of Israel. God wanted to lead them directly through an appointed "judge" (Moses, Joshua, deborah, Gideon, Samuel, Samson) but the people waned a King, like the other nations had, so he allowed it.

In regards to Old Testament war efforts, God was about the business of gleaning from society a people who would be HIS people. It seemed as though it was his desire to make them great. While there are principles within God's character that never change, there are others that always do.

So it seems that whenever another nation rose a sword against Israel, or even had the potential of doing so, God gave them Theocratic instructions as to how to defeat them. Look at what happens when Saul becomes King and starts fighting without God's instructions. It isn't long before he is cowering under a tree praying for assistance.

So Ken, I concede your point that it is likely murder, not killing in general, that we are commanded not to do. But I do not concede the idea that God condones wars.

As for the killing that happens in battle, surely there is justice in there somewhere. What does it mean when both sides feel justified? One was right, the other wrong? or both right?


I am going to look into the "Just War" doctrine a bit, because this is an interesting subject. It seems the Church thinkers of the past have come up with a document outlining theologically permissible defence maneouvers, and I don't know anything about it yet.

 
At 2:23 AM, Blogger J@TheScrutiny said...

Interesting post. Thanks Jake. And by the way...as and American (but with tendencies) I took no offense. Many Americans would actually be as offended or concerned by the comments you heard. Frankly, if I heard those comments, I would tell them to get the "f" out of my face...but that's me. Not that I am 100% against what is happening but I am always against what I consider ignorance.

As far as imperialism, that is the basis for the countries we live in. As far as God...hmmm...not sure...,like I said, we both in live in coutries that were aquired by war.

Jason

 
At 9:22 AM, Blogger Jake-M said...

Jason, interesting perspective, namely that we both live in countries acquired by war. I would have said that America fought for it's independance, but that Canada took the much slower route of being granted independance on the basis of good behaviour.

I agree that the distasteful part of my conversation with the fellow was his total lack of critical thinking. I actually enjoy meeting people with vastly different world views from my own, when they have collected the data, drawn the lines, and evaluated the consequences.

I love the idea that two thoughful, considerate people can have entirely different opinions.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger J@TheScrutiny said...

My war comment was meant more towards the people that lived here prior to the “settlers”…and are you independent, whose picture is hanging in your hockey arenas? ;-)

I agree, life is lifeless without friends that look at the world differently. You know, someone offends and disgusts you and then your realize you love them and value there friendship immensely.

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger Jake-M said...

J, you make a good point. At hockey arenas nation wide you can see portraits of our Nation's true ruler, Tim Horton.

No, seriously, Canada is a soveriegn Nation, whose Prime Minister meets with Britain's Prime Minister as an equal. While there is still a commonwealth of nations, there is no sense of the British Monarchy "ruling" Canada.

And if you are talking about the original settlers founding this country through war efforts, well, there seemed to be at least a modicum of diplomacy.
"Here are some flasks of whiskey, a few rifles, medicine to help cure you from diseases that WE introduced into your people. And in exchange we will take the land."

Today they don't even uphold the honourable tradition of getting your enemy drunk and cheating them. I miss the old days.

Actually, in Canada it is still a dark spot in our history, and Aboriginal Canadians have unique status amidst the population. Is it the same in the USA?

 
At 5:18 PM, Blogger J@TheScrutiny said...

Aaahh…Tim Horton (rip). His ability to give me heartburn, with his donuts and bad coffee, is unparalleled.

The history of native Americans is certainly a sad one. Tough to come back from virtual genocide through germ warfare (maybe unintentional) and “conventional” warfare. Today they are a small part of the population but seems to now be growing in a positive way. The native American culture is still absent for much of our society.

During my one trip to Winnipeg, there seemed to be a lot of poverty among Aboriginal Canadians. I didn’t notice this on my trips to the west and east (center, whatever you call Toronto). What do you mean by “unique status”?

Jason

 
At 9:35 AM, Blogger Jake-M said...

J, from what I have seen, Aboriginal Canadians in major centres have a worse time of it that those in rural settings. I understand that the situation in Winnepeg is actually pretty bad.

As for the geography of Canada, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are the middle (Quebec is sort of east, which makes Ontario the middle-east). Everything west of Manitoba is "the west" and the Atlantic east of Quebec are known collectively as "the east coast".

So someone might say of me "yeah, I know this guy who lives out on the east coast." And for people in Ontario it doesn't matter which province it is, east coast is enough information.

 
At 5:07 PM, Blogger R.O. Flyer said...

Jake and the others,

Hmm...I am glad you made this post Jake, and it is good to see that people are interested in talking about it. It is time for a good discussion about Christian faith and violence. It is an issue that is too often ignored. Indeed, some parts of the Bible do portray God as a pathological killer, there are also some parts of the Bible which portray God as totally and always nonviolent (i.e. Jesus). If one holds everything in the Bible to be divine truth, and applies every theological message in the Bible to life, then one will become a walking contradiction. The problem is ones approach to the Bible, not the Bible itself. Does every story or narrative in the Bible hold the same amount of truth? If so, then how do we reconcile competing views? Is it wrong to reject violent images of God even if they are in the Bible? Is it wrong to question these images? All of this depends on one's approach to the Bible and theology. First of all, do we believe that Jesus is the revelation of God? Do we believe that his message is the truth above other truths? If we believe this, then it would seem that we are allowed to reject images of God in the Bible that don't agree with the message of Jesus. In fact, it would seem that this is crucial to faith and theology. Interestingly, Jesus rejects all forms of violence and he demonstrates his commitment to nonviolence when he is put to death without physical resistance. He spoke with authority over scripture, and in some cases spoke out against scripture. In particular, he speaks out against violence in scripture, when he says, "You have heard that it was said, 'an I for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you,'Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.." (Matt. 5:38). Jesus' message and demonstration of nonviolence is clear. If we believe that he is more authoritative than scripture, then any sort of violence is completely unacceptable. I interpret this radically, and so I try to live my life nonviolently, which is especially hard in a violent world. Not only do I believe it is our responsiblity as Christians to actively speak out against violence, I think Jesus demands us to work for a more peaceful world.

 

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