Kentucky voices

Ky. Voices: We are all dogs of war in this great democracy

February 6, 2013 

How many times must cannonballs fly
before they're forever banned?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

                                — Bob Dylan, 1962


The news Sunday was of the death of SEAL team sniper Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper, who has been credited with 150 kills. Also killed was a friend, Chad Littlefield. Arrested for the shootings was Eddie Ray Routh, a fellow Marine who provided security for Kyle while he was planning his shots. Speculation is that Routh suffered from post-traumatic stress symptoms as a result of his time in the field.

From all accounts, Kyle was a generous person who tried to help veterans having problems. At this time it is unknown what triggered the murders at a firing range,

We can go on interminably arguing about gun control or the culture of violence in which we live. We can argue about how we can deal with the gun violence omnipresent in our daily lives. It seems like it used to be the bad guys got shot, but now the gun is taking more and more of us who are peaceful.

My first thought when I heard the first sketchy details was the quote from Jesus when accosted by the soldiers who wished to arrest him. Peter drew his sword and sliced off one of the men's ears but Jesus said, in Matthew 26:52: "Put your sword back in its place for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."

When we look for reasons for the violence and gun deaths in our society I think we need look no further than the mirror. Since the last "good war," World War II, we have been constantly embroiled in one conflict or the other. We have lost thousands upon thousands of our finest men and women and enough treasure to abolish hunger and want many times over. That is just the ones of our own who have been killed. Millions more have died for the inability of people to reach peaceful resolution of differences.

We are in danger of becoming a society engaged in permanent war. Some say we are already there. Already our economy is so entwined with the machinery of war and death that any drawback from it sends shock waves through our economy. Now we have the reason of economic prosperity to continue the killing. I know it's not just us, but we do our share.

Last year we experienced 22 deaths per day by suicide in our military. That exceeded the number lost in combat. Even when we count fatalities we often miss the great number of our military who are returned to us maimed. Battlefield medicine has become so good that many who would have died are now saved to live a life without one or more limbs or to suffer from traumatic brain injury.

Now we have thousands of wonderful men and women suffering from post traumatic stress disease. Constant stress, exposure to danger, alert readiness — all part and parcel of a good soldier — are influences on the physical structure of the brain. Most do not return to a life of violence when they become civilians again, but so many do.

In spite of what we know, we still have the hawks who shout about loosening the dogs of war at every perceived slight or setback.

We still have those who want to protect the defense industry from normal market forces for the economy's sake and for the sake of the ability to launch war at a second's notice.

It's not just the fault of our military or the war hawks. The fault really lies with the face in the mirror. This is the United States of America. We are not just powerful but we are also at the mercy of the will of the people and thank almighty God for that. None of this happens but for the will of the people, and that includes the murder in our streets and schools. We have the power to, very nearly, end it if we choose to do so.

How many times, how many times before we answer?

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