On Aug. 13, 1970, my brother, 1st Lt. Lawrence Gordon Swarbrick, was killed in Vietnam. He was one of more than 282,000 U.S. and Allied military lost in that war. The civilian losses in North and South Vietnam are reported to be over 625,000.
What about the ones who had their spirits broken, their bodies and lives torn, their hopes decimated? No one counted those — on either side.
That was 50 years ago. Is the world more peaceful now? No. Is the world safer now? No. Does military, or any kind of killing, further the effort toward a serene life for any of us? I’d have to say that I don’t think so.
In the past 50 years, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. I honor my brother and all who serve, because they are doing what their country asks of them. But I do not honor war, battles, mass, mindless, anonymous killings. Every Christmas, many of us hear the carol about the soldiers in Europe during WWI who sang together Christmas songs one night, and the next day shot at, and killed each other.
Each of these soldiers, no matter what side they were on, were people! Sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers. People like we are. They didn’t become numbers until the statistics were announced at the end of the day.
In the past 50 years, I have also visited a fair number of national cemeteries. The rows and rows and rows of headstones in each one sadden me, not only because of the loss of those buried there, but because I know we will break ground again to bury more.
Sometimes, when I am at one of these cemeteries, I listen — to the breeze, or the birds or the silence. Soon, I hear voices, seemingly from the graves and the headstones. The voices I hear are say, “When are you going to learn?” “Can’t you see?” “War doesn’t work.” “How many more before you listen?” I wonder the same thing.
They called World War I “the war to end all wars,” but it didn’t. Every war kills and produces more distrust, resentment, hate, more violence. After every major war, countries get more sophisticated weapons, to end more lives, more indiscriminately.
How many lives are lost as “unintentional casualties” and call it “collateral damage”? What is “collateral” about ending lives? They are people. We start to de-humanize them, think of them, as different, and then we have an enemy — no longer a person — so killing them becomes less abhorrent, more justifiable.
There has to be a better way! There must be more productive ways of gaining what we need while providing the “others” with what they need.
Stop hoarding weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons. Really look at the effects on the human race as a result of all of that “sophistication.”
Stop spending so much of the governments’ money on destruction and put it into construction. In real terms, put that money into building roads, into training those laborers who worked in now disappearing industries the current and upcoming technology, in supporting the arts, for new ways of educating, for science, for health and medicine.
Train our young people to build, not destroy. Stop with the video games that wipe out “alien” civilizations! (When one of our grandsons was about 6, I was playing with him and his “guys” that fought and killed each other. I told him that I wouldn’t play those games anymore if we were killing. I said, “I don’t like to kill. Death is permanent and those guys can’t play anymore if we kill them. I won’t do that.” After only a few moments, he said, “We could freeze them, for a little while, and then, we could unfreeze them and they could play again.” Wonderful! An alternative to killing from a 6-year-old! Now, could we adults think of alternatives? I’ll bet we could.)
Let’s try. Honor life, not death. Value every life! Please! Take the next three minutes to think about it. Then do it again – the thinking about it, not the killing!
Carol Swarbrick Dries is a Sequim resident.