Aim Before You Shoot

{“The Chaplain’s Corner”, in the newsletter for the local Sons of Confederate Veterans.}

We live in a time of televised war and constant bombardment of media reports of conflict in Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Like a soldier in the field, the citizen may try to set their mental sights on who are the good guys and who are the bad guys and rally a battle cry from the home front. But our scope lenses are fogged: we have neither reliable intelligence from the huge field of world politics, nor the inborn training to tell friend from foe thousands of miles away.

We fire into the dark. Our prejudices reduce our accuracy, and our hate takes away any chance — or desire — at precision. We don’t even know who or what we have hit with our words and actions after a volley is released. Those injuries of hearts and deaths of ideas are not our concern, forgetting they may have been casualties of our own friendly fire.

Let’s pretend you are at Antietam or Gettysburg. Is your second cousin on the other side of the field the enemy? You were raised with a common national history that only divided a short while ago. But they stand for something else now, represented by the banner your cousin carries. Is the banner the enemy? Is the population living in the land represented by it the enemy? Is his commanding officer the target of our wrath? Is the politician who rallied the cause to be brought to account? There are no easy answers, but in the immediate needs of warfare, yes, your cousin is the enemy.

Now let’s look at today’s American “War on Terror” — not politically, but in terms of warfare. There is no battlefield. There are no uniforms or other way to identify the enemy apart from potential threat assessment. There is no land to be gained or lost, and the enemy has no nation or territorial boundary. It is violence for its own sake. There is no measurable or even rational goal the aggressors can achieve. They cannot lose, but there is nothing to win.

We can call this mindless and amoral, yet we suffer this insanity in small ways in our own lives. We lash out in anger at people who don’t even know why we are upset. We put a face on our problems by picking a skin color or whether or not someone is wearing a turban. It doesn’t matter if they are a pacifistic Hindu; it catches our eye and we pull the trigger before looking though the scope. We are not at war. It’s about controlling the human capacity of violence. We will most likely never lose our life or liberty by giving someone different a (reasonable) benefit of the doubt, not to mention the ideals our ancestor’s fought for, which including the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. When we play terrorist by bashing an ethnic, religious, or political group, what do we hope to achieve? Is is violence of sorts for its own sake and will have its own end.

There is evil in the world, and we are anxious to confront it, verbally or by vote, maybe even arms. We need to feel we are doing something about it, even if it’s the wrong thing. We need to believe it will end with an arrest or military conquest, but it is the nature of man which we cannot expect to change by any amount of force. We convince ourselves we have all the answers about who is to blame because to admit that we don’t makes us feel powerless.

In other words, we shoot at almost everything that moves and don’t even know if we felled one legitimate target. Let’s be easy on each other. Ask questions first, not later. It’s pretty certain the other person — sometimes someone we don’t even know or have met — has a life, a family, and dreams like you do. If your weapon is a tongue, a pen, or a gun, the wisdom is the same. Think before you aim. And aim before you shoot.

Ken posted at 2007-8-31 Category: Uncategorized
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