Friday, February 29, 2008

"God for Harry...

... England, and St. George!" Shakespeare's blood-summoning rallying-cry from his famous depiction of the start of the Battle of Agincourt comes to mind as we hear about our present-day Harry warrioring over there in Afghanistan. To judge from television interviews, he seems like a very decent young man in search of not only of adventure, but also some measure of independence, some sense of himself independent of the heritage of his birth. It must be a weight to have to carry around, along with all the exposure to the public that goes along with it.

I have not explored the political blogs, but I imagine there must be considerable backlash against The Drudge Report for outing Harry. It seems like an ungallant thing to have done, when the young man himself was exhibiting a gallantry of his own. Clearly, the revelation has put both him and his comrades at risk, setting him up as a juicy target for the Taliban, and this morning I hear that he will likely be withdrawn from the fighting lines at the front. More's the pity, if only in the sense that his presence there put the families of our American rich and powerful to shame. There are many things that I have admired about John McCain, and one of them is that he stands apart from virtually every other member of Congress in this respect, allowing his own family to stand in harm's way, as he himself did in his younger years.

(That said, let me quickly add that I oppose everything McCain proposes in the way of policies for the future; and that I note, sadly, that he has turned away from his purported principles on many important issues--even torture.)

Back to Harry and Afghanistan. Obama's right. It's here that the "war on terrorism" should have been pursued from its earliest days. The reported resurgence of the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies is a frightening reminder that we are very far from winning what, as it's currently conceived, is an unwinnable war. I heard on at least one report that they have regained a full one-tenth of the territory which they once ruled--thanks to our intervention in their struggle with the Soviet Union--with ruthless barbarity and medieval religious fervor.

And once again, I find myself in a distressing moral landscape. I despise war and violence, I despise the imposition of one person's will upon another, one country's will upon another; and yet when I see oppression of the kind once exercised by the Taliban against their own people, when I see the threat of ethnic cleansing and genocide, I find myself unable to embrace the full meaning of pacifism. I have to concede in such cases that armed intervention can become the desirable option.

As a recovering Brit, I take note of some silly remnant of national pride in that our prince Hal is fighting the right war. Even though I can't believe that "God" is for anyone, even Harry, England, and St. George, something in me admires the warrior in him. I could wish his warriorship might be manifest in actions other than the old-world, violent kind; but along with many others, I suspect, I am frankly pissed at Drudge for interposing what I judge to be his own self-importance into matters more weighty than his trivial report.

Slightly confused Metta to all this Friday! May we all find true happiness and peace in our lives.


Mark said...

About a year ago I found myself in the same moral conundrum you're in right now. We were studying Jus Ad Bellum (just war theory) in my ethics course, and I just didn't know what to do. Is there any way to justify war? Ideally, I'd love to believe that loving kindness and generosity will ultimately do more for peace than guns and bombs, but I have a hard time saying that same thing after I watched a video of Taliban members torturing and decapitating innocent civilians. I may not always know right from wrong, but I do know that those videos made me sick to my stomach. In the face of such horrifying acts, I wonder if love will work. Maybe there is a place for war, or maybe I've just been raised in America where that seems to be our answer for everything. Sorry for the somewhat stream of consciousness response.

G said...

Peter & Mark, if approached from the intellect or/and emotions, our responses to this issue of war and peace can indeed fluctuate from one position to another...endlessly.

If we learn to approach such an important issue from the position of a peaceful, meditative mind, things can become somewhat clearer. As the Buddha said in the Dhammapada (verse 5), "Hatred is never appeased by hatred...only by non-hatred is hatred appeased."

Hatred, fear, and the like are born of our thoughts & emotions, and to use these as the basis for our reactions to the world will only lead to more conflict - in the long run if not always the short run.

If we observe the mind, we see its patterns and responses to likes & dislikes, to those things that we desire and those things that we do not. True pacifism is born of a truly peaceful (& wise) mind. If the mind isn't completely settled and at peace, then why should we expect its reactions to the world to be so?

"Fear leads to hate; hate leads to anger; anger leads to suffering." (Master Yoda in the Star Wars saga)

There are many tails of martyrs in both Buddhist & Christian history that died when refusing to fight their enemies. Both Jesus Christ & the Buddha taught pacifism, stating that a martyr is truly blessed, either going to heaven or achieving some level of enlightenment.

As stated above, if such tails are merely thought upon or emotionally reacted to, then, yes, we will naturally find it difficult to fully accept the pacifist approach to violent oppressors. If we have a serene and wise mind, established through meditation, then the peaceful response to such delusion-led people will be more compassionate & insight-based.

None of this is easy, of course. But there's only one place to start on the true road to peace, and that's in our own minds. And there's only one time to begin this journey, and that's in this present moment. As Ajahn Sumedho is fond of saying:

"Yesterday is a memory.
Tomorrow is the unknown.
Now is the knowing."

G at 'Forest Wisdom'.

They call him James Ure said...

It's ironic that Drudge outed him and therefore forced him off the battlefield as Drudge is a Neo-Conservative who supports the war in Iraq.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

What Matt Drudge did was terribly self-serving and put the young prince and his entire unit in even more danger, which was unconscionable.

Harry's participation in the war which was started by OUR president does present a poignant contrast to the fact that wealthy and high born Americans do not usually serve in the military.

I also agree with Obama's view. The war in Iraq had nothing to do with the Taliban, who were hiding in Afghanistan. Saddam Hussein, evil man that he was, was not involved in the events of 9-11 but happened to preside over an oil-rich country. I fail to understand why Bush has not been impeached for crimes against the world and the American people.

MandT said...

Every now and again England produces a few good men among its royalty. More often than not from English families older than the current inbred German aristocrats ---such as the Spenser's via Diana. It was no wonder that at a heated moment she had to remind her father-in-law that her's was the greater station and the older family.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I, too, admire Prince Harry for going to Afghanistan. When I was a bit younger than he I was an army officer expecting to go to Vietnam. The army had other ideas, though, and I spent my active duty primarily in (then) West Germany.

Now that I’m a peacenik (pun intended) I really had little objection to the attack on the Taliban. I saw it—and still do—as liberating the Afghan people from very nasty oppressors. Iraq was a different story, even though Saddam’s gang was little better than the Taliban.

Thus I’m happy Harry served in Afghanistan rather than Iraq. It’s too bad that he had to be withdrawn prematurely. But I understand that, too, was his presence was told to the world. I knew the son of a former Congresswoman who had signed on to help establish radio stations in Africa. He was blocked from going by the Secret Service who feared he might be killed or, worse, kidnapped.

Blessings and much shalom, Prince H.