America is at war right now but you'd never know it from any kind of
personal experience, unless you're serving in the military or know
someone who is. Most of us
are asked to make no sacrifice, there is no meaningful national debate
about the war's prosecution or aims — just a lot of
ideological posturing, on both ends of the political spectrum.
With a volunteer army,
aided by thousands of private mercenaries, there is no direct pressure
on the nation as a nation to come to terms with what's happening.
They are fighting the war for us, unless they happen to be our own sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives.
Whatever you think of the war, I think you have to admit that the
current administration has committed the one unforgivable sin for the
leadership of a democracy — sending soldiers into a war without the
broad commitment of the nation behind them. Any war that we, the people, don't fight together is bound to turn into a bad one and very likely into a losing one.
Look at the image above by Norman Rockwell, from a Saturday Evening Post
cover. The young soldier, obviously just back from the Pacific
Theater, is a Marine. Viewers of the time would know that he most
likely is just back from Hell, from Iwo Jima or Peleliu or Okinawa — that he has
participated in unimaginable horrors. There is no glimmer of
triumph or satisfaction in his face, just a sense of awe, of almost
bewildered hardness. The folks who make up his audience seem to
appreciate, even if there's no way they could possibly understand,
what's he just done for them, and one thing he's just done for them is
separate himself from their world irrevocably, forever.
They seem to comprehend this — they all seem suffused with the gravity of it, they all seem to take responsibility for it.
This is so far beyond catchphrases like “We support our troops.”
The image reflects a moral complexity, a moral tenderness, that only art can evoke — an
ideal of citizenship that seems to have vanished from our democracy.