Monday, September 22, 2008

Peace Vigilance

A chilly Sunday evening in September. People gather for a candlelight peace vigil at MacDonough Monument in downtown Plattsburgh. Hopes are expressed for the end to war. The names of the fallen are read and honored.

2008 or 1968?

Four decades. Some leaders didn’t learn from history; now we’re all doomed to repeat it.

The Vietnam War. During my teenage years it dragged on and on, always in the background. Winning hearts and minds. The light at the end of the tunnel. Peace is at hand.

To save the village we had to destroy it.

Vietnam should have taught this country’s leaders two important lessons: 1] Don’t lie your way into war. 2] Don’t wage a war you can’t win.

But memories fade. The same one-liners are brought back as if new. If we quit now, then all the lives that had been sacrificed so far will be wasted. If we don’t fight them there, we’ll have to fight them here.

The big put-down back in the Sixties was “peacenik.” It implied someone with no backbone, an impractical idealistic who thought that just by radiating thoughts of love all wars would stop.

I’ve never been a “peacenik.” But I’ve never been an “America Right Or Wrong” patriot either -- especially when certain politicians put their own self-interests above their country. Of course, war profits are easy to accept when someone else’s son or daughter is on the front line.

Forty years later and the US is stuck with not one but two conflicts it can’t win militarily.

Forty years later and candlelight peace vigils are still being held. While war drags on, fading at times into the background, some of our neighbors remind us that it’s still there.

The watch must be kept. Maybe someday lessons will be learned.

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