Thursday, May 26, 2022
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Do we stand for idols or people?

“Is civilization working towards a time when there is no need for soldiers?”

This question has been rolling around in my mind for the past few months. For me, the answer is yes.

I am a soldier in the Missouri Army National Guard, and I still believe the answer is yes. I believe everyone should answer yes to this question. If it were to become true, it would be because nearly everyone in the world also answered yes to this question.

The interesting thing about this question is not the answer of yes or no. The real question is whether you can imagine actual progress, or if you are so invested in the justifying the status quo that you don’t think significant change is possible.

What makes this question interesting is that nobody answers with a simple “no.”

They say, “There is always going to be war.” They say, “There will always be something worth fighting for.” They say, “It’s just human nature.”

To those people, the question is complicated. It is about their pride in their country, community, family and in themselves as individuals.

It is history. It is tradition. Soldiers are a stick by which they measure their strength, loyalty, their power of will.

Being a soldier is something that turns boys and girls into a men and women. Being a soldier is aspirational, something grandparents talk about with pride. It connects generations with shared experiences in boot camp and deployments. Being a soldier is being American.

To others, the answer is simple. Yes.

“Should an American citizen be able to protest by kneeling during the national anthem?”

Yes, or, the flag represents the struggles of the men and women who have given their lives protecting our freedoms.

“Should a woman have access to legal and safe abortions?

Yes, or, there are other options, she shouldn’t have been irresponsible in the first place.

“Should healthcare be a right?”

Yes, or, I’m healthy, so why should I pay for other people?

“Should every human being be able to live a comfortable and secure life?”

Yes, or, who decides what is comfortable? I’m not comfortable sometimes, and I don’t look for a handout.

Questions like this have interested me lately, because it feels like we as a people encounter others that have fundamentally different understandings of reality. Some say they are simply playing

devil’s advocate. Some would argue that these issues are complicated and any change would need to take place over a significant period of time, after all positions have been considered.

But to these questions, the point isn’t about yes or no. It is about whether or not you are able to imagine real progress, or if you are so invested in your justifications that you cannot escape them, even in a hypothetical situation.

Do you believe real change is possible, or do you make justifications about why it is impossible?

This question reminds me of the fable of the two wolves. A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us, which are always at war with each other. The grandson asks which one will win, and the grandfather replies, “the one you feed.”

Cultural stagnation doesn’t need a devil’s advocate. As a culture, we need to decide if we stand for people, or if we stand for tokens, icons, flags and old beliefs kept alive in the name of traditions. Do we believe change is possible, or do we believe it impossible?

I don’t have all the answers. I really have remarkably few. But when the question is “should things be better?” My answer is yes.

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