War is Not Hell

 Topic: The Difference Between War and Hell

Today we are going to talk about the phrase “War is hell” and offer a counterargument.

For that counterargument, I would like to quote an exchange between Hawkeye and Father Mulcahy in the television series M*A*S*H:

“Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

Father Mulcahy: How do you figure that, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them — little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.”

America is a violent country. We have been at war for 222 out of 239 years. That is 93% of the country’s history, and it is partly because we have such a hard time seeing other people as humans, only potential enemies. War has shaped our culture, and our culture, in turn, celebrates violent conflict like none other and encourages a warlike mentality. For a perfect and relevant example, look at sports like football or boxing. Even our national anthem is about war. Many of our stories, our films and novels, along with most video games, adopt that Us Versus Them, irreconcilable conflict narrative. When we take that same oversimplified Good Versus Evil dichotomy that we find in stories and try to force it to apply to real life, we always end up dehumanizing those we deem Evil and feeling perfectly justified in doing so. We have spoken of this before, but it deserves to be rei-iterated: the Mantra for the Virtue of Compassion is “Everything that does evil is in pain.” People, for the most part, are not actively evil. They are suffering.

Most wars that America has fought or been involved in, including the War on Drugs and other culture wars, have quite effectively been turned into Good Versus Evil propaganda for public consumption. We have no problem seeing people in other countries or even those who are slightly different in coloration as so different from ourselves as to be another species entirely, which is how we justify turning little Afghani kids into skeletons. Ideological differences between conservatives and liberals have split the entire country in two. But as seekers of Truth and Enlightenment, one thing we are challenged to do is remember others’ humanity. If we are ever to find Peace, we need to see everyone as human and look for non-violent solutions to our problems.

I would like to end today’s sermon with another quote, this one attributed to Confucius: “Only when a mosquito lands on your testicles, you will truly learn that there is always a way to solve problems without using anger and violence.”


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