A Tale of Two Bracelets
Both candidates last night spoke about the bracelets they received from mothers who had lost their son in the war. The loss of a child through a violent death must be one of the most painful and heart rending catastrophes a human soul will ever endure.
What I found compelling is to hear what each mother said to McCain and Obama, and how each candidate used the bracelet they were given as an emotionally compelling reason why America should support him.
War is an evil that no one can, or should support in and of itself. But war is with us now, it has been with us since the dawn of human existence, and it will be with us until the last man stands on this earth. It is a regrettable evil, but one that exists.
In the midst of war time, our human dignity is perhaps most clearly seen in focus. War is tragic because men, women and children die. Cultural landmarks are often destroyed, but they can be rebuilt. It is the loss of human life that makes war tragic. But in war, and in death, we do not lose our dignity as humans.
When I hear a mother say to a presidential candidate, "Please wear this bracelet as a reminder to work so that my son's life was not lost in vain," I hear a woman who has a keen awareness of the dignity and nobility of human life. She has lost her child, irrevocably and for all the rest of her days on this earth. But hear what she said: she wants to know that her son's life was not lost in vain.
The other mother's response is also rooted in the irrevocable loss of her son. But her response is very different. She said to Obama, "Make sure you fight so that no other mothers need to go through this." She is clearly speaking from the same place of pain as the first woman, but her response is very different.
Some things are worth dying for. We must respect and honor all of those men and women who have voluntarily risked their lives in service to our country. But when we do honor to them, I think it's profoundly important to do honor to their memory as to WHY they joined the military. Everyone who joins the military knows that death is a possibility and in weighing the odds, they have all said that to risk the possibility of losing their life for their country in time of war is a noble risk to take.
Having never been a soldier, I cannot know the insanity of a battle field. But I do know this: I would be willing to offer up my life in place of those I love. The comradeship in arms that happens in battle is one of the most noble expressions of human dignity that exists. It is a nobility that flies in the face of wanton evil. It is the ultimate good reaching into the ultimate expression of evil. Soldiers who die offer their lives up for their friends--for their comrades in arms and for their countrymen. "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
For me, when I see these two bracelets I see clear and distinct differences between two women and two men.
One woman has said that there are some things worth dying for.
One woman has said that there is nothing worth dying for, if it means the loss of her son.
One woman honors the memory of her son and her son's choice to offer up his life for his country.
One woman says that the highest good is preventing men and women from dying for their nation.
One woman has turned her grief outwards towards her son.
One woman has turned her grief inwards towards her self.
America's strength was built on men and women who have said in time of war and the death of soldiers: "Make sure his death wasn't in vain." America's dissolution is reflected in the statement: "Make sure that the pain I feel isn't shared by anyone else." Life is filled with sacrifice, pain and tragedy. It is how we respond to these that make us a great.
As a nation, we come from a long line of men and women, parents, sons and daughters who have lived outside of themselves, called to the nobility that exists in us all. I am drawn to the woman who says, "May my son's life not have been in vain." The woman who pleas with Obama, "Make sure no one else goes through the pain I'm going through," gets my deep and profound sorrow. Both women are experiencing identical pain, but I fear that the latter woman will live in deep bitterness for the rest of her life. And sadly, I do not think she herself is honoring her son's memory as profoundly and respectfully as the first mother is.
It is remarkable how many men and women re-enlist to serve another term in Iraq. I suspect that if both mothers' sons were here today and asked if they could do anything to avoid their death, neither would choose it. On the battlefield they gave their lives for the most noblest cause of all: for others. Certainly war should not be engaged in order that men and women may have the opportunity to do so. But in time of war, let us not be guided by fear and pain, or the tragedy of loss. We need to be motivated by the very fundamental dignity of human life, which demands that we have a speedy resolution to the war, but realizing that to pull out of Iraq because of the painful sacrifice of families all across America is decidedly the wrong choice. It cheapens human life, is cowardly and in my mind, un-American.
We must stay the course until victory is assured if the lives of the men and women who have given their utmost for their country are not to have been in vain. I'm with McCain, 100%.
My vote before last night's debate was primarily a vote against Obama and his views. I'm starting to come around and realize that I can indeed get behind McCain and support him.