War is one of the oldest and most consistent things human beings do, and also one of the weirdest. It's horrible, hellish, tragic, traumatic—and yes, weird.
In the most basic analysis, war makes no sense. Killing one another over being born on opposite sides of imaginary lines makes no sense. Fighting for land under which we will all be buried eventually makes no sense. Sending people to fight to the death because men in charge can't get along makes no sense. (Seriously, why don't leaders just duke it out in a boxing ring themselves? That would actually make more sense.) Destroying the places you're trying to conquer, thereby requiring enormous resources to build them back up again makes no sense.
And the fact that we actually make rules for war is even weirder. You can use these weapons of death and destruction, but not those ones. You can bomb these kinds of places, but not those ones. You can kill this group of people, but not that one. It's all so stupid and senseless and futile and weird.
And then there's the psychology of it all. When tanks start rolling and bombs start falling somewhere in the world, it's far too easy for us to lose our sense of humanity. War compels us to choose a side, and choosing a side makes it easy to demonize the other. Even when we are 100% certain the side we've chosen to support is the right one, we still have to remember that human beings are on the other. The fact that we forget this every time is why humanity hasn't broken its habit of making war over and over and over again.
A powerful cartoon by Iranian artist Marzieh Khanizadeh illustrates this point beautifully. The cartoon was shared on Twitter by Prashasti Chanchal with the words, "One person's medals are another one's children."
One person\u2019s medals are other ones children\n\nhttps://twitter.com/i/spaces/1OdKrBealBqKX\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/N7HOospGu3— Prashasti Chanchal (@Prashasti Chanchal) 1646199561
This is the fundamental truth we must remember about war, no matter where or when it's taking place. One side's glory is the other side's tragedy, and in the end we're all just one big, human family trying to make our way on this rock hurtling through space. The second we start to dehumanize one side's people, forgetting that ordinary people don't choose to go to war and are always the primary victims of it, we create the very conditions that lead to war in the first place.
Prejudice, hatred and dehumanization are both primary causes and primary outcomes of war. If we don't disrupt those tendencies within us prior to war, we have to disrupt them during. Otherwise we will continue to repeat the same pattern we've seen throughout human history.
By all means, support freedom, support democracy and support nations that are being invaded without justification. But don't glorify killing and don't dehumanize the people themselves on any side of any war. Killing in defense may be necessary in war, but in the end there's no true glory in any of it. It's all tragic.
"One person's medals are another one's children," indeed. If every one of us keeps that truth front and center, maybe we can finally get to a future where war is just a terrible, weird thing humans used to do.
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