Wednesday, January 06, 2010

To a Marine

I feel that the hardest thing a teacher must do is see the students they have sought to serve go off to war. I received an e-mail from a Marine. I present it here, along with my answer, for your consideration. This hero reminds me of the frightening responsibility of being a teacher. I pray I can be worthy of such a position of trust.

“ Hi Mr. C. In case you don't remember me, I use to be a student in your class back in 2005/2006. I joined the Marines a couple months after graduation. I used to stop by sometimes to have small talks with you. Anyway, the purpose for this quick brief message is that I deploy to Afghanistan in March. And I wanted to know your personal opinion on the war. Do you think it is going to be won? Maybe lost? Or maybe stay a stalemate? After deploying to Iraq and seeing with my own eyes a conflict that has been won where many people said it wouldn't, I think "with time," Operation Enduring Freedom could end up a success. But I need a professional opinion like your own, instead of a truck drivers opinion like myself.”

Dear Marine,

I write with the greatest respect and gratitude. Thank you for your service in Iraq, and now the great price you pay for my freedom and the safety of all those I love. I pray for your safety and success. Please take care of yourself.

I have thought long and hard about your questions. I am humbled and a bit apprehensive in addressing you. You are the one whose experience and sacrifice have earned you the right to address this topic. Still, I will do my best to give you my opinion.

The first thing I want to say, something I am quite sure you know, is that our greatest allies in this struggle are Muslims. It is painful to observe the suffering that many must endure; Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, and many others whose precious lives are lost on the very brink of happiness and success; sacrificing so much that their peoples, their families, and their religion can be free of fanaticism, hate, and fear.

You ask my opinion on the war in Afghanistan. I see it as an important part of a much greater clash between reason and ignorance. The study of history reveals how evil men feed their lust for power by exploiting ignorance and the superstition and hate it brings. We see this in the invading hordes that have swept the world since ancient times, we witness it again in the race driven exploitation of 18th and 19th century imperialism, we are brought face to face with it in an examination of the abominations of Nazism, and finally we experienced it in the compounded genocides, mass murders, and near global destruction, perpetrated in the effort to establish world wide communism.

All these evils were in the end defeated by reason. Civilization has, for the most part, stayed the tide of barbarian invasions; racism as justification for slavery and rapacious exploitation is discredited by all thinking people; Nazism has become a caricature of evil and communism a laughingstock. But it must be remembered that in all these cases it took the sacrifice of soldiers to make it possible for reason to prevail. I was impressed with President Obama’s speech at the Noble Awards in which he said, “A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.”

I agree with President Obama. Only the Marines can provide the space for reason. There are two kinds of war – just and unjust. One does not consider the gun of a police officer, acting in the defense of innocence, as equivalent to the weapon of a murderer.

You asked me if I think the war will be won – I do, I believe that the right will prevail. I believe that men are by nature good, and when they are given the chance to think straight, they will reject the rancor of fanaticism. But it will not be easy, and your service is of infinite worth. Without the security you and your fellows provide, ignorance will grow and once more threaten to engulf the world. Please hold on.

Could the war “maybe be lost”? Yes, if America falters in its resolve to hold back those who would drown, in ignorance, the light of reason and truth. I fear those, safe within the borders of America, who seek their own power, preying upon the ignorance of our own people. If the people are not taught the reason for the fight, they may well abandon it, spurred on by the false promise of peace employed by those who seek to dominate.

Maybe a stalemate? I do not think so. The enemies of truth and the reason it enables will not stop until they have won. This is a win or lose cause for right or for wrong. Ignorance will be destroyed or it will cover the world.

I have faith in the human soul, in man’s inborn love of truth, and his divine capacity to reason. I also know that only those with the courage and self-sacrificing charity to defend the right can give space for knowledge to be.

These are my opinions. This I know: I respect and appreciate you, you are my hero.

Thank you,

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