Good Comic Strips (About War and Sexuality) That I Wrote, But Never Drew

First, the comics about war:


Two of my (unfinished) comic strip characters were kids–one, a smart, mouthy, radical multi-racial activist type, “Krissy,” and the other, her conservative, wealthy, red-blooded-American patriot boyfriend, “Cole,” who loves war toys and dreams of a military career.  These two kids are crazy about each other, but they are also always arguing about politics…. Since I wrote (but never drew) these panels, will you imagine them with me? 



(Cole, thinking aloud)


Krissy’s version of patriotism seems like a lot of trouble.


It takes years of work, money, time, and sacrifice to make a peaceful difference in the world.


In the old days, all you had to do to be patriotic was … die… and kill… and maim…and maybe get maimed….


But at least you could get it over with!





 (Cole, thinking aloud)


Krissy thinks true patriots work for peace and justice all the time.


She says dying for your country is not enough.


She says you have to be willing to live for your country, too.


Dying seems like a lot less trouble.





(Cole thinking aloud)


Krissy says it’s no longer enough to be willing to kill and die for your country.


She says true patriots live for their country by working and sacrificing all their lives.


But realizing global peace and justice is so much work!


When I said I’d be willing to give my life for my country, I never meant this!






(Cole thinking aloud)


Patriotism is a lot more complicated nowadays.


History has shown that even America has fought unjust, immoral wars.


In the olden days, patriots only had to be willing to kill and die for their country.


Nowadays, I guess they’d better understand why, too.





(Cole to Krissy)


I think I prefer the old days….


…when all you had to do to be a patriot was die for your country….


I mean, living for your country in peacetime could turn out to be a real drag….


I mean, what if I have to live a really long time?!





(Cole thinking aloud)


Patriotism used to be only a two-year hitch.


Now Krissy tells me true patriots should work hard their whole lives to prevent the injustices that cause war.


But if we prevent all war, everyone will have to live peacefully ‘til they’re really really old!


What a rotten deal….




(Cole thinking aloud)


Krissy thinks the truest patriotism is living, not dying for your country.


She thinks we all need to learn more about national and global politics….


…and work hard to uphold our country’s ideals for everyone in the world.


It seems like dying would be a lot simpler….




(Cole thinking aloud)


Krissy says ideals can’t end at national borders.


She says we either want liberty and justice for all, or we don’t really hold those ideals at all.


She says “liberty and justice for some” just doesn’t ring true.


I have a feeling this is gonna be a lot of trouble.




(Krissy is carrying a “protest sign” in the first panel (“IF YOU WANT PEACE, WORK FOR JUSTICE”)


(Cole) Hey! I’m not my brother’s keeper, you know!


I’m only interested in looking out for American interests! I can’t worry about everybody else on the planet!


(In this panel he has his hand over his heart, pledging) “I pledge allegiance…to the flag…with liberty and justice for all…uh…er…all … uh… Americans…. Hmmmm.


(Cole, angry, with hands on hips.) RATS….

(Krissy is carrying a protest sign that says, THINK GLOBAL. ACT LOCAL.




OK, since you’ve so patiently waded through my peace comics, here are some good sex comics….


I read a wonderful how-to book (Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex, by Deborah M. Roffman, about the importance of values-oriented sex education, and then I wrote the following panels using my four comic strip characters (all young children), and introducing a new character, Ms. Z, an elderly Jewish lady who was once a sex education public health nurse. She’s a tiny fiery fireplug of a woman, a very stereotypically loving Jewish-mom-type who nurtures her four neighbor-kids. (Ms. Z is based on my best friend/next-door neighbor, age 80+) I never drew this series either. Four panels each, with usually at least two of the kids talking in each panel, and sometimes all four talking in a panel.



My parents seem to think it’s not nice to talk and think about sex until I’m an adult.


Mine too.

But it’s a difficult thing to do.


I mean, we’re surrounded by talk about sex, all day every day, on TV, in books and magazines, the kids at school, the stuff on the net….


I guess we’re not supposed to notice….





What our parents don’t get is that we’re surrounded by sex, all day every day, whether we like it or not.


Yeah. They don’t know what we know.


And we don’t know what we don’t know.

 It’s sort of a conspiracy of silence.


Hmmm. Do you think we’re the good guys or the bad guys?





My mom says parents will tell kids everything they need to know about sex on their wedding night.


So when do we get to ask our questions?


I guess after that.


When it’s too late.






My mom thinks I know nothing about sex, and she plans to keep it that way.


That’s why I can’t ask her any questions—if I do, she worries about me knowing about sex and thinking about it.


So why don’t you just maturely tell her you know a lot already, but need her help sorting it all out?


I don’t think she’s developmentally ready for that yet….





From what I can tell, sex is all one big disaster.


Yeah, it can make you sick, crazy, poor, and sometimes it even kills you.


I guess we’re supposed to learn about sex from our mistakes?


You’d think they’d invent a better way….





My mom encourages me to talk with her about sex and then freaks out when I ask her questions.


Sometime it seems like sexuality is something I should learn all about in order to be a mature, responsible, caring, healthy adult.


And sometimes I feel like it’s a naughty nasty secret that we’re not supposed to know anything about.


Schizophrenia begins at home….





Everywhere I turn, the subject of sex comes up.


I have so many questions that I really need to have answered.


I mean, I wanna be good, smart, and happy, and I really wish I could understand where sex fits into all of this.


(Looking sad) Everybody’s talking about sex, but nobody’s listening….





If the subject of sex even comes up in my family…


My mom gets embarrassed.

Mine gets mad.

My dad changes the subject.

Mine leaves.


I guess we’ll just have to learn about sex from our friends and the internet.


We’re twenty-first century kids trapped in nineteenth century families.






…and then, if you pray, millions of sperm fly like electricity through the air, and…


Are you sure that’s the way it works?


I think so, but my parents get all freaked out and embarrassed when I ask questions.


I guess sex is something we’re supposed to learn by trial and error….





Sex seems to have something to do with being bad.

And with secret body parts.

And sneaking around.

And unwanted pregnancies.

And infections.

And even dying.


But it also seems to be about love and caring.


(They stare blankly at each other in silence.)


Well, I sure don’t get the connection….

 No, I can’t see any connection either…..





The kids on the playground all say that grownups, are like, you know, like dogs? They rub their thingys together until they make a baby?


Ooog. Disgusting. That’s it? That’s everything?

Yeah, that’s it.


Well, I guess we finally understand all about sex.


(in unison, depressed) What a bummer.








I guess when we’re adults, we’ll understand all about sex.


But for now, I hate it that I have so many questions and no one to ask.


My parents seem to know all about it, but they get all freaked out if I ask questions about it.


I wonder who they asked?





Y’know, between the four of us, we know a lot about sex.


Yeah, we’ve learned so much from books, magazines, our music, parents, the internet, TV, and each other. I mean, how can we help it? It’s everywhere!


Well, it still seems all crazy and confusing to me. I wish we had someone who could answer our questions….


(in unison) Ms. Z!!!





My mom says Ms. Z was a sexuality education nurse before she retired.


Yeah, I’ve known her since I was little.

Me too.

She’s really nice.

My parents say we can ask her anything.


(They stare at each other in silence)


You first.





What did Ms. Z do when you asked her your sex question?


Well, she answered it. She didn’t even act surprised, embarrassed, angry, or bossy. She seemed, actually, fine about it.


 (They stare at each other, looking uncertain, in silence.)


Maybe she’s an alien.





Was Ms. Z shocked that you knew something about sex?


Was she mad that you were interested in it?



Did she make you feel dumb?


Or treat you like a little kid?



Did she embarrass you?


Did she answer your questions?



Boy, we could sure use her on the school playground.





Ms. Z says sex is about who you are as much as about what you do.


She says sex is about caring, communicating, and taking responsibility, as much as it is about genitals.


So what do you think?


Sounds very unlikely.





Ms. Z answered that sex question I was wondering about for so long.


So now you understand all about sex.



Well, actually, to be perfectly honest, there’s a problem with having someone who will answer your sex questions for you.



Now I have more questions.






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Today’s Muslims: More “christian” Than Christians?

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People everywhere, many Americans included, have begun to think of Muslims as more “christian” than many Christians—in the traditional sense of “christian spirits” that are loving, forgiving, pious, selfless, gentle, kind, and peaceful in their attitudes toward other human beings.
While most Americans still aspire to such qualities, we are today viewed globally as both culturally and politically rather more mean-spirited than christian-spirited. Many foreigners now see Americans as greedy and materialistic, and think of America as an arrogant young nation that tries to tell others how to live, that foolishly and hurtfully pushes its culture, economics and politics onto unwilling others.
If Osama bin Laden had wanted to increase world awareness of past and present American support for regime changes, friendly tyrannies, and repression of democratic movements around the world, he succeeded brilliantly, even though few Americans are even aware of these sad and distinctly un-“christian” exploitations in support of American corporate interests.
And if Osama bin Laden had wanted to stir up empathy for Islam, he could hardly have dreamed up anything more brilliant than our current bloody military adventuring in the Middle East. Ignoring all expertise, we’ve turned a criminal, political, social and economic problem—terrorism—into a military one, barging willy-nilly into a very un-christian war against peaceful people who never threatened us.
But Osama’s biggest bang for his comparatively small, if immensely tragic, PR. buck was sending our reading public—most of whom previously couldn’t find Iraq or even Israel on a map—scrambling for best-sellers about Islam. Because, sometime during the last five years, Americans finally noticed that Muslim cultures, although very different from ours, are, in fact, very “christian” in ways we greatly admire—along with having many unique shortcomings, like every culture.
For example, many Americans are motivated by their christian spirits to protect women’s rights to equality—to enter any profession, to be educated, to be equal citizens—but they are also sadly free to become drunks, addicts, prostitutes, rape victims, divorcees and unwed mothers. Muslims’ “christian spirits” motivate them to overprotect their wives and children, with the many drawbacks that come with that approach. Future christian-spirited dialogue and exchange between our two cultures will bring us all closer to understanding and agreement about our common, universal, “christian”—if not exclusively “Christian”—values, all those which offer respect and support to all human life everywhere.
The single sad silver lining behind bin Laden’s blood-and-publicity-soaked attack was to open western eyes and hearts to Islam. We have finally seen enough Muslims to look past the angry, despairing extremists, past the unfamiliar turbans, suspicious scarves and rough accents, to see clearly the many kind human faces and wise human hearts of gentle fathers, bright mothers, laughing daughters and fierce sons—who are, after all, not really so different from our own.
For the first time, Americans are experiencing the christian spirits of this exotic and unfamiliar culture which devoutly prays many times daily, is devoted to family, and which, just like Christians, exhorts its children at home, mosque and school to acts of goodness, kindness, generosity, and peace.
When we choose to see them through christian-spirited eyes, we’ll see a gentle people who have suffered greatly during a century of relentless violence from outsiders, simply because oil was discovered on the land of their ancestors, who yet still reach out hospitably to all who come, not as occupiers and invaders, but as peaceful, respectful visitors and citizens.
Most Muslims, like most Christians, have “christian” spirits, wanting to raise families in a compassionate culture which nurtures universal values. Yet most Americans today agree that, somewhere along the way, America has lost many of her ‘christian’ ways.
Certainly we’re coming off very poorly in our latest war. Our national leadership has acquired a well-deserved international reputation as far-from-christian-spirited religious extremists, unschooled in diplomacy and too quick on the draw.
I am not an expert on Islam; I keep up with the news and have a lifelong interest in all world religions and philosophies. But I do know that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world, one which accepts Jesus as a great prophet, along with all his teachings.
I have closely observed my Muslim neighbors, and know them by what we used to call their “christian witness”—that is, by the way they live their lives. As a group, Muslims are pious, kind, neighborly, civic-minded, charitable and scholarly. Islam, as practiced by its most thoughtful and faithful practitioners, embraces the high ecumenical values espoused in Jesus’ teachings, particularly those about universal brotherhood, peace, charity, service, forgiveness, and love of God.
Yet, right after the towers fell, Christian extremists, perhaps fearing their congregations would be pulled away by curiosity about Islam, forgot to exhort their flocks to christian-spirited unity with their global brothers, and instead chose to preach sermon after mean, frightening, televangelical sermon demonizing Muslims as violent, cruel, scheming, and anti-Christian.
Muslims everywhere were dismayed and frightened by such un-christian televised messages, not to mention the rude insistence of multinational corporations to hawk materialist values and profitably push distinctly un-christian habits and lifestyles to anyone anywhere anytime.
Neither God nor Jesus nor any prophet, philosopher or saint cares which faith you pray to them from, nor what names you call them by, nor what form your prayers take; but they do care that all their many pleading and peaceful messages of acceptance, compassion, and reconciliation are spread everywhere to unify and bring peace to a frightened, suffering world.
On C-Span, CNN, and other media, Americans have heard the sad voices of Muslims in war-torn countries pleading to be left in peace, along with the voices of articulate and caring Muslim leaders sharing their concerns and patiently explaining their unfamiliar approaches. Many of us have also enjoyed the brilliant, award-winning family-values films and books streaming out of Iran and other Muslim countries.
We have also been terrified by American demagogues that Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon and use it against Israelis or Americans. Yet, just as worrisome to many, is the terrifying possibility that our own malleable President, egged on by powerful, trigger-happy sidekicks, will use our own vast American nuclear arsenal to initiate a very un-christian WWIII.
Muslims and Christians alike want most to live their lives in peace, in accordance with their beliefs and values. We want our children to grow up in warm, safe communities, in homes and schools that support—or at least, do not undermine—our heartfelt beliefs and values. Muslims and Christians alike think it unreasonable to be under continual attack from commercial and media corporations who use our freedoms and our public airwaves to hammer away at our cherished values.
Muslim immigrants come to America for the same reasons all immigrants have ever come: for the freedoms and benefits of good government which serves and supports the quality of all the human life which God created equal on this fragile blue planet.
We all want a justice system which respects and serves all people equally, quickly, and affordably. We all want fairly-elected, familiar local public servants who spend our hard-earned tax money on our youngest and neediest citizens, on convenient, quality health care for all, on retraining workers, on offering quality public services and infrastructure, on supporting emerging technologies and creating competitive economic opportunities within a thriving economy offering living wages. We all want well-disciplined, high-tech educational environments and opportunities that offer all children a real chance in life.
Instead, Americans seem stuck with a bloated and increasingly indebted federal government which cuts local services to pay for its steady stream of immoral foreign wars, which only line the pockets of corporate war profiteers, while bankrupting average Americans and compromising our children's futures.
Instead of offering good local government, where small local militias are well-trained in non-violent conflict resolution and stand ready to assist local communities during emergencies—floods, hurricanes, epidemics, invasions—we have instead a vast, far-flung military machine enforcing hegemonic American corporate interests wherever in the world they see an opportunity to make a fast, if un-christian, buck.
Soon—although not soon enough for the hundreds of thousands of dead, disabled, and desperate Muslims and Christians we have harmed—America will retreat from its current un-christian aggressions, will expensively buy peace in Israel and reconciliation in Iraq, and will stand aside while Muslims shake off their dictators and sort out their own political destinies, whether violently or in a more christian spirit, as would better suit all our mutual interests and befit the highest values of all our various religious and cultural traditions.
When their oilfields have been carved up among them, may our charitable American christian spirits uphold their right to spend their oil money creating opportunities for their hungry youth, while we refrain from using our own vast stores of nuclear weapons during this most-dangerous era of unaccustomed American humility, as we wait in line politely for Middle Eastern oil like any other paying customer.
Hopefully, we will all—Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, and atheist alike—support only leaders demonstrating christian lives and spirits—whether or not they are Christians—leaders who advocate politics which reflect the universally cherished golden rule of treating all others as we ourselves would want to be treated.
May Christians and all other Americans join with all people everywhere in making christian-minded personal choices, and may we all support only political representatives having peaceful christian hearts, words, actions and lives—regardless of whether they be Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, or any other.
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Sanctimonious History Overthrown in Stephen Kinzer’s OVERTHROW: AMERICA'S CENTURY OF REGIME CHANGE FROM HAWAII TO IRAQ

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Sanctimonious History Overthrown in Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
People like to feel good about themselves, and Americans are no exception; so only a relative handful of scholarly Americans are even aware of their government’s direct historical responsibility for a century of violent regime changes in fourteen countries from Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Honduras, to South Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Kinzer offers a compelling case that, without exception, all this violent meddling has worked against the overall best interests of Americans, and—with the possible exception of Grenada—against the citizens of all these exploited nations.
Kinzer’s brilliant decision to summarize the colorful particulars of who-what-when-where-how leading up to, during, and following each overthrow, give range to his best journalistic talents, while reducing his biographer’s breadth and historian’s bounty of facts, figures, places, and times into fourteen short, lively, memorable tales of derring-do, intrigue, overreaching, ignorance, prejudice, greed, and mayhem.
Reading Overthrow brought to mind the darker aspects of Margaret Meade’s assertion, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” while adding credibility to the mounting evidence that the tragedy of today’s Middle East is indeed directly traceable to the benighted machinations of a few dedicated, powerful, and sorely misguided neocons in Washington, D.C. For each case of regime change, Kinzer implicates a small group of daring individuals usually acting for corporate interests, and always acting with presidential authority.
Kinzer’s reasonable-length history is backed by over twenty pages of end notes, as well as an impressive international, multilingual twentieth-century bibliography of nearly five hundred on-the-spot memoirs, biographies, government documents and news accounts, and a twenty-page index. Kinzer definitely entertains, but more importantly, he connects the dots and fills in the necessary details of significant historical events which many would prefer to erase, to our nation’s peril.
I’m very grateful for the years of persistent and generous scholarship necessary to produce this readable summary which surely deserves wide consideration. Overthrow fills in the many gaps and blanks left by incomplete reporting-at-the-time, and offers an opportunity for synthesis, analysis, and reconsideration of the patterns, results, and morality of our past violent involvements in the political, economic, and social lives of people in faraway nations, as well as their implications for the present and future:
“There is no stronger or more persistent strain in the American character than the belief that the United States is a nation uniquely endowed with virtue…. This view is driven by a profound conviction that the American form of government, based on capitalism and individual political choice, is, as President Bush asserted, ‘right and true for every person in every society.’…By implication, it denies that (culture) changes only slowly, and that even great powers cannot impose their beliefs on others by force…  For more than a century, Americans have believed they deserve access to markets and resources in other countries. When they are denied that access, they take what they want by force, deposing governments that stand in their way. Great powers have done this since time immemorial….When the United States intervenes abroad to gain strategic advantage, depose governments it considers oppressive, or spread its political and religious system, it is also acting in its commercial self-interest….Most American-sponsored ‘regime change’ operations have…weakened rather than strengthened American security. They have produced generations of militants who are deeply and sometimes violently anti-American; expanded the borders that the United States feels obligated to defend, thereby increasing the number of enemies it must face and drawing it ever more deeply into webs of foreign entanglement; and emboldened enemies of the United States by showing that despite its awesome power, it has a soft and vulnerable underbelly….Most of these adventures have brought (Americans), and the nations whose histories they sought to change, far more pain than liberation.”
These are important lessons we need to learn, and Kinzer has assembled the foundational stories, facts, and figures necessary to establish their credibility.
Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent with reporting experience in more than fifty countries on four continents, including service as New York Times bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua. He has previously written four well-received histories focusing on Iran, Turkey, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
Kinzer prefers patient diplomacy to violent regime-change, pointing to the efficacy of our productive continuing dialogues with China, the former Soviet Union, South Korea, and countries in South Africa. While he asserts that nations always act in their own self-interest, I wish he had also concluded that, on today’s tiny, interconnected, fragile blue planet, everyone’s national self-interests are irretrievably tied to the interests of everyone else, everywhere else. Pragmatically, we can no longer afford to think in terms of “them,” but only “us.”
I pray that President Bush will soon decide to become presidential, Christian, politically astute, humble, and visionary enough to boldly shift from a doomed-to-fail, self-centered foreign policy based on international competition, to one of enlightened, self-interested global cooperation. Neither approach is simple, obvious, or guaranteed, but only one has any chance of succeeding.
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Creative Fun by Eppy

Here are some of my hobbies (painting, cartooning, etc.) as well as a self-portrait, and a portrait of me by my five-year-old friend, Alexa. Look for them elsewhere in my website to see/learn more…. Thank you for visiting my website!  -eppyharmon











A Fog of War Movies and Books

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A few months ago, I decided to watch some of the best-received war movies that came out of the Vietnam era—The Deer Hunter, The Killing Fields, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, and Coming Home, as well as some recent and older ones—The Battle of Algiers, Crimson Tide, Saving Private Ryan, The Enemy Below, and Black Hawk Down.
Although I’m definitely a quality-movie buff, I’m not easily entertained by violence, which explains why I avoided all of these movies when they first came out, despite a deep childhood curiosity about (and fear of) war.
I’m currently writing about the immorality of war, so feel compelled to watch such movies to help fill in my (fortunate) experiential gaps. I also watch them out of respect for their creators’ passion, dedication, and achievements in uniquely sharing their own war experiences.
Despite the fact that my father was a war hero and bird colonel with thirty-three years in the service (Silver Star, Purple Heart, and many more) he always firmly refused to share with us his sad or frightening WWII memories.
So after I left my military-brat life on-post, I dipped my toe into the vast body of quality literature coming out of Vietnam and other wars, admiring and enjoying Fields of Fire (go Jim Webb!), Dispatches, The Things They Carried, as well as War and Peace, Silent Flows the Don, and All Quiet on the Western Front. More recently, I loved Cold Mountain, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Blowback, An American Requiem, and the wonderful Patrick O’Brian Aubrey/Maturin series.
I found amazing agreement in all these books and movies in their moral conclusions about war, even as each offered me a unique personal perspective and story unlike any other.
Over and over, every work expressed or implied the point of view that “their” particular war had been insane, cruel, hard, sad, misguided, and stupid, and that it had seemed to create far more problems than it resolved. Their actual acts of war—the killing parts—were consistently experienced as pointless, chaotic, numbing, unreasonable, inhumane, confusing, wrong–and often thrilling, in that the pointy end of the sword had actually gone into the other guy.
Each work of art also revealed war’s most appealing reality:  war, like any other deeply challenging experience from marriage to sports, offers stirring opportunities for revelation and nobility, compassion and achievement, faith and idealism.
The “highs” of war remembered in these works were based in youth’s vitality, resiliance and resourcefulness, in the belongingness, common cause, and humor of bands of young brothers, and of course, in the bittersweet exhilaration following survival in battles in which, although others died, you didn’t.
Nearly every work used war’s bleak, terrified, often mutilated children to emphasize the meaninglessness and tragedy of war. And they all made the point that fear for oneself and for one’s friends drove them to acts of cruelty and immorality unimaginable during peacetime.
War, in these books and movies, turns out to be not at all what was expected, nor what they were trained or prepared for—although with works of art like these, perhaps the next generation will be better informed.
None of these soldier/artists, with the exception of O’Brian, ever found a way to make killing feel psychologically acceptable, although they all killed as necessary, “doing their duty” and protecting one another; their childhood moral conditioning in human compassion too strongly resisted killing other people. (Jack Aubrey’s disciplined and enthusiastic patriotism and militarism overruled his compassion, as happens sometimes with seasoned soldiers, if less often, with artists, but Maturin’s disgust with war offered a thoughtful foil.)
All authors implied how indelibly their training in the hate and fear which is necessary to kill enemies in cold blood had carved black chasms in their psyches, changing them (and their families) forever in ways they could not express to anyone who hadn’t shared similar experiences—mixed as war memories are with both pride and shame.
When at war, every soldier longed for home, and when finally back home, missed the “highs” mentioned above.
Most celebrated the rare beauty of the foreign lands being fought over, and condemned the  environmental and human waste, and the high costs of war.
Another interesting commonality was how universally fascinated all were with how soldiers react to fear, and, most specifically, with how they would perform under fire. (Although I didn't care much for The Red Badge of Courage, it merits attention primarily for this focus.) Much consideration was given in each of these works to the fact that every soldier reacts differently to fear, and to the impossibility of hiding one’s unique sensibilities during war. Like vocation, parenting, friendship, scholarship, accident, disease, death, and every other peacetime human trial, war reveals much too clearly the best and the worst in each person’s character and personality, while offering, as all difficult challenges do, ample opportunities for growth and wisdom.
I feel deeply privileged (and emotionally gutted) to have read and watched these great works, and will continue to see and read more. Some of the war-related books I want to read (and review) next are: Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq; Carroll’s House of War; Ambrose’s Citizen Soldiers; and perhaps Keegan’s The Second World War. The movies next on my list are, first, war documentaries: Why We Fight, The Fog of War, The War on Iraq, Hearts and Minds, and Protocols of Zion, followed by Foyle’s War, The War Within, and Casualties of War.
Do you have any other suggestions for quality war movies and books? I’ll gladly share them with my readers.

CUTTING (Off Communication) AND RUNNING (From Dialogue)

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Messrs. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are so right in their recent complaints that pervasive modern media has made their war-making job a lot harder, because what media does best is disseminate information and instigate dialogue. And the more one knows and understands, the less one is likely to fear, hate, and make war on other humans.
Happily, we can watch, on one channel, various national and international leaders patiently strive to work through peaceful diplomatic channels in search of just, compassionate solutions to deadly conflicts, or flip over to another channel and watch Rumsfeld lambaste these same statesmen as unpatriotic pacifiers, appeasers and sympathizers.
Thank goodness for our networked globe, where millions of ordinary citizens daily exchange email with friends in every nation, sharing their hopes and plans for peaceful alternatives to war, even when our leaders haven’t the heart or common sense to do so.
The only reason these three cut off communications and run away from dialogue is to silence opposing voices and logic—whether partisan competitors' or foreign foes'–all of whom are trying to inject some sanity into the drumbeat toward never-ending war, whether in Iraq, Iran, or a slew of other places. I wish George Bush would learn that global clashes of ideologies are not won by guns, but by goodness.
Since our present administration's anti-war “foes” are easily capable of poking gaping holes in their justifications for war, unsurprisingly, they are all simultaneously (and disingenuously) being painted with the broad brush of fascism/Nazism in what appears to be a pre-emptive attack designed to ward off an anticipated similar, if more legitimate, accusation. Fascism as defined is authoritarian, corporatist, demagogic, anti-liberal, jingoist, militarist, expansionist…. Does anything sound familiar?
How could it be in our best interests for our leaders to refuse to talk with the very enemies we've been told (by those same leaders) to hate, because (as our leaders have also told us) they hate us. Why have expert diplomats if only to talk with our friends? If hate and fear are so dangerous—and they certainly are—why wouldn’t we try to improve such relationships by listening to our “adversaries'” grievances and hearing their suggestions for peaceful solutions? As Abraham Lincoln said, “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?”
We could at least choose to be generous enough to listen to our enemies, even if we can‘t manage Jesus’ admonition to love them. Despite our leaders’ continual propaganda marginalizing and demonizing them (so we won’t listen to what they have to say) we shouldn’t forget that they are still human beings with perspectives that at least deserve a respectful hearing before we blow them away.
No doubt our leaders have already made their own peace with the damage they intend to inflict upon enemy populations, but they haven’t yet described to us even a small portion of the grisly and manifold inevitable injustices that will be visited upon us.
Only war resisters venture to estimate the possible extent of war’s predictable losses, for both sides, or ever dare to question its final outcome. By silencing such opposition, our leaders muddy constiuents' views of the potential calamity they’re getting us into. Historically, these particular three have proved themselves incapable of assessing what they passionately jump into; they anticipate quick easy victories and warm welcomes from cheering victims, blithely dismiss vague unspecified future losses as “necessary,” and assure us that “winning” the war will be “worth it.”
Participants in every 20th century war, both “winners” and “losers,” have consistently admitted to researchers that, had they known in advance the costs of those wars, they would have, in retrospect, settled their grievances peaceably, making the compromises and concessions necessary to avoid war’s costs to human lives and infrastructure.
Wars are never initiated by popular pressure, never fought from the bottom-up, but always from the top-down, at the whims of leaders who work hard to maintain their intricate ideological justifications. The task of selling war is indeed more difficult in what the Dalai Lama calls “the century of dialogue,” because dialogue is exactly what is fostered and nurtured by today’s free press—our beloved televisions, movies, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, and internet.
The Defense Department is currently attempting to manipulate our freedom of the press by demanding equal time for its pro-war propaganda. Happily, our free press neither answers to nor agrees with such self-serving ideas about what the job of the press should be.
And while we’re on the subject of freedom of the press, if you want to see exemplary presidential press access in action, check out any of the frequent, unscripted, free-wheeling, no-topics-barred press conferences held by President Ahmadinejad of Iran. Considering the number of public words he utters both at home and in his busy international speaking rounds, it’s not surprising that extremists have managed to extract a few to twist, spin, and mistranslate.

One would think the Defense Department would find our state of constant war sufficient public distraction from the embarrassing truth that we may have as much to fear from an administration capable of embracing its foes with nuclear arms, as we have from their confusingly shape-shifting “enemies”. Perhaps they hope that once we finally have a clear “enemy” to hate and fear, maybe we won’t notice that a significant contributor to our state of national insecurity is our unrepresentative, repressive, empire-building government. 1984 has indeed arrived, but apparently too late to completely manipulate a media-gorged nation which is so finally past buying into 20th century war insanities.
No one can avoid suffering some injustice in this well-armed and very frightened post-9/11 world, but the risk of injustice should not rush us into pre-emptive wars which always only add to the sum of the world’s injustices, while creating ever more global enmity and danger.
A far better and safer way to defend ourselves is through increased communication and dialogue among all peoples and nations.
Peace and justice can only be attained through dialogue, mutual understanding, compromise and compassion. No violent path ever leads to peace and justice. “Peace” treaties at war’s ends merely divide up losers’ spoils among still-squabbling “winners,” and inevitably sow seeds of bitterness our children will harvest.
Tragically, it is still possible in America for a small group of arrogant militants to act out their darkest fears and limited understandings by sending other people’s grandchildren off to unnecessary wars, whether or not their constituency agrees with them. In such a democracy, we could wake up tomorrow in the middle of World War III, whether arbitrarily initiated in Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Korea, Syria….
And if that happens, all our lives, and life itself on this fragile blue planet, will change irrevocably.
Our best hope is to work together to establish a cabinet-level United States Department of Peace, as beautifully specified in H.R. 3760 and S. 1756, which can support proven and effect strategies for diminishing violence in our country and in our world.
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