It is when your breath fogs in front of your face, when icicles form at the end of your beard, and when your nostrils feel dry and caked. It is when your adrenaline is pumping, and your hands are shaking. It is when the sweat beads in drones off the surface of your face. It is when your way is lit by the mechanical eyes of your infrared night vision.
This is no excursion into the wastelands of the standard alpine ski resort. This is the here, and the now. This is where good men go to keep bad men from killing them, and where bad men go to kill good men. This is 3am in the mountains of Afghanistan, and four marines low crawling through God‘s own shit and piss to face on an army of Taliban fighters a thousand strong. This is high noon in the arid plateaus of the Sudan, where the African Union stands out manned and outgunned by the ever-powerful Joseph Kony and his army of child soldiers. This is the lonely and desolate streets of Northern Colombia, where a few powerful rebels are fighting tyranny both in the government and in the drug cartels.
What I am describing is the destination called the warzone.
There is a certain type of person who is bread for war. His skin is made of steel, and his bones are unbreakable. And his heart is indelible. He raises his head to the clouds and shouts out to his maker, I am invincible!
It has been over a decade since the start of the American invasion into Afghanistan. The reasons that they gave us for this war, as always throughout history, seemed good enough to us at the time but are now viewed as bullshit by the majority of the insane. I read a speech by Howard Zinn that was addressed to the Boston College in 1999 that lays out every reason that we should never go to war, and that patriotism is not synonymous with the military. First time I’ve ever heard it put quite like that. I have always operated under the base assumption that they went hand-in-hand. Again in 2001, shortly after the fall of the Twin Towers Howard Zinn was back at Boston College again telling us that war isn’t the answer and that people needed to leave aside their base emotions and look at things from a logical perspective. That we didn’t have to fight in this war if we didn’t want to, because we don’t have to do what we’ve always done. I’ve been thinking these insurrectionist thoughts myself many times over the past few years. But I’ve come to understand that war is engraved into human beings by their nature, and that gives me the ability to be a soldier.
Carry a man on a boat. Get pushed out of a perfectly good airplane. Always roll into the suck with your barrel pointed forward. These are the aspirations of the combat soldier. To be able to be a man who never needs sleep, a man who can kill without making a single sound.
America has always (always being besides the Franklinian Turkey-lovers) represented itself via the image of the Bald Eagle. This majestic animal is extremely territorial. It has an eyesight that can spot a salmon in the current from 600 feet in the sky. In the Gaulic Wars, Ceaser was represented by the ferocious Eagle. It was a symbol of his power and his might. A large golden eagle was the statue that led Ceaser into Rome to take over the city for himself.
When you look at a topographic map of the same area, a warzone really doesn’t look like anything but what it is – the middle of nowhere, or the center of the world. It’s when you add people into the equation; oh, people. They kill others and make maps and talk about culture and talk about national pride. There is no such thing. There is the topography, everything else is simply an idea created by human beings. It is those ideas that we fight for, it is those ideas that we die for, and it is those ideas that we kill for.
Ideas built the Vatican. Ideas started the American Revolution. Ideas led to men landing on the moon, and the construction of the Panama Canal. Ideas can bring human beings to their greatest heights.
But they can also bring us to our deepest lows. Ideas invented the coal mine. Ideas invented the strip mine. Ideas invented the oil refinery. Ideas invented Standard Oil, and Sanford Dole. Ideas brought James Cook to Hawaii. And the English to Ireland. Ideas, aside from monies, are our greatest curse and our greatest gift.
The question that stands before us is one of a hefty consequence, and the deliberation will take its toll. I’m not exactly sure I’ve figured it out yet, which is rare for me in a blog post. We ask ourselves today “What is the nature of America?”
Is America like that of an Eagle? A ferocious predator of the sky of whom fear is non-existent. Is that us? The Great White of the skies? Are people looking to the heavens because they see our drones coming for them, or are they looking to the sky because they see America coming for them? I can not hardly predict the answer, but I can always ask more questions.