Photo taken from the NYtimes.com
I’ve always felt a tinge of sadness for military photos. The woman in uniform sobbing as she holds her child in an airport. The crying sister curled up in a ball next to her brother’s grave. The old men and young girls that stand in front of that gray slab with red flowers, quiet. As someone who’s been a bit of an anti-patriotic cynic since the Bush administration, (see: ever,) the part that gets me isn’t the cause, but the sacrifice. You’re throwing everything out on the line, and for what?
In the United States, going into service is the one of the closest things you can get to 24/7 struggle of a life and death — and it is completely voluntary. You are entering a constant battle that starts from the time either it ends, or you do. It’s not black and white though. Some people quit. Others die in the crossfire, or come back home with glassy eyes and nights spent rolling around in agony while their spouses pretend to sleep.
Like all paradoxical and slightly morbid or romantic things, it poses as a real interest to me. Why do we fight? Why do we enter these battles when we’re not sure we’re going to win? And who are we trying to prove to?
We sacrifice our entire lives for this concept, for something that not only matters to the greater good, but for ourselves. We walk with the intention of bettering ourselves to possibly come back as broken people. But there is that glimmer. And not of fortune and fame, but just of surviving, and coming back home to a revolution, even if you or your world completely changes in front of you.
And the rest of us fight different wars, maybe lesser wars. Abuse, poverty, discrimination, relationships, media. We picture an enemy in our heads, something to vanquish. The worst ones, however, are the ones we can’t see, picture, or grasp, because we don’t understand it. Or it’s the same ragged eyes of your reflection, saying “enough is enough.”
Right now, I’m sitting on a chair, staring outside at the window where the cool breeze is whizzing through the trees. And I realize, it didn’t have to be this way. Without consciously realizing it, I had signed my name on the dotted line. I consented to foreign and treacherous territory. But war doesn’t take me to a station, or a camp, or to the outside world. It’s one close to home, right here, and is right in front of my face, asking me if I want to rip the contract up or finally fight for the peace I know I’ll never be able to have.
My friends asked me not to go, but they don’t know what I’m getting into. I’ve always been the safe one. The one who made firm decisions when the cards in the hand were not enough. The one who preferred stability to transience if affordable. I could go back to subjugation and simplicity, or I could throw myself in the chaos that I promised myself again and again I would never be in. And it has to be now.
I think I’m getting closer to understanding those that put everything on the line for an internal and external struggle. And for the first time, I think I finally have the resources.
I’m tired of running away from battles I can’t win or finish. I’ve suffered and I know my limits. I know what’s at stake and I know what I could lose. I know what it might look like if it comes crashing down on top of me. But I have to try. And this time, there’s no voluntary discharge.
When you’re fighting a battle against yourself, either you win, or the war does.