War! What is it Good for?

Lorraine Schneider. 'War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things.' 1966

Lorraine Schneider. ‘War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things.’ 1966

Absolutely nothing. But it’s good rhetoric.

I had this thought a while back and in a totally non-related email conversation this week a friend expressed the same thought. Can we stop calling everything a war?

I suppose it started way back some fifty years ago when Lyndon Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty.”

Whether or not the War on Poverty has been successful depends on which anaylsis you read. Statistically fewer people may be at the poverty level, but more people are dependent upon government assistance. I suppose if you believe the government should take care of all of us, then that’s a good thing. On the other hand, if you believe, as I do, that government is best when it gets out of the way, that’s another story.

Jesus said “the poor will be with you always.” That doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to help. In fact scripture also says that true religion is looking out for the widows and the orphans.

But let’s not kid ourselves. No “war” is going to eliminate poverty.

Then there’s the War on Drugs.

Not quite ten years after Johnson proclaimed the War on Poverty, Richard Nixon said that drug abuse was “public enemy number one.” Soon thereafter the media began to use the term “War on Drugs.”

According to The Drug Policy Alliance, the United States spends $51 billion each year combating the War on Drugs.

I’m not sure we’re getting our money’s worth.

But what about other rhetorical wars?

Is there really a War on Christmas?

Some people certainly say so. And when you have the insanity of stories like the teacher who stopped a first grader’s speech by telling the child “You’re not allowed to talk about the Bible” in class when the child was reporting on family Christmas traditions or the insanity of the school that told children no one could wear red or green during the holidays, you have to wonder.

But, while there is unquestionably a growing antagonism, I don’t know that there’s a real War on Christmas. Although when the ACLU tells me I can’t put my plastic Baby Jesus in my own yard, there just might be.

The War on Christians is another story. I’m not talking about the head-up-the-buttedness of the people who want to take down the Peace Cross in Prince George, Maryland. That’s just stupidity. Short story, it’s a war memorial that’s been in place for 90 years. Someone needs to tell the American Humanist Association that those 49 men gave their lives so the AHA could be morons.

Forgive me. I have no patience for that type of lunacy. There is nothing in our Constitution that gives you the right to not be offended. Get over it.

But in reality there is a real war on Christians elsewhere in the world. In many countries you can die just by claiming the name of Jesus. That’s the real war on Christians. Not some frivolous lawsuit.

Then there’s that darned GOP War on Women. The one, actually, that doesn’t exist. Yes, I get it that middle aged and older white Republican legislators often put their feet in their mouth. But defending life is not declaring a war on women. It’s just not. In fact many of the soldiers, if you will, in the battle for life are women. Many of the movement’s leaders are women.

The “War on Women” is campaign rhetoric. That’s all it is. That you might disagree with policies that promote and defend life is one thing. You’re not being attacked. There is no war.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s campaign rhetoric that works. It worked like a charm here in the Commonwealth last year.

But, here’s my point. Regardless of what you think of any of the facts or opinions expressed above, can’t we all agree that it’s time to stop calling everying a war?

We know what real war is. We know the cost. To call every project or every public disagreement a war on something cheapens the real meaning of war.

Let’s find another term to use. I was going to suggest “crusade” but that sets up a whole different set of problems.

Words mean things. Let’s use them wisely.

All I’m saying is, give peace a chance.

About the image:
Schneider, an artist and mother of four, created this poster for a print show at Pratt Institute in New York, out of concern that her eldest son would be drafted. The rough composition, with its simple sunflower and childlike scrawl, became the logo for Another Mother for Peace, an organization led in the present day by Lorraine’s daughter Carol, and went on to become one of the most ubiquitous protest images of the Vietnam War era. (Museum of Modern Art, New York)


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