I took my daughter to the doctor today for what turned out to be a sinus infection. The pediatrician is a lovely man — kind, skilled at his work, and (obviously) good with children. I trust him as a doctor. As a deep thinker, though, well . . . the jury won’t be out very long.
My daughter is a chatterbox and somehow she drifted into the fact that she met the flight surgeon for the Blue Angels and that’s the job she wants: to be in the military, but not have to kill people, except in defense. The doctor said, “I can understand why you want to be a doctor, but why would you want to be in the Navy?” My daughter looked at him blankly. She’d just described to him an incredibly exciting and responsible job with amazing people. What more could she say?
I filled the silence: “Join the Navy, see the world.” He looked at my as blankly as my daughter had looked at him, and then said, “Join the Navy, kill people.” Out of deference to the situation, and recognizing the fact that his mind was locked, I refrained from saying, “Some people need to be killed.” In my head flashed pictures of Mao (70 million dead under his leadership), Stalin (around 30 million dead under his leadership), Hitler (25 million or so dead as a result of his war), and Pol Pot (one third of his country laid in shallow graves). But I didn’t say anything. I knew that he, being a liberal who cannot seem to accept the lessons of history, wouldn’t have understood.
My daughter, bless her heart, did understand. In the car on the way home, I discussed with her the fact that there is evil in the world. I said causes are often irrelevant. Whether the perpetrator didn’t get enough oxygen at birth, belongs to a religion committed to the deaths of others, got beaten as a child, or intersected with any other root cause no longer matters once the perpetrator is arrayed against you with weapon in hand. It’s a no-brainer that, if you face this situation as an individual, you must and would defend yourself. In the same way, a nation facing an enemy determined to annihilate it must also act to defend itself. Further, when you see the guns aimed at you, self-defense often means firing the first shot. (Something every American who watched old Hollywood westerns easily understood).
In America, it’s our volunteer military that provides this defense. These men and women willingly do the dirty work to keep us safe. My daughter instantly understood the saying, often attributed (wrongly) to Orwell, that “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
As if to underline my point, as we drove home, the 40s channel on my XM radio played a song paying homage to General MacArthur. I said to her, “Can you imagine a song nowadays praising the military?” There was a huff from the back seat. While her imagination can encompass evil, it couldn’t stretch to an American popular culture that openly admires our volunteer military. Or, as she said, “It’s despicable that there aren’t songs like that. I’ll write one.” And as musical as she is, she just might.