Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Robert Kuhn (“Looking out for more than No. 1,” Jan. 5) seems to attack me from the perspective that I am“self-righteous,” lazily living a privileged life provided for me by the sacrifices of people I criticized as “dim-witted scoundrels” in my Dec. 5 letter, “War not worth dying for.”
I am not opposed to people fighting and dying for their country. Who is to say that if I was not of an age or a condition to make me such a candidate that I would not participate in war as so many millions of others have done before me, and continue to do? As I wrote on Dec. 5, I am opposed to people participating in war with a smug sense of unction to their behavior. And for me, this feeling of unction is the kicker. It shows us who is truly self-righteous.
In the course of war, propaganda dictates that decisions, actions and attitudes to those decisions and actions be painted in black and white, good vs. bad, right and virtue against error and vice as much a possible. What I despise and criticize is people who are dim-witted enough to believe all that and participate with glee rather than with an appropriate level of regret and horror and humility in the face of the dirty job they are involved in.
Published on Sunday, January 16, 2000 as “Kill with regret and humility.”
My point is not that I am against war as such, although I am suspicious to the point of cynicism when old men send young men to fight, especially when the reasons for it are obviously, transparently dishonest. As a Christian I acknowledge the legitimacy of the Just War - which are usually not what the old men claim they are when they send the young men to death.
When we kill or destroy anything at all it should not be in a spirit of righteousness, or rightness, or triumphant nationalism like what Americans are prone to. As I get older I feel more reservations about destroying and killing even things like insects. As I get older I feel more reservation about destroying those things that we cannot replace.
Take boys and insects, for example. Young boys like to squash ants, caterpillars and bugs, pull the wings off of captured flies, etc. I did, too. But as an adult I take a dim view of it because we lack the power to heal or replace what we kill, and life is a precious commodity in any form. So, war is occasionally necessarily, but not as frequently and not as necessary as the old men claim, and it should be fought with a heavy heart, with regret and humility, not with puffed-up praise of our make-believe heroes. I am lucky in that I have never known war, but from what I hea - from sources that I trust know better than I do - it is not glorious in the least.