Today I watched the Season 2 trailer for Downton Abbey, possibly the best show I have ever seen on television:
(play the clip even if you have no interest in the show, the music is beautiful)
While the first season was about love, lust and the lives of wealthy and less than wealthy Englishmen, it appears that the second season focuses much more on the Great War, the first world war, the one that was supposed to be the world war.
And it brought tears to my eyes, and I wondered if I still remembered to hate war.
When I was 5, I remember praying for the soldiers fighting every night at dinner, but I had no idea that we were in a war.
When I was 7, I devoured the Molly books.
Everything about them seemed foreign and familiar at the same time. Turning 9 in the midst of the second World War, she rationed butter, knit socks for soldiers, participated in scrap metal drives, missed her father (a doctor!) serving overseas, and spent Christmas dreaming of a doll under a tree. I knew all of it and none of it. Her life seemed harder, but more real, more significant because of it.
It was the unbearable lightness of being.
The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness? (Milan Kundra – the Unbearable Lightness of Being)
But here we are, 15, 20 years later, in another war. In two wars. And too often, I forget that. The only time we hear the phrase “wartime” is by politicians seeking to gain political favor. Americans are not at war. Our government is.
And while we might disagree with it on moral and philosophical, even logical grounds, realizing that wars shouldn’t be fought for oil, on faulty intelligence, or for pure revenge, we often forget to hate it. It has little bearing on our day to day lives. Although I have family members who have served in the military, to be honest, because of my socioeconomic status I know hardly anyone who is or has served over seas.
And so I forget to hate it. I have all the butter I can use, I knit for myself and have no idea how to turn a heel, and all my scrap metal can go to the trash (really, though, where do you get scrap metal from? I don’t have any excess laying around that I know of. Is that just because plastic has taken off?)
I am not fighting this war, not in real life, not on the home front. And I am not fighting against it either. Because too often I forget to hate it. We romanticize war, the nobleness of the Greatest Generation, the sacrifices of southern belles and their hoop skirts turning plantations into hospitals, waving handkerchiefs and shouting goodbyes to loved ones boarding a train. But ask someone who has suffered through those times, and they will tell you they hate it.
But in this day and age, we have gotten better about killing other people. We can do it more accurately, with fewer people needed to execute the mission. And so the bloodbaths of Antietam, Shiloh, Dresden are things of the past. We barely blink when we hear about the deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And so we forget to hate it.
We forget that it is still wrong, still unjust, still painful for the families of those who do serve. We forget that there are better ways to live. We forget that we are not at peace.
We forget we are in it, and so we forget to hate it.