I had an interesting conversation late one night last week at the conference. Sitting in the Grand Hall, discussing war and politics over Jack Daniels and cigars. I was struggling to convince my companions, an atheist and a Buddhist, of the necessity to continue the fight, the conditions for victory, etc...
Their contention was that the Iraqis have been killing each other for millenia, and that we shouldn't be in the middle of it. My contention was that we stand for the promise of something better. I tried to convey the message that, rather than attributing evil or mercenary motives to our President for going in, that we should consider the idealism that drove the decision. At some point I commented that maybe I was an idealist too. The conversation continued, I hope on good terms, an we headed up for the night.
A parting comment in the elevator stuck with me... "I can't believe you're still an idealist...."
The comment stuck with me, because I had to wonder why... why after all I've seen and done, and I've been pretty lucky to have some very interesting life experiences, including getting a taste of what evil looks like, why do I still believe that men, good men, can make the world better?
I saw an answer this morning... maybe this is it, maybe it isn't... It seems too noble, and I am long retired from the active ranks... but then what better way to explain why one might still be an idealist?
I can't say 'we don't mind dying, we knew that risk was part of the deal'. None of us want to die. But there are ways that we accept it. We all volunteered to place ourselves between our homes and families and war's desolation. We don't mind dying....for a reason. For America, for human freedom, for a noble cause, for our buddies...the last full measure has to mean something.
Of course, that leads me to the more uncomfortable question, "Are we who have served that different?"