Monday, February 21, 2011

Hero's unwelcome: Wounded Iraq vet jeered at Columbia

I imagine the hecklers feel exalted by their classless performance. Ignorance is boastful. Ivy League schools are a National Treasure because a good education is the cure for such ignorance. Obviously, (a) the Ivy League schools are not the only place a person can obtain a good education; and (b) a few courses at Columbia are insufficient for most folks in our society. Still, we should not silence those who are learning. Ignorance dissipates over time, and when one is receptive to new ideas.

Any person who spends 5 minutes actually talking with a Soldier like SSG Maschek will quickly shed their preconceptions about the knuckle-dragging Grunt, yet most people in our society prefer to stay at a safe, “better them than me” distance from the warriors who fight on their behalf. A person who has never faced an armed enemy bent on causing him grievous bodily harm would do well to say and do less and listen a hell of a lot more. However, telling students and faculty at Columbia that bad men want to kill them, while true, is not the best way to convince them that ROTC is a good thing. We are not at our best when we are afraid or when we induce fear in others.

Until humans evolve to the point at which war is no longer a necessary evil, it makes sense to train our best and brightest to lead in combat—not to glorify war because it is the preferred solution, but to prevent it because it is horrible. War is horrible, better only than slavery, Fascism, Nazism, Communism, or brutal totalitarianism. The value of ROTC is that when diplomacy and deterrence fails, we have an Army with smart, humane, bright, dedicated, and innovative leaders able to achieve decisive victory and sustainable peace as quickly as possible. The ignorant hecklers saw “ROTC” and reacted as if it means “war at any cost.” They were simply not receptive to SSG Maschek’s real message: “peace at any price.”