Thanks for printing the letter from Rachel Bliss, "Counting the Cost of the Afghan War in Asheville Terms." We need more community dialogue on this issue. While Rachel described the costs in dollars and lives, there are other costs that are not as quantifiable, but just as real. One of these costs is the degradation of our national character.
Martin Luther King Jr., whose work and life is celebrated this month, had much to say about character and about war. This hero of the 20th century would be appalled at what America has become in the 21st: a nation that passively submits as its leadership initiates and perpetuates wars of aggression; that condones torture and illegal detention; that has grown callous to the suffering of millions of people, even its own service members.
This deterioration of national character has repercussions (or perhaps origins) at the local level. It manifests in how we regard and interact with other folks in the community and in our toleration of violence toward one another. A nation that relies on violence as a first resort can expect a culture of violence to develop in its own communities. We see this not just in the troops returning with PTSD; it is evident in the increase in domestic violence and violent incidents in schools and workplaces.
Dr. King knew that when national policies become harmful to the social fabric of the nation, it is the duty of the people to take corrective action, and that the actions are most effective at the community level. But before we can take action, we need — at the community level — an increased awareness and more dialogue about not only the costs of perpetual war but the ineffectiveness of such policies and an understanding of the real and untold reasons for our destructive (and self-destructive) foreign policy.
Thanks again for helping to enable this discussion.
— Kim Carlyle