What do you tell a six-year-old boy about the "will" to go to war?
How do you liken war to climbing a rock in Central Park, or relate the
war in Iraq to a child's father being arrested for protesting war?
18, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 552
The Will To Fight or
Protest A War And How Climbing A Rock In Central Park Relates
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, Mar. 18-- Yesterday, while the dogs of war
barked, growled and snarled, I took my six-year-old grandson rock
climbing in Central Park. It seemed the appropriate thing to do
on the eve of war.
St. Patrick's Day Parade In front of the S-N apartments on Fifth
My wife and I linked up with our
daughter and her husband's Irish family next to the clock in front of
the exclusive Sherry-Netherland apartments on Fifth Avenue (room rates
start at $325 and soar to a $1,000 a night). The prosperous
location faces Central Park on the east side of Manhattan. It is just a
half-block away from FAO Swartz and across the plaza where horse-drawn
carts take tourists on $35 plus-tip-rides, stands the elegant Plaza
Hotel. It is, without doubt, a prime spot for a penniless
TerrorHunter such as myself to watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
It is also a rich tradition my son-in-law's Irish family members have honored for fifty years.
War against Terrorism, not parades, however, was on my mind.
I draw a distinction between "war" in general and a "War
against Terrorism." The word war without modification means
senseless violence. It evokes random killing of people with no
justification, and shrouds the mind with sheer ugliness of human
nature. A War Against Terrorism however focuses on the point of
violence. It is to rid the world of a threat that looms
over all. Today, for example, Saddam Hussein's son stated Iraq
would retaliate against the the families of the warriors who fought,
their uncles, aunts, cousins, their grandchildren and all their
So I spit that hair war, separating it from
nondescript war to the one that falls from the thick hide of the Beast
of Terror. And, it forces me to think about the "will" of war,
and my grandchildren.
A body of
flags refreshed the monotony of green
Yesterday, for example, I didn't want to go to the St. Patrick Day
Parade. I had war on my mind. Plus, nothing is more boring to me than
to watch hundreds of bands and groups marching inch by inch up
Fifth Avenue as hoards of people dressed in green with shamrocks
painted on their faces hoot and cheer for the Irish, even though I am
of Scotch-Irish-Norwegian descent. My mother's father was a
McPherron who drank, smoked and told tales in tune with the best of
any Irish. At the last minute, I decided we should
go to the parade so we could "kidnap" the grandchildren and enjoy
Central Park's beauty. That would be a good excuse to escape the
throngs of people jamming the streets. My instincts also told me
to protect the kids. A huge crowd of over 2 million on the eve
of war seemed like too juicy a target for a Terrorist.
Fortunately, when we arrived at the clock next to Sherry-Netherland, our daughter
wanted to take the kids to one of the many playgrounds deftly carved
into the heart of Central Park. I couldn't burst through the crowd
fast enough. One playground near the Central Park Children's Zoo has an incredible stone slide.
The kids swirl down it as though it were a sluice designed by Walt
Time and politics stops dead at the playground, for one's only
concern when watching children play is their personal safety and their
social manners. Your mind is consumed with watching them so they
do not get hurt by others. You also watch their manners to make sure
they are fair to the smaller children as they excitedly jockey for
another turn to tumble down the exhilarating slide.
The United Nations might learn
something from watching children play, I thought.
Next to the playground are giant (for
kids) granite rocks that erupt throughout the park. The rocks
are nature's playground, especially for our grandson who is into rock
climbing. Six-year-old Matt is not a group sport
kid. He likes self challenges. He's into his second stint
of rock climbing classes at Chelsea Piers, where a forty-foot rock
wall is housed inside the Field House. The wall offers young and
old a training ground for scaling mother nature's monoliths that rise
out of her crust and spear up into the sky as reminders there is one
in charge of the world more powerful than any king, tyrant, prime
minister or president. Rock climbing is a humbling experience.
When I was a young man, I climbed with
members of the Southern California Rock Climbing Association.
We scaled sheer cliffs, hanging hundreds of feet above jagged
precipices. I was a novice and my fellow climbers experts.
They taught me how to deal with Fear and Intimidation, for nothing is
more scary than hanging by your fingertips above certain death while
trying to pretend it doesn't exist. Plus, it is
motivational--you have no place to go up.
I am proud my grandson is willing
to test his Fears and Intimidations on the rocks of life. They are
symbolic of learning inner strength and force the "will," the psyche
of the self, to override the
reality of one's mental Fear and the Intimidations. Rock
climbing is character building.
After sliding countless times, Matt wanted to tackle the
rocks. I got permission from his mother. We found a great hulk of granite and he began to
scurry up it. I cautioned him to move slowly, insuring he had
the handholds and footholds. Impatience is not a virtue in
climbing, for the rock has been there for eons and the human desire to
race up it falls in conflict with Nature's timetable, often resulting
in mistakes and falls. There is a concert necessary between the
fragile human body and mind and immovable stone that must be played
for one to master the rock with the least danger. I wanted him
to "tune in" to that relationship, which is founded in patience.
at Chelsea Piers
I stood below him to break any fall
and offered my suggestions as he picked harder and harder climbing
paths. One cantilevered, so he was climbing blind, unable
to see where the next handhold or foothold was. I urged him to
use his fingers as "eyes," and his toes as "fingers." The week
before he had learned to climb blindfolded at Chelsea Piers, to use
his instincts rather than his brain to bring him to the top, to become
"one with the rock."
"I hope I don't break anything," he
said softly as he worked himself down. He froze for a
moment, unsure of his footing. I saw a ledge a few inches from
his right foot and reminded him to use his "toes" as "fingers."
slowly lowered his body until his toe caught the lip of the rock,
stabilizing his descent.
I wanted to talk to him about
war. I knew it was on his mind. Earlier, he had
mentioned his father wasn't at the parade yet because he was
protesting war. My son-in-law and daughter are anti-war
advocates, peaceful protestors who are members of the Catholic Worker,
an organization that demonstrates against all forms of violence.
The top of the
wanted to tell Matt that war was sometimes necessary, although never
"right." But I do not engage the children in conversations
to force my viewpoints upon them, only to answer their questions as
truthfully as I can. A few weeks ago when Matt had
blurted out on the bus after rock climbing, "Who's going to win the
war with Iraq?," I stated, "Nobody wins in war, Matt." Matt's
father had been there when I said it, and nodded, then reaffirmed my
answer to his son.
Even though I am a warrior, and have
fought in bloody battles, I am not an advocate of it per se as I often
think anti-war protestors seem to do. I
fought as all Americans have fought before me, to protect other people's
rights to freedom against tyranny and oppression. Despite all the rattling of
dissenters that Iraq is a war for oil, to secure American economic
interests or to salve the ego of a Texan President who wants to hurl
the United States into vendetta against Saddam Hussein for
trying to assassinate his father, all that is simply myopic vision
from my viewpoint. Historically, Americans fight wars not
to conquer nations, but to free them from the claws, jaws and fangs of
the Beast of Terror who seeks to strip a people of their basic rights
to freedom, and rules with a hammer while all the people are treated
as nails. Our legacy has been to fight the Beast of Terror in
war, to drive him from the lands he dominates and then to retreat to
our own homeland rather than dictate the future of nations we have
Iraq is no different. Its
23 million people will be free of tyranny once Saddam Hussein is gone.
In the wake of our war against Terrorism, hopefully will rise a government far more fair and far more just to the rights of the
people. Unfortunately, the cost of that
installation of freedom will be blood, both of the warriors who fight
it and the
innocent who get caught in its crossfire. That is the sadness of
I wanted to tell my grandson that America
is not bad because it goes to war to fight the Beast of Terror.
I wanted to tell him that nations who fight wars to bring Terrorism
are bad, but not those who seek to destroy the Beast. I wanted
him to understand the difference.
I wanted to
tell him that America's dead and wounded account for 1,750,000 over
the past nearly 100 years since the first World War we fought in to
keep Europe free. From WWI through the Persian Gulf War,
nearly 2 million Americans have been killed or wounded fighting for
others in lands thousands of miles away from American soil--all
designed not to conquer those nations and impose freedom upon them,
but to free them from leadership that Terrorized the rights of the
people and future generations. I
wanted him to know in World War I our casualties were 320,000; and in WWII
to free Europe from tyranny we suffered 1,079,162 casualties, nearly 1
percent of our total population at the time; and in
Korea, 140,200; in Vietnam, 211,556 and the Gulf War, 766.
I wanted him to know we had gone to the far corners of the earth to
die for others, and that our "will" to offer others what we enjoy a
human rights far exceeded our desire to selfishly consume those rights
while others suffered. I wanted to tell him we weren't
perfect in our ways, or that we didn't make mistakes, but that our
intentions were never to leave a people less safe or less endowed with
human rights as a result of any conflict we entered.
I wanted him to also know that we did not
annex any one of those nations, or enslave any of the people as
servants to America, but instead, helped them reconstruct their lands
in such a way that even today some of those lands we helped free had
the right of choice to turn against us in the United Nations, and make
America appear as though it were some bellicose beast seeking to destroy peace.
I wanted him to know that even though our former allies were painting
us to be Beasts of Terror, that we weren't, and to remind him that
"sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me."
When you are alone with your grandson, you are
filled with a
desire to let him see the world as you see it. But, you check
your tongue. You remember that it isn't your job to direct your views upon the child.
If the child wants your knowledge he or she will ask for it.
To impose would be a violation of the trust his parents give me to be
alone with him.
Matt wasn't concerned with war or its philosophy.
He simply wanted me to protect and instruct him in the art of climbing
rocks. I looked at what he was doing as the act of a young
warrior, learning how to face the
Beast of his own Terror on the battlefield of Central Park by climbing a great
rock, one that made him tremble at times when his foot couldn't find a
place to support his weight, or when his fingertips began to tremble
as he struggled to inch himself up or down learning to trust himself
as he grew more confident in his skills of facing his Fears.
"Don't hug the rock, Matt," I instructed.
"Let it talk to you. Let it tell you what to do. Feel it."
as in life, there is a danger of getting too
close to the rock. One's weight is driven downward putting too
much pressure on the hands. The key is to keep your weight
vectored into the rock by angling the body away from it. In life,
no matter what our views, we must be willing to step back away from
our righteous thinking and look at the other viewpoint.
From seeing all sides of an issue we can make better decisions and not
be blinded to truths larger than ourselves. Matt is
a quick learner. He can see other views and listened to my
advice. He pushed away from the rock and worked himself down one face and took off to
find another more challenging one.
I knew his father was protesting the
war at the United Nations. Later, I would find that his father had
been arrested along with 45 other protestors in front of the U.S.
Mission. I openly proud of his father as a warrior for peace.
I consider a man or woman willing to go
to jail for his beliefs has as much courage and conviction as I in
mine to go to war against the Beast of Terror. One of the great
warriors of modern times, I believe, is Mohammed Ali who sacrificed
his prime boxing years rather than go to war. I only
object to those who protest without a willingness to pay the price of
protesting. My son-in-law is not an armchair protester. He
protests daily and lives a life of sacrifice to marginalized people.
He has traveled to Israel during the height of conflict and risked his
life in foreign lands, including El Salvador where he thrown in prison
for protesting the Terrorization of villagers and deported.
Unlike many who shove a sign up one day and run to Starbucks and don
the hat of safety and security the next, Matt's father lives on the
battlefields of protest.
Matt, I knew, was
being trained to have the right to chose whether he wanted to
protest and go to jail, or to suit up in military uniform and fight an
enemy. Our older daughter's sister is a federal special agent,
who is the opposite. She walks the streets daily armed to
fight Criminal Terrorists. America offers such choices to its children that most
nations don't allow. Our family expresses the polarity of
choice, as many do in free nations.
In Iraq, however, I knew there was
one choice for the children--Saddam Hussein's. That choice was
simple--do what the Butcher of Baghdad said or suffer prison, torture,
rape or deadly gas. I knew Saddam had killed his
grandchildren's fathers and dragged their bodies through Baghdad for
challenging his father-in-law.
Quite the opposite happened
yesterday. My son-in-law was handcuffed, cited and released. He
later joined us at the St. Patrick's Day Parade with scrapes on his
wrists from the cuffs, but he wasn't beaten or tortured, and the
leader of the parade didn't drag his body up Fifth Avenue, or threaten
to rape his wife and kill and his children if he didn't submit to
America's will of supporting the war. He commented he and the
arresting officer had shaken hands when they parted company.
Later that night I watched President Bush
talk in which he issued a 48-hour deadline to Saddam. He spoke about not the "authority" to
fight the Beast of Terror, but rather the "will" to fight him.
I let his words sink in.
My grandson didn't have the legal authority to
climb a rock that frightened him, but he had the "will" to.
My son-in-law didn't have the legal authority to protest where he did, but he had the
"will" to stand up for his beliefs. In my day, I didn't
have the authority to fight a war for the freedom of the Vietnamese by
some people's standards, but I had the "will" to fight, and, more
importantly, the "willingness" to die for their
right to be free from tyranny. Even though that war failed in
defeating the Beast of Terror, it didn't fail in proving the
willingness of the warriors to die for the right of others to be free.
I did witness the first democratic election in Vietnam, and for that,
I am grateful.
America is currently being charged with the crime of
"preemption" against the Beast of Terror. Critics claim America has no right to
preempt a war, to engage a known Terrorist of the People in conflict,
one who has defied the world regarding his stockpiling and
manufacturing and wanton use of weapons of mass destruction. They
don't want to remember in 1996 he dragged his son-in-laws bodies
through Baghdad because they had delivered to the U.N. proof of
Saddam's wanton development of such weapons.
is like a volcanic
mountain that can erupt and injure our Children's,
Children's Children at will.
The world is saying America has no right to
climb a rock that teeters precariously over the world as a symbol of
Fear, Intimidation and utter Complacency, a nation that has bullied
the United Nations into a frenzy of compromise and a nation that
stands as a model to other tyrant nations that no one has the guts to
climb it and conquer the evil that threatens us from within.
Iraq is an evil volcano. It can erupt
at any moment, inuring not only our children, but he children of the
world. But, to some, as long as it is dormant, they want to
leave it alone. U.N. weapons inspectors have met with
constant challenges to dig out the answers to Iraq's mysteries of
where the weapons of mass destruction are stuffed in the core of its
volcano. The hide-and-seek game Saddam plays turned the U.N.
into a toothless entity.
Now, that the U.S. has elected to
stop the Complacency and act, it is suffering indictment by
the world that it is a warmonger nation, seeking to act out of selfish
interests that fly in the face of diplomacy and peaceful intent.
But is it?
Would it be right for me to tell my
grandson that America should sit back and not challenge the cruelty
Iraqi leaders issue upon its children, or, to allow its threat of
biochemical and nuclear violence to
go unchecked? Would it be right for me to tell my
grandson that it was okay to ignore someone building a bomb in Central
Park designed to kill all the children until everyone in the city
agreed it was okay for me to stop him from building it?
What would I teach my grandson?
has the right to protest war
Matt's grandfather is not for war, but he is for the will to fight
tyranny, and to set an example for other Beasts of Terror like Saddam
Hussein around the world that if they choose to threaten the security
of Matt, and other children like him, such despots will suffer the
sting of America's wrath.
But I am not narrow in my thinking. I am also for Matt's father having the
right to protest war, and would die for his right to stand up against bloodshed.
Without the right to oppose, there is no freedom. Plus, I see little difference between the
willingness to go to war against Terrorism and the willingness to be arrested
for protesting war in general. Both are acts of Courage, Conviction and
Right Actions for the Children's Children's Children. Both prove
to a young boy like Matt that people must act in accordance with the
conscience, and that in a free land, the right to have opposite views
is the heartbeat of freedom. But in both cases, for such acts to
be just, both must be
willing to sacrifice their personal security for their beliefs.
No pain, no gain.
Going to war
is like rock climbing - it forces one to face Fear with
United Nations is not such an example. It refuses
to offer a penalty if Saddam Hussein does not disarm.
The United States refuses to accept such Complacency for
it tells all despots that there is no penalty attached
to Crimes of Terrorism. Few nations have the legacy
of America to send its young men and women to die for
others in distant lands. We have the blood
of nearly 2 million American casualties recording our
willingness to die facing the Beast of Terror in lands
not our own, and have yet to annex any of them.
We are global Terror Protestors, we do it with words and
Today, we sit on
the eve of war.
What do I tell Matt
about it? How do I explain the tension between anti-war
and War Against Terrorism.
If he asks, I will
tell him it is like climbing a rock.
It is about facing
one's Fear with Courage, battling one's Intimidations
with Convictions, and overcoming one's Complacency with
Right Actions. And it can be done by protesting
war's violent nature, or choosing to fight against the
Beast of Terror who seeks to bring violence upon others.
I would tell him
for those who chose to fight the Beast of Terror, it is
about freeing the children in Iraq so they can protest
war like his daddy did without having to go to jail or
be beaten or killed because he did. I would tell
one day he can choose to be a Warrior for Peace by protesting
against violence, or a Warrior for Peace by fighting the
Beast of Terror.
I would tell him
the beauty of America is that we have the "will to
make a choice." That we can sit
back and wait until the rock tumbles on our heads, or,
we can climb it before it does.
Mar. 17--The Moment Of Truth--Putting
Teeth In The Barking Dog
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