This I Believe

Marguerite - Mineral Ridge, Ohio
Entered on September 8, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: good & evil, war
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Winning and Losing

The President is on mute, mouthing words about winning the war against evildoers as my husband and I eat dinner at the kitchen counter.

We’ve heard it all before, from other presidents, about other wars and other evildoers. Once we believed that wars could be won or lost. Now we believe that “winning” and “losing” are not words that can be applied to either war or peace.

In the late 1960s, my husband volunteered for the Navy and sailed off to defeat the evildoers in the rivers of Vietnam with his twin 50s and his M-60. Around the same time, I volunteered for the Peace Corps, an idealistic soldier armed with cross-cultural sensitivity, and marched off to win peace and understanding in Libya, then Iran.

Today on TV we watch Vietnamese munching on Big Macs. Last year my husband bought a winter coat made in Vietnam. Meanwhile in Libya and Iran, angry crowds surround the former U.S. Embassies, chanting “Death to Amrika!” It’s no wonder winning and losing are such sore subjects around our house.

My husband has flashbacks of his war; I have memories of my own. On TV the body of a child is pulled out of the rubble of a mud brick home. I remember the father of the Iranian family I lived with hugging and kissing his three boys. He stops to ask me an important question: “In America, do you love your children as much as we love our children?”

All three boys were old enough to fight in the Iran-Iraq war. No winners in that war. Besides, the boys were Kurds, losers under any circumstance.

On TV, a mullah rants about evildoers. I remember the mullah who taught religion in my school crying in the teacher’s room because the 13-year-old girls in his class were so mean to him. When I sympathized, he told me my fingernails were too long, I should cut them.

Mineral Ridge is on the outskirts of Youngstown, ground zero when we were growing up, the industrial heart of America. Although the fascist and communist evildoers failed to drop a single bomb, the steel mills vaporized. We’re not murdered by fascists, communists, or jihadists here; we’re murdered by people exactly like us. Pogo had it right.

Still on mute, the President continues to appeal to our fear of losing the war. But this war can’t be won, either by force or best intentions. And losing? We’re not sure what that means.