We are still at war; in case you have forgotten.
If you don’t believe me, scan through the news from the past 24 hours.
Since 9/11, our military has been engaged with an enemy that would like nothing more than to destroy you, and everything you stand for. This war has been ongoing for 15 years, and in my personal opinion, there is no end in sight. It doesn’t make the news often, but there are still soldiers who will spend this holiday season in gunfights, not unwrapping presents. The war is evolving; it is moving off of the battlefield and away from those soldiers. Our enemy has learned, as all do, and they are adapting.
If you live in Germany or Turkey, you have just tasted evil. You are seeing first-hand the power of an ideology, combined with commitment and action. How do you protect yourself from a man driving a truck loaded down with tons of equipment, hell bent on inflicting as much damage as possible to those that do not hold the same beliefs? How do you stop an individual with a pistol, motivated by hate and revenge? There is only one way to stop those people, and it will not be found in a politically correct, idea suppressing, inclusive and tolerant safe space. Those safe spaces, are the most target rich environments.
My biggest fear is that my sons will be forced to continue fighting wars I started. My first deployment to Afghanistan was in October of 2002, followed shortly thereafter by a deployment to Iraq in March of 2003 as the war began. In Iraq, we were restricted from using the satellite phone, and received mail only one time during that deployment. We were staged at the Baghdad International Airport, using a shot up, pigeon infested hangar as our sleeping and staging area. One morning a pallet of mail arrived and I received a package from my wife. That morning, I saw the first picture of my son, who is now 13. The scene could have been pulled from a movie. Surrounded by war, and warriors, I was humbled and in awe of the small picture I held in my hand.
A lot of time has passed since that day, and I have two sons and a daughter now. My middle son recently asked me if it would hurt my feelings if he did not want to become a soldier. The question shocked me. It came out of the blue, after a few minutes of him quietly staring out the window, obviously lost in thought. I was startled by how much he realizes I care about my past, and the job I used to have. I was amazed at how caring and loving his question was, and how he cares so much about my opinion. He is a better version of me, in every way. He wants to be an environmentalist, to help repair things, to help protect the place we all call home. I could not be more proud. I hope he has that chance. I hope your children do too. I have my doubts.
Our children may not have a choice; they may be forced to fight. There are no more uniforms, no more trenches, no more defined “fronts”. The forward edge of this battle area has now started to reach the front doors of many. We have felt this only slightly in the United States, San Bernardino being an example that comes to mind. Europe has tasted this more than we have, and if we don’t pay attention, their catastrophies will be our preamble.
I often encounter people who are shocked by the violence and devastation of terrorist attacks. They don’t understand how someone could do these things to others, especially those they have never met. It is difficult conversation, and most are not willing to accept my answer. To understand their motivation and actions, you have to understand love. If you are a parent, the love you have for your children is beyond description. It is a connection, a feeling, a commitment, and a passion that cannot be broken by anything physical in this world. I could lock you away for decades, give you books and provide education about how you should not love your children, but it will have no effect. Your love for them is blind, it is unbreakable. If you want to begin to understand, you must accept the fact that there are those that hate you, and what you stand for, as much, and more, than you love your children. These people do not care if you voted for Hillary or Trump. They do not care if you are an intellectual, a social crusader, or a pacifist. The San Bernardino shooters did not stop to take a poll on personal and political beliefs, the simply started pulling the trigger.
These people are committed. I have looked them in the eye, they are as real as the rising sun.
Our current environment of political correctness is putting you, and your family in danger. The avoidance of discussion and the suspension of reality in order to avoid upsetting one group over another will be our undoing. Honesty about a group and their actions does not make you a racist, it does not mean you are profiling, it means you are paying attention. It means that you understand that for every individual and group there is an axis. That axis exists to do you harm, and you are not going to allow it to happen with a blindfold on.
We are distracted right now, and we are providing our enemy the perfect opportunity to maneuver. The past year has been nothing but political argument and divisiveness, and it continues. We have protests and riots in the streets, and attacks on the very infrastructure and organizations that will be called on to respond when evil raises its head on our soil. If we continue tear ourselves apart at the seams, our enemy is going to fill the void. It is the perfect tactical maneuver, and right now all they need to do is sit back and wait.
I do not want that for my children, or yours. I have seen war first hand, and the American people are not prepared to see it in our streets. No elected official has the solution to this problem; its breadth and depth exceeds their ability. The solution starts with you, the person reading this. Whether or not you want to be, you are an active participant. How you act, the things that you say, the environment that you foster, all matters. We are in this together. Our strength comes not from being the same, but from the appreciation of our differences. You need to be able to find it in yourself to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone you do not agree with, instead of using all of your energy to tear them apart. Or, we can continue on our current trajectory, forging a future where our children’s dreams remain exactly that, dreams.
The choice is ours, not our enemies.