“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” – Faramir, Captain of GondorJ.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
I have no right to this quote. I’ve never served in the military. I don’t have any immediate family that has. It’s not mine to use and wield for truth. And yet…it’s been churning through my mind the past several weeks. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is abhorrent and a tragedy, and one that must be resisted, to be sure. But I can’t help but be shaken by the glorifying of it all. People, largely from the safety of their couches and keyboards, cheering at the death of invaders. Urging escalation on internet forums. Watching video, tracking a war in real time, and commenting as if it’s some sort of grand spectacle. Treating it with casualness and snark, rather than the deadly seriousness that it warrants.
When I was a teenager, my father took my brother and I on a month-long trip to Croatia. This was maybe 2 or 3 years after the Croatian War of Independence had ended. And while that trip was filled with many wonderful moments, meeting family, experiencing culture, and growing deeper roots with my heritage, some of my most powerful memories of that trip are remnants of that war. We stayed in hotels where bullet holes riddled the curtains. We visited cities with parking lots that still bore the scars of shelling. The otherwise idyllic landscape was filled with ruined husks of houses. I remember one time, my brother wandered toward a field, (I think to take a leak) and my dad had to frantically wave him back before he got there for fear that it was still mined.
That’s the closest I’ve ever been (and God willing, the closest I’ll ever be) to a warzone. But even that, distant thought it was, had an impact. I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say here—maybe just that sometimes, war is necessary. We have a responsibility to help where we can, but we should never idolize it. It’s not glorious. It’s not frivolous.
Its aftermath echoes for generations. And when it’s all over, we have a responsibility to help those who have suffered rebuild if we truly love what they defend.