I’m old and have no memory of our country being as divided as it now is about the war. But there was a war when we were just as divided, our War of Independence in the 1770s. Then as now there were eloquent voices for peace through understanding and accommodation with England.
This was the view of the Quakers of Pennsylvania who saw the prospect of war as an anathema. John Adams saw the British insistence on total authority over the colonies as a violation of our God-given rights as human beings. To underscore the British insistence on compliance with their demands, they sent troops to live in people’s homes in Boston and demonstrated in their words and actions that there was to be no accommodation. But bowing in submission to an unjust king was simply intolerable for the colonists.
A Declaration of Independence was written, signed and delivered to King George III who was so unimpressed with the Declaration that his diary for the day said this, “Nothing significant happened today,” so confident was he that his right and wrong were right and wrong. In that Declaration, a foundational belief was expressed. “… That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
And the first was life, how we cherish and guard it. From around the world, millions have come here to get well. Ours are the best hospitals, the best medicines and our firefighters, police and emergency crews are the best and the bravest as we saw on 9-11 as hundreds risked and lost their lives to save others. People my age practically need a signed form to be permitted to die in a hospital these days. Living and enjoying life isn’t what we do, it’s who we are.
And now our country is at odds with itself and at war with a large and determined new enemy called Islamic fundamentalists. To defeat them we must first understand what it is that separates us. Osama bin Laden, in frightening words, gave us the answer when he said, “Your people cherish life, we cherish death.” He meant what he said and the awful truth is that he didn’t even have to say it. We knew it by his actions and the actions of thousands of his followers as they happily died as our embassies blew up, as the USS Cole was nearly sunk, as the first and second attacks on the World Trade Center were launched and now in dozens of attacks around the world.
If that were not proof enough, we are reminded of the insanity of their belief system almost daily as reports from Iraq or Israel so clearly demonstrate. Yes, Islamic militants cherish death. It was taught to them in school and hundreds of those schools are teaching it today.
As with the colonists of the 1770s, there is no easy way out for us because no accommodation can exist between those who cherish death and those who cherish life. We have to fight and we have to win. Those who deny this reality should simply step aside and allow those with the courage to protect their freedom for them to accept the challenge and assure that this nation, under God, does not perish from the earth.
David Huck is a resident of Swanville.