Letters to Our Conscience


Times of  War

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    We are in times of war. . . Actually, we have never stopped being in times of war, but in this modern age war is more graphic; we can instantaneously see it, feel it, touch it. … Television shows it to us in all its rawness and enormity. . . . It is more heart wrenching and personal than ever. . . .
    And as always when some event of this nature occurs, our differences—those tribal differences that have been with us since time immemorial—are aggravated. . . and while blood—as red and thick as ever, one side’s indistinguishable from the other’s, and all of it showing and denouncing the terrible barbarity that still exists in our civilization—is spilled on the battlefield, some of us use our time to denounce this war as illegal, oppressive, and unjust, while others, armed with a multitude of justifications, just as vehemently support it. … Regardless of which side our perceptions put us on, we must all reflect on what is happening in these moments and allow our consciences to speak to us about it, and not allow exasperation or vehemence to cloud our understanding. . . . In every tragedy there are lessons to be taken in and weighed by our conscience. … All war is tragic; it is a shedding of blood and a shedding of tears; it is a drama of dehumanization; it is hate, and revenge; it is the most bloodthirsty, most pitiless cannibalism—war is the antithesis of civilization.

We should all—if only for a few moments—try to put ourselves in the midst of that chaos, mentally hear the explosion of the bombs and mortar shells, see the bodies blown to pieces, smell and feel the warm blood of the fallen. . . as it spatters us. . . crying out to us the pain from the wounds, from the thousand unrealized dreams, from the orphaned and unborn children. . . from the grief of the mothers and the widows. With every death there is a part of us that should mourn. These are times to feel grief and pity, to feel compassion for all of them and compassion for ourselves, because although the war is going on far away, it is very close, for the pain of those over there—not only those we consider friends but those we consider enemies as well—should be our own, because each of those “others” is a reflection of ourselves, and they were created by the same Creator and they grew up under the same sun and they breathe the same air and drink the same water that we do. . . .

We may think that this war is just or unjust; we may be divided by different viewpoints and ideologies, but what should be common to us all is our revulsion for war. It is imperative, albeit paradoxical, that we become aware of our own humanity through the tragic reality of war… that we give more value to pity and understanding so that the harmony for which we all yearn may govern our human relationships, and that we do everything in our power to promote that humanity. That is the most tangible victory that we can take from the war—even if it is a Pyrrhic victory. Only through that achievement will we be able, collectively, to guarantee hope for a better future in which we will all be brothers and sisters to one another, and not oppressors or hangmen.

Thank you,
Juan San Emeterio
March, 2003