I was sitting at the table in the cafeteria at work where a number of my co-workers and me enjoy conversation while we eat our sack lunches. Though it always seems too short it’s our only respite for the day. In the cafeteria in one corner there hangs a television which is almost always tuned to CNN. And on the scroll along the bottom of the screen are highlights of the trouble ensuing between the Iraqis’ and the fanatical IS militants.
As the conversation turns to Iraq, there are a number of folks at the table whom voice their steady opinion that we (Americans) shouldn’t be over there, that we ought to let them take care of each other and eventually we won’t have to worry about it. I believe that if my co-workers were able to let their machismo relax a little and actually think about their statement they’d see the fault in it. But that never seems to happen here, the conversation wells up and the energy turns critical and as it usually happens, being the only veteran at the table the looks and the question seems to land in my lap; “What do you think, should we go over there and kick some ass or should we just let them all duke it out?”
Now I doubt any one of the men at this table might actually “go over there and kick some ass…” if they’d be given the chance, and I don’t think those are our only choices either. And to be honest I don’t really think it is our business at the moment, however we have invested ourselves in that country the last twenty years and it would be a shame if we stepped out on them now, leaving them to the much more heavily armed IS. That being the case I explained to my co-horts that if I stood on my front porch at my home, looking out over the neighborhood and happened to watch as some small group of men pushed their way into one of my neighbors house, I could not ignore it. “What would be in it for you?” A co-worker blurted out. I looked at him and told him that I could stand there and watch those men take over my neighbor’s house and property, I could let them push my neighbor out into the street and I might even offer him my couch if he had no other place to go. I don’t really know him very well though; in fact I wouldn’t even say we were friends. And his property doesn’t butt up against mine; it’s at the end of the block, so I really have nothing to gain from it.
However, as the following days pass I feel a little less comfortable with allowing my children to play outside if I am not around. I close my garage door when I am not standing at it and make certain my doors and windows are secure, I mean you just never know right? The group of men who’ve pushed their way into my neighbor’s house have their right to believe what they want and it’s not my job to persecute them for it or for their behavior. I am not a cop and it’s not happened in my back yard. Then I began to think, If those men believed it OK to do what they did, might more men believe that that behavior is all right, what if more men like them come around and see that they can get away with the same behavior, might they not try the same thing to another neighbor of mine and eventually what is happening at the end of the street might now be happening next door?
Suddenly it appears that my very own home and property is at risk, my way of life is threatened by those men at the end of the block. And by the time they move to the house next door to mine there will be many of them. The tables will be turned and life as I know it will be in danger. It will be too late. The time for action will have passed long ago. What I might have gained or retained; peace of mind, a feeling of security, freedom to live as I have for so long will have been erased before I had a chance to preserve it. The time to have done something will have been apparently erased. And I begin to think that I should have done something when I first saw them enter my neighbor’s home. I should have gone knocking, when there weren’t as many of them, I would have gathered my friends and protected my neighbor, standing up to those men in the beginning. Sure they have a right to believe whatever they want to, but they can seek another place to practice their beliefs. And it’s not just about my home; it’s about having a conscience and heart, it’s about looking out for those whom are vulnerable, and showing those whom seek to take advantage of others that they will be opposed, that they cannot walk in and take what they want. It’s about preserving innocence and freedom.
The folks that the IS militants are persecuting over there; the Yazidis’ have been practicing their simple religion for over three thousand years. The militants speak of a belief and a religion they want to cover the region in is just a few months old and is being built upon the persecution of others and utter violence as retribution for non-belief. Yeah we have been there before haven’t we, and we will be there again. But as Americans we know the power and value of freedom, we know what it means to be persecuted after all that’s who we are, the down trodden, the persecuted and the banished from around the world. We have built a life for ourselves here and for those seeking solace and comfort. No it’s not our job to take care of the rest of the world. But it is our duty as Americans to stand up for the little guy, for those who can’t stand up for themselves. That’s what I believe. That’s what I stand for.
It’s not a job for everyone, that’s why we volunteer, that’s why we don’t require every girl and boy to serve. It’s your right to protest, it’s your right to hope and pray and wish for peace. And it’s our job as American soldiers to step in and confront the bullies and eliminate those forces that threaten our way of life here and abroad, and by doing so, giving peace a chance to grow. When we have protected our shores then those who choose to carry a more passive torch, can step up and feed the hungry, pray with the needy and bandage the hurt. And together we can hope to make our world a better place for everybody.