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Posted by on Feb 8, 2013 in Society, War | 18 comments

Endless War

“An endless war
An endless night
An endless tunnel
with no light…”

That passage is from a poem by teenage writer Jessica N. titled “Endless War”. The full work appears at In reading Jessica’s thoughts, I was reminded of conversations here and elsewhere over the past several days about the War on Terror.

The site doesn’t provide Jessica’s last name. Nor do I know how she learned about war as a teenager in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What I know is that young Jessica has a soul and a spirit and a heart. What I don’t know is whether that soul and spirit and heart can remain intact in a world where the endless war about which she writes may prove all too real in her life.

There is another poem, from the Bible and later turned to song:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sow; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

It’s that last bit, “a time of peace”, that worries me. Something is filtering through our discussion politic these recent days that has gone unnoticed, at least in the major outlets. If you listen beneath the words to the talk of torture and drones and the War on Terror, there is an undercurrent, an unidentified unwinding of our collective vision. Presumed from nearly every voice is the assumption of endless war.

Whether morning shows or early evening shows or blogs or editorials, there is no talk, no advocate, of “a time of peace”. Since biblical times, if one is to believe Ecclesiastes, there have been wars, but there have also been periods of peace. War conceptually was finite. It began. It ended. And between wars was “a time of peace. “

To have “a time of peace” is precious. Even if impermanent, it allows us rest from the business of generating death. It allows a generation, or part of a generation, to grow and flourish and learn and reproduce without the mangled bodies and minds of war. It allows a refreshing of the national psyche.

How can it be that to speak of seeking peace has become an outlier message, a refrain met with derision, “Didn’t you know that war today is endless?” We all must be Dick Cheney now, it seems. By election we removed the neocons from power, but their mindset has infected us like a pandemic. They did not win our votes. They stole our souls, and made prisoners of our minds.

I fear for you Jessica N. and all who will follow you. I fear that your soulful poem is more prescient than you know.

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Copyright 2013 The Moderate Voice
  • SteveK

    Not to worry Elijah. When, in the course of history, things appear to be the darkest humanity has always experienced a renascence. Your observations just help point out the next one may be overdue.

    My favorite renascence, the one I go back to time after time, was written by Edna St. Vincent Millay. This poem, though dark and doubtful soon after its start, is one of the most forward looking, optimistic poems I’ve ever read… though it ends with this warning:

    And he whose soul is flat — the sky
    Will cave in on him by and by.

    Renascence – Edna St. Vincent Millay 1912

  • sheknows

    “How can it be that to speak of seeking peace has become an outlier message, a refrain met with derision, “didn’t you know that war today is endless?”

    To be fair Elijah, I do not see any derision in stating a fact of reality. If you look around you in this world and can name one time when there was not war going on somewhere, I will be truly amazed. What planet did you grow up on again?

    You paint the realists as being unfeeling, uncaring, Dick Cheney like figures lacking humanity or a soul. A realist sees what is before them and accepts that it is so…doesn’t deny…doesn’t wail and fight. It seems you are saying that if a person recognizes a problem, they somehow become perpetrators or promoters of it simply by virtue of their recognition.

    Many people feel as deeply, or more deeply than you by the tragedy of war, and to that end have actively tried to lobby, petition, and fight against certain practices of war. They continue to this day. Many have begun a full disclosure petition of drone use by the military. Many are contacting their lawmakers and demanding answers. I can only suppose you have already done all of these things and still need to “stand in the yard and rail against the wind”.

    I feel you have implied that anyone who is not a staunch pacifist, is indifferent and uncaring;and that you, by doing absolutely nothing, are somehow furthering the cause of peace on earth more while others do not. That stings!

  • sheknows,

    I regret that you found the piece offensive.


  • slamfu

    The world has never known peace as it knows it now. Although we have much better media coverage these days, the average world citizen is 99% less likely to die to war today than they were in any previous century. War has never wholly ceased worldwide, so the “Time of peace” is relative to specific nations only. In another 100 years, after price has been paid for globalization, I imagine this trend will only continue.

  • ordinarysparrow

    Elijah Tidbits….those that have an open heart are going to feel the real pain and suffering of the world… that is one of the greatest strengths…. in the withstanding the vessel is tempered… the heart can bear it all…

    Will share one of my favorite poems that is often a soothing reminder…

    The Guest House

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    meet them at the door laughing,
    and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whoever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

    ~ Rumi ~

    Also Steve K — thanks, i agree….

  • slamfu,

    That “a time of peace” is nation specific is not in dispute from me, and I meant nothing more than that in my reference to interludes of peace between wars.

    As to the 99%, I’d be interested in seeing the source, and in comparing gross numbers as well as percentages that could be skewed by explosive population growth. Question: in the 20th century calculations do the deaths in the Holocaust count as war dead? Or is genocide a different calculation? A lot depends on how statistics are compiled as you know well. We are also very early into this century, but I appreciate your hopeful perspective.


  • SteveK and Sparrow,

    My first wife and I used to spend evenings from time to time reading poetry to each other. Your sharing of favorite poems reminded me. Thank you. They are wonderful memories.


  • slamfu

    Yea I’ll go find the piece and link it. And the percentage was taken in terms of deaths per 100,000, much as when we say job safety laws have reduced workplace fatalities by 99%, another article I read, it means for every 100,000 workers, there is 1% of the injuries/death there was at the start of the 20th century. Not that if there were 10,000 such deaths total in 1901, there were only 100 in 2001.

    On a more anecdotal note, since the UN’s founding, no two significant world powers have gone to war with one another. That’s 68 years of no major wars. When was the last time that happened? Never. The Europeans and slavs alone have been at each others throats for almost the entirety of the last 1000 years War and conflict have been absurdly common throughout history, to the extent that most people don’t even realize it. America is at peace. Russia is at peace. Asia is at peace. India is at peace. Europe is at peace. Sensational media coverage has turned every brush fire war into the lead up to WWIII, when in fact no major players are anywhere near in danger of going to war with eachother. And this has been true for some time.

    Do we live in an age of perfect peace? Of course not. But taking the big picture look, we have come a very long way from the general level of worldwide violence of history.

  • slamfu
  • Thanks slamfu. It’s an interesting piece. Fascinating that we have gone from the 20th century as the worst in modern times to this being the best in modern times. There were many quibbles among the comments…understating deaths in Iraq by several hundred thousand and failing to include the Congo which likely involves millions between war and genocide. But, quibbles notwithstanding, it is useful to see a real and valid attempt at quantification.

    The final question posed in the article is the 800 pound gorilla in the room: is it permanent or is it just a trough between two peaks?

  • slamfu

    Well, seeing as how we have managed to keep the major world powers from stabbing eachother’s eyes out for longer than ever before, and seeing how the world is becoming more interdependent and war much more disruptive to linked economies, I think we have a good shot at a long run of peace. It is simply bad business to go to war, whereas in the past if you won good things happened to make it worth it. To me the only real threat to world peace is if the the global economy gets tanked by out of control financial institutions and stupid resource management. When the people don’t have enough to eat it gets ugly fast.

  • sheknows

    Tidbits, I think you misunderstand me. I in no way find the piece offensive. (I’m the original peacenik from the 60’s.) Stop the war…sit ins…the whole bit. As a continuation of your post yesterday, what disturbed me was the implication that to simply realize war is a continual problem with mankind, is somehow an endorsement in your view. Perhaps I am being over senstive, but that is how I interpreted it.

  • sheknows,

    Thank you for clarifying. Perhaps I did not express myself as well as I could have/should have. Your comments of yesterday caused me to look at opinion shows covering this subject through a different lens…to see if anyone was evidencing an underlying search for peace or had an end game in mind that neither you nor I were able to come up with. In watching a variety of “opinion shapers”, and most particularly a table full and an off set second screen full on Morning Joe, I was struck by the permanent war assumption that underlay the opinions of each of them.

    What I perceived, through my lens, was a world of experts all beginning from the neocon perspective that war and violence are the only answer.

    No one was drilling down to underling issues like US troops in Muslim lands, an issue, as you pointed out, since the Crusades, or a solution to the Palestinian problem without which jihadism will likely never pass from our midst. Nor was there discussion of who might stop pulling the trigger first in a unilateral, perhaps temporary, truce to test whether the other side might respond positively. All of those ideas, btw, are thoughts in response to your question of yesterday about what I might recommend or consider to alleviate the situation. Not perfect solutions, just ideas.


  • sheknows

    I have often fantacized about aliens ( the ones which apparently have been here for quite some time) saying..”.ENOUGH.” Then a Day The Earth Stood Still scenario takes place and we cannot make war anymore.

    Who knows…maybe they will get sick of us finally, or decide we aren’t worth observing anymore.

  • justcowboyway

    Ms Sheknows said:

    Who knows…maybe they will get sick of us finally, or decide we aren’t worth observing anymore.

    Not true, for we all know that the earth is the Insane Asylum of the universe.

  • Enkindle

    Scream for war, cry for peace. There are many wars besides ours that are occurring. Many people dieing all over the globe, and, Chicago.

    All the more rational that we exist within an illusion. An apex where good and evil cannot quite extinguish each other with the full force of nature. If we even exist at all.

    I feel your pain.

  • zephyr

    We are a stupid and contentious species. We seem incapable of learning from the considerable and obvious lessons of history. One way we cope with our irresponsible nature is by imagining god will save us from ourselves. Yeah right. We need to grow up and do it fast or we’ll reap what we’ve been sowing for so long.

  • rudi

    Then a Day The Earth Stood Still scenario takes place and we cannot make war anymore.
    The aliens in TDTESS weren’t the Earth’s benefactors. If they come back today and meet with the neocons, Klaatu will have Gort wipe out mankind,
    can just imagine Cheeney saying “deficitspeace doesn’t matter.”

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