On my birthdays, I often joke: “There are no calories from eating birthday cake.” I fear that wars create excuses to dismiss the killing and wounding of soldiers and civilians on both sides too easily—just as we too easily dismiss the calories from birthday cakes.
On my birthdays, I often joke: “There are no calories from eating birthday cake.”
This year, this wishful thinking was especially important. The cake was a multi-layered chocolate cake with thick, creamy chocolate frosting!
In reality, it is important not to be deceived by such wishful thinking.
Yet, in our lives, we often engage in such wishful thinking to excuse the bad effects of our actions.
An example that came to my mind this year is the War in Ukraine.
Casualty estimates by both Russia and Ukraine are unreliable.
I remember a comment that my father (an infantryman in the U.S. Army in World War II) made during the Vietnam War. He had survived hand-to-hand combat; and enemy attacks with machine guns, artillery and mortars.
Reacting to the Pentagon’s claims of success based on how many enemy soldiers it said we had killed, my father was skeptical. He told me: “When you’re fighting, you don’t even know how many of your own guys are getting killed, much less know how many of the other guys are getting killed.”
But even if deaths and injuries are overstated by both sides in the War in Ukraine, there is no doubt that horrendous numbers of people, including innocent civilians, have been killed or wounded.
I fear that wars create excuses to dismiss the killing and wounding of soldiers and civilians on both sides too easily—just as we too easily dismiss the calories from birthday cakes.
I also reflect that “only” being wounded can still ruin an individual’s life forever.
My broken ankle—that was repaired by surgery more than 20 years ago— would be a “minor wound” compared to many of the non-lethal wounds received by soldiers and innocent civilians. Yet it still causes me pain and limits my activities.
On top of physical injuries from wars, there are incalculable psychological injuries that never go away, including grief for dead loved ones.
I wish Ukraine a speedy victory that restores its territory to the borders in 2014 before the initial Russian invasion and establishes a lasting peace that is fair and safe for BOTH Russia and Ukraine.
Nevertheless, despite wanting a Ukrainian victory, I feel sad and I grieve each time that I see a Russian tank explode or a Russian helicopter crash. Someone just died. Someone’s loved ones will never stop grieving.
I join Abraham Lincoln’s prayer in his Second Inaugural Address: “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.”
As I wrote in my blog “June 1962”, such a lasting, fair, safe peace is feasible, even when bitter, bloody wars such as the War of Independence and the War of 1812 have been fought between nations such as the United States, the British Empire and Canada—three enemies that are now “best friends”.
And so, I’ll end this blog by asking the LORD our God to bless both Ukraine and Russia with shalom —a blessing from the Bible that has endured for over 3,000 years despite countless wars and rumors of war:
May the LORD bless you and keep you.
May the LORD make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious unto you.
May the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace! [Numbers 6:24-26]
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT
When have you felt the horrors of war? How? Why?
For ideas about establishing peace, please read my blogs “June 1962” and the blogs listed in its “READ MORE” section, including “Ending Violence: Putting Faces with Names”, “Ending Violence: Embracing the Spirit of Peace”, “Curtailing Force: Replacing Nails with Glue”, and “Spilling Coffee”.
For my thoughts about the American Civil War, and about World War I and its aftermath (especially in light of post-Cold War diplomacy and the war in Ukraine), please read my blogs: “A War That Spun Out of Control: The American Civil War”, “A War That Spun Out of Control: World War I”, “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: The 1920s and 1930s”, “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: Blaming Germany”, “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: America First”, and “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: Tariffs and Trade Barriers”.
For my thoughts about establishing Peace, please read my blogs “Blessed Are the Peacemakers”, “Ending Violence: Putting Faces with Names”, “Ending Violence: Embracing the Spirit of Peace”, “Curtailing Force: Replacing Nails with Glue”, “Spilling Coffee”, “Chess Lessons: Playing for a Draw”, “Game Lessons: Sustainable Risk”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Multiple Choice Exams & No-Win-Scenarios”, “Deceptive-Drawings-Designed-To-Deceive-and-Divide”, “We Need Inspiring Visions of a Bright Future. Why?”, “Nationalism Is Patriotism Gone Astray”, and “Establishing Peace Without Limit”.
For related thoughts, please read my blogs “Jesus Climbs the Temple Mount”, “Nationalism is Patriotism Gone Astray”, “Keeping the Powers of Money, Religion and Kingdoms Separate”, and “How Do We Build a Civilization That Is Good—That Is Very Good?”.
For more of my thoughts about the need for systems of laws and customs to combat hatred, racism and violence, please read my blogs “Spilling Coffee”, “Individuals and Systems, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable”, and
For an overview of the road to World War II, please read the chapter “Hakuna Matata” in my book Visions of America (published together with my book Visions of the Church), at pages 113-117; and please read The Gathering Storm, the first volume of Winston Churchill’s World War II memoirs.