War and Hate

My father fought in WWII. He was part of the U.S. Army 147th Infantry. Other than the Marines, the 147th is the only group to have fought on Guadalcanal, Emirau, Saipan, Tinian, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. As a kid growing up, I knew he had been in the Army, but he never talked about it much. Not at all really. I remember one day, we were at my uncle’s house and the two of them were discussing something, I was only paying slight attention. Somewhere in the conversation I heard one of them mention something about somebody, somewhere, shooting someone from a short distance. Being a pre-teen boy at the time, and considering myself quite the excellent shot, I spoke up. I informed them both that I could hit someone at that distance. My dad just looked at me and said “no you couldn’t”. I assured him that indeed I could, there was no doubt about it! Then he looked me in the eye and said to me “No you couldn’t, he would be too close to you. You would be able to see his face.” And that was the end of the discussion. That has stayed with me all these years. I never mentioned it to him again and the subject never came up. As I grew older, and hopefully a little wiser, I understood. Now that I am much older, and maybe even a tiny bit wiser than I was, I can apply that logic to another subject. Hatred. It seems to me that hatred only works at a distance too. It is easy to hate the Muslim, the Christian, the Jew, conservatives, liberals, blacks, whites, browns, or whomever. The trick is to keep them at a distance. Treat them as an entity. Not as people. Not as individuals. It is much harder to hate someone when you are up close. When you speak to them. When you get to know them. Sure, there are probably still quite a few in the world that no matter how close you get, they are easy to dislike or even hate, but I think those numbers are minuscule in the grand scheme of things. I think we have become to compartmentalized as a world. I’m not saying the answer to hatred or racism is “world travel”, but I do think that taking the time to get to know as many people as possible and treat them with respect until they prove they deserve otherwise, might help. And I’m not casting the first stone here, I’m as guilty as anyone else. I just think it is time for all of us to get closer. Close enough to actually see each other’s faces.

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