Wonder Boi Writes

25 songs of Christmas: Dec 9 – Christmas in America

I got a bit of a news flash this week that I wanted to pass along to all of you: We’re still at war.

When I grew up hearing about American wars I always thought of them as consuming the entire country with rations, and drafts, and protests, women going off to work, rich and poor fighting side by side both at home and abroad. I imagined that wars were all consuming. How could they not be?

Then the “War on Terror” began, a new kind of war with multiple fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You would think with a 24 hour news cycle we’d hear about nothing else, but I guess after more than eleven years (A full third of my lifetime) Americans have grown numb to the idea of other Americans killing and being killed in some desert most people can’t find on a map. Unless you know someone over there it can all start to feel so distant. And honestly most middle and upper class people, the people in positions of power, the people who are charged with making the decisions are less likely than ever before to actually know someone fighting. These wars are largely being fought by a very specific class of people. A class of people our culture doesn’t usually see.

A new study done by the pentagon shows that 44% of Military members come from economically depressed rural areas and 14% come from poverty stricken urban centers. That’s 58% of the Military coming from below the poverty line. More than half of the military come from the lowest 15% of American households. Beyond that nearly two-thirds of them come from below average Americans income brackets so 66% of the Military members are what most Americans would consider poor.

I admit, no one I know has been over there for a couple years. I don’t see their faces on the news, I don’t hear their stories. Their flag draped caskets don’t come through the streets of my white, suburban existence, and it hadn’t really occurred to me that they could. That is until Jackson said one of his classmate’s was crying because her father had just shipped out. Incidentally, this was the father of one of only three children of color in his class. The class had talked about where he was going. The teacher showed them on a map and the littler girl explained that Thanksgiving had been their last holiday together for a full year. He would miss Christmas, he would miss her 7th birthday, he would miss Easter, and the class play, and all of the things that mark the passage one year in a child’s life. As Jackson explained this to me, I realized this father, who I have never met, stood to miss a lot more than that.

Those students talked about his sacrifice in terms of one year, as adults we understand it could turn out to be much greater than that. We understand, or at least we should understand by now that the toll a war takes on a human life can extend through an entire lifetime, or it can end it all together. I do not mean to lessen this man’s sacrifice in any way. I am sure he is strong, and capable, and patriotic. I am sure he is making the choice he feels is best for his family and for his country. And yet I wonder what it means that two thirds of the people who make that choice happen to be living in poverty at the time that they make it. I wonder what it means that a disproportionate number of people who make that choice are from communities of color. I wonder what it means to have the people who make that choice sitting so far removed from the political decision making process. What does it mean for us a country to give them so little say in when and how our nation enters and sustains these wars? What if Latino Americans, and Black Americans, and the entire class of people who find their children, their brothers and sisters, their fathers and mothers leaving for the holidays, for the year, and possibly forever were charged with making those choices? Would these wars have lasted more than a decade.

Jesus came to bring hope to the hopeless, a voice to the voiceless. He was not born into a palace, or a mansion, or even a cute little suburban home. He was born into a poor family, in an economically depressed town, that was very much under the control of a foreign army. Don’t tell me He didn’t know the harsh realities of this world and still He told His followers to put down the sword. He told them to love their enemies. And He is known to all as the Prince of Peace. I don’t think He was naive about the world or the human capacity for violence. I think He understood the true nature of war better than I ever could and that is exactly why He said that in his Kingdom the last will be first.

I wonder what would happen if we were to follow that line of thinking right now. What if we put the last first, especially on this particular issue that disproportionately affects their families, would that father still be spending this Christmas at war?

I don’t know the answer for sure, but I do so wish more people would be asking the question this time of year.

“Come on all you faithful, it’s time to think again…”


December 9, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Powerful words. Thank you. Ona (BTW…I received books in the mail today…Trails Merge and Spanish Heart, among others…Santa came early! Can’t wait for this treat!)

    Comment by onamarae | December 11, 2014 | Reply

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