Not only is war hell; it is hellishly stupid. Wars tend to be run by smart people who do stupid things.
Take the gross stupidity of cluster bombs, which America's political and military leaders embrace as an effective weapon of warfare. Certainly these bombs are effective killers – but not just of enemies. A cluster bomb has hundreds of small bomblets packed inside it. When the container bomb explodes, it showers the bomblets over a wide area. Some of the bomblets explode, but a big percentage do not. They fall to the ground and just lie there, stupidly.
Days, months, or even decades later – after the battles are over – along comes a child, a farmer, or someone just walking along. Blam! Another stupid bomblet goes off, maiming or killing another innocent. Handicap International reports that 98% of cluster-bomb victims are civilians and 27% are children. The weapon is indiscriminate, brutal, stupid.
In early December, nearly 100 nations signed a treaty agreeing to ban cluster bombs – but the United States was not one of them. Our nation has about a billion of these murderous weapons in ready supply, and our leaders do not hesitate to deploy them, with lasting efficiency. Nearly four decades ago, for example, our military left an estimated 80 million of these unexploded bomblets in Laos. Since then, some 15,000 Laotians have been killed by them and many more horribly wounded.
At a recent White House press briefing, Bush press secretary Dana Perino was asked why the administration opposes the ban on cluster bombs. "I have forgotten," Perino responded. No doubt she forgot because no rationalization makes a lick of sense. But if anyone needs a reminder of why our great country should take the lead on banning this stupid weapon, contact the Cluster Munition Coalition: www.stopclustermunitions.org.
This special day got me thinking about America's spirit of giving, and I don't mean this overdone business of Christmas gifts. I mean our true spirit of giving – giving of ourselves.
Yes, we are a country of rugged individualists, yet there's also a deep, community-minded streak in each of us. We're a people who believe in the notion that we're all in this together, that we can make our individual lives better by contributing to the common good.
The establishment media pays little attention to grassroots generosity, focusing instead on the occasional showy donation from what it calls "philanthropists" – big tycoons who give a little piece of their billions to some university or museum in exchange for getting a building named after them.
But in my mind, the real philanthropists are the millions of you ordinary folks who have precious little money to give but consistently give of yourselves and do it without demanding that your name be engraved on a granite wall.
My own daddy, rest his soul, was a fine example of this. With half a dozen other guys in Denison, Texas, he started the Little League baseball program, volunteering to build the park, sponsor and coach the teams, run the squawking PA system, etc. Even after I graduated from Little League, Daddy stayed working at it, because his involvement was not merely for his kids ... but for all.
He felt the same way about being taxed to build a public library in town. I don't recall him ever going in that building, much less checking out a book, but he wanted it to be there for the community, and he was happy to pay his part. Not that he was a do-good liberal, for God's sake – indeed, he called himself a conservative.
My daddy didn't even know he had a political philosophy, but he did, and it's the best I've ever heard. He would often say to me, "Everybody does better when everybody does better." If only our leaders in Washington and on Wall Street would begin practicing this true American philosophy.
Copyright © 2017 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.