When it comes to war, Americans are slow to learn

March 9, 2007 

As a baby boomer growing up in Olympia, I can testify that the capital city was - and is - a very small town. I still see people that I went to kindergarten with.

We learned to duck and cover during an atomic bomb attack. We grew up with the threat of annihilation. We were barely aware of the Korean War, because we were too young. We watched a space race fueled by a search for better warhead delivery systems. As we graduated from high school, we learned of a war in Vietnam.

For most of us, our childhood was never far from war.

In 1966, a kid I knew got in a fight with his parents and joined the Marines. He needed a place to stay for a few days, until he went to basic training. I volunteered our home. On the way to the bus station, I asked him if he wanted to say goodbye to his family. He said, "No."

He went to Vietnam and was killed by a mine. My parents watched me and two of my brothers go into the service as the war dragged on.

Years later, after both of my parents were gone, I realized what a terrible thing I had done. They got to know my friend only a little, but they must have thought of him often as they sent three sons off to the same war. I must have caused them so much pain.

When I came home on leave, my parents wanted to take me around town to show me off in my uniform. They were proud of a son in the Army. I told them, "No," as I knew that the antiwar sentiment could have caused us trouble. Olympia was not a good place for a soldier in uniform. Those who hated the war would take it out on a soldier.

My parents lived long enough to see my brothers and I make it home safe. I am glad for that.

Those of my generation carry scars from that war, no matter where we were. I had hope that we would learn from that war but here we are again.

We saw another war in 1990. Then on Sept. 11, 2001, a war came to the United States. We are fighting in the Middle East against an enemy fueled by religious hate. Many centuries before America would be colonized, there were holy wars called crusades. Christians fought to drive Muslims out of the holy land. Those crusades skipped a hundred generations but have restarted.

We again have young soldiers from our area involved in war and dying. We again have people who hate the war, but now soldiers can walk around town in uniform and feel welcome.

Where does this lead us?

We seem doomed to repeat our mistakes. Will we fight the British again, maybe the Germans, the Japanese?

My old economics professor said the uneven distribution of resources was the cause of wars. I think wars are a people problem. We are slow learners. We are far more capable of hate than forgiveness.

Mike Iyall, an Olympia resident, is vice chair of the tribal council and director of Natural Resources Department of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. He can be reached at mikenjoan@comcast.net.

The Olympian is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service