Photo Essay

The Futility of War

vernon middle

We moved to the Washington D.C. Area three years ago from Michigan.  When we visited the Vietnam War Memorial Wall, my wife became emotional as we searched for the name of a family member.  He died when she was a baby, but the event still resonates today in a variety of ways.  Her family visits us every summer, and we always make a new etching of his name, to commemorate his life, and death.  

Vernon Merritt typifies the inequities of war.  Born and raised in Detroit, he was drafted and sent to Vietnam, while others used dubious deferrals to avoid serving their country.  Vernon saw his service as a way to support his family by sending home money to supplement the World War I pension on which his mother tried to survive and raise four kids.  In fact, a member of his family has served in every war since the Spanish American War in 1898. Merritt was a poor person sent to fight an unpopular war.  Perhaps the money he sent home would pay for new steps to replace those broken ones leading to the front porch of his family home.  Maybe the money would provide more food for his siblings, or school clothes, or shoes. His mother could have used the money to buy more coal to fuel the stove the only heat source in the house.  

What has Vernon Merritt's death accomplished?  What has war ever accomplished?  A lifelong study of history has brought me to the conclusion that war does not resolve anything, it merely delays.  It is much harder to confront problems in a nonviolent way, but ultimately, it is the only way to truly solve problems.  War creates a thirst for vengeance in the conquered.  War creates more nationalistic fervor in the victors.  War leads to more war.  Peace leads to more peace.

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