Friday, March 22, 2013

To Live and Die for America

Disabled Iraqi war veteran Tomas Young at Ground Zero

I've been so worn out by the soul-crushing tone of our nation's political discourse, especially in Congress, that I've taken a long break from writing about anything in the news. Which is not to say I'm above engaging in my own discourse, political and otherwise. This letter by dying paraplegic veteran Tomas Young, subject of the award-winning 2007 documentary Body of War, expresses everything I have thought about the immorality of the Iraq war, and the wholesale murder of our military sons and daughters and countless Iraqis that ensued from it. 

Elizabeth's thoughful post points out, however, that the letter raises other concerns. Does this veteran's choice to die through VSED (voluntary stopping of eating and drinking) so as to no longer endure the profound injuries he sustained in the war, underwrite the idea that the lives of the disabled are somehow less worth living? And couldn't he do more good in this fight for justice by staying alive? Then again, would we have taken any notice at all of his blistering indictment of Bush and Cheney as war criminals had it not come from a dying soldier? 

I don't know the answers, but I am reminded of that quote from Catcher in the Rye that my then-14-year-old son pasted on his door. It's still there, a curling scrap of paper with these words: "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one." 

I think of this quote, uttered by a fictional character of dubious morality, and I realize I cannot fairly judge the nobility or humility here. I do not live inside Tomas Young's body or look out from his eyes. I have not read his medical chart or felt his trauma. And while I personally hold to the idea that one should never take a life, including one's own, I also believe that one person's truth does not necessarily negate another person's completely opposite truth. And besides, truth evolves as new details come into view, truth is seldom static or absolute, so I'll just say that Tomas Young's letter should be read by everyone. 

You can find it here.


  1. I really don't know what to think about this whole thing. I honestly just don't. But that is one hell of a quote.
    And whose job is it to determine who needs to live or die for any cause? Not mine. Unless it is my own.

  2. Thank you for adding to the discussion. Your words add much to chew on --


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