• Compassion

    by Donald K. Sanders

    My body is a cage for the beast within, dispossessed of any meaningful role in society, an insulated shield that keeps me from finding the hearts of others. In the end, there’s no distinction between the living and the dead, the killer and the killed. I am spoiled. I am mingled with the dead, for we have but one body and heart. I have singled him out to death and he has singled me out to be a lowly killer.

    I remember this point in my life and the decision I made at that time. A soldier that doesn’t kill has compassion for life. Compassion has no place in a soldier’s good. Compassion has no reason to fight and is lacking in its ability to kill without resounding reason.

    Soldiers have complicated personalities in the midst of bloody conflict. At first contact, the least compassionate will likely kill the most compassionate, for the latter will hesitate and the former will not. This very act, the death of the compassionate, is the important defining factor, the reason for war. It becomes the dividing line that reasonable men will not want to cross by free will. Across that line are the unreasonable (I hesitate to call them men) entities that will traverse any line and thus become a threat to all with compassion.

    Now I am back, again, at that point in my life when God gives me a sign. The way is clear, the direction pointed, for reasonable men of compassion will know the time has come to release the beast within themselves. War, at this point, is no longer a single side — there are two. A side of aggression, evil without reason, without compassion, and across the line, stand those against, with the will and the want to see war to an end.

    I have singled out, by decision, those aggressors without compassion within, to death. They have singled me out to be a lowly killer. The beast within is now without, and it goes directly to a terrible carnage that has but one purpose — a single purpose that seeks to destroy greed for another man’s possessions, seeks the destruction of evil aggression and those that perpetrate it upon the Earth. The two sides of war have become indistinguishable for a moment in time — a long moment.

    It is the will of God that we stand against those who bring evil upon us all. There are those who I’ve looked upon that I would consider evil. I have to say this is true. I’d like to think I stand against what I consider evil, but there’s a difference between what I personally consider to be evil and what my government considers to be evil.

    During my long days in combat, I was only a boy. I believed that my government would not mislead me. I believed what they said. I put on their uniform and I held their guns and I stood against their evil aggressors as I was sent to do. I was one of many that stood on the two sides of war.

    I singled myself out as a killer and I singled my enemy for death. We two mingled, for we had but one living heart between us. I am where I always am and my body is but a cage for the beast within. I have no meaningful purpose in the society in which I live. I am isolated and insulated from the hearts of others.

    My tears fall freely and frequently, and it will not cease because when I singled myself out as a killer and I singled my enemy out for death, I found that when it was over, I had seen no aggressor that was perpetrating evil upon the Earth or me. What I did see was a dead man, a Vietnamese man, who was not what I would consider evil.

    It is to my eternal shame that I did not hesitate for just one moment, with the gift of compassion that was given to me by God, to ask him what he saw in me. I can only know what I can see. If I do not see the bad in my enemy, then he must surely see the bad in me.

    • Donald, this is powerful reading and I so wish for you to release all the pain you have inside you but realize it can’t be done because you have a conscience. I can only stand by, read your stories and weep for your history and the history of our nation that sends young boys to fight and expects them to come home normal. The struggles you express in your beautiful writing changes my life every time I read your words. I wish peace for your soul. You did what you were told to do and clearly were made to believe it was right and that is war. I wish there was no war but peaceful resolution. It is so hard to see real evil today when looking at everyone as having a heart but I do believe there are some bent on real evil. What do we do with those people? I have no answers but I see the results in you when boundaries are crossed and wars are raged. Beautiful story today with lots of food for thought. I am so glad we are friends through our writings.

      • Christy

      • December 18, 2011 at 11:03 am
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      This is so beautifully written and yet so utterly heart breaking Don! Your pain is so real, and I feel compassion for your heart ache and know that what separates you from a killer is that you feel such immense remorse. Evil killers do not feel remorse. You were a boy, scared, brain washed, and pulling a trigger is too easy of a way to kill someone, and easily makes a compassionate person into a killer. It does not excuse what happened, but it explains how a wonderfully compassionate man such as yourself finds himself standing alone behind a gun with deep deep soul wounds.

      • Judy N

      • December 18, 2011 at 11:24 am
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      I learn something every time I read one of these stories. Compelling and humbling.

      • Denise O'Connor

      • December 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm
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      Magdew, above, wrote: “…I so wish for you to release all the pain you have inside you but realize it can’t be done because you have a conscience.” Magdew’s heart and intention is clear, and I humbly beg to differ with the conclusion that you can’t release it all, every bit of it. Surely you’ll never forget. But as I was reading your words I kept remembering the community in Moab, Utah where I lived for a while. The high-desert ranch we took over hadn’t been worked in 30 years. We built buildings and brought the land back to life while living in tents next to a branch of the Colorado River. We named the land “Shura,” which in some language (native American?) translates to mean, “To the best of my knowledge at this time.” What I sense is that you have done what needed doing, which is to delve deep, and feel, and acknowledge that what was in you back then was ignorance and now has evolved to full-blown compassion. It’s that turn-around, and the sharing of your understanding now, that gives you more meaningful purpose in this society than most. Your understanding is where we slowly-but-surely are all going (I will never stop believing that) and some people, like you, must be on the edge of the wave, lighting the way. Would you be there had you not had your past? So, thank you. May you release every bit of it and still remember and still tell us. Peace.

    • Beautifully written, soulful, deep and penetrating. I just saw this. Have read only one other blog today. My life is too full and hectic at the moment to take the time to “appropriately” reply. Please accept my apologizes, but I want to make one thing clear. I was a student of the Dalai Lama back in the ’70s while in India. I heard him say something that I’ve never forgotten. He explained that we each have everything within us…. Hitler and Christ (yes, those words). It’s all there. How we evolve just depends on what we cultivate. I barely know you, and wish I had the time to read all the blogs that I’d like. But one thing for sure….I will now read yours more frequently. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about this deep subject. I remember your innocent and sweet photograph from a high school prom. That is how I see you in my mind’s eye.

      • Carolyn Wyler

      • December 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm
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      What they all said ^^^^^.

    • Don, Damn that was great! You are ready to publish that book. You are a poet and a good man. I know.

    • Donald… such a powerful essay. Maybe you can take some consolation in knowing that the pain you’ve endured has made you the sensitive, insightful, articulate writer you now are…. with perspectives to offer the rest of us that we’d otherwise not see.

    • I read you, I fall in love with your heart & soul.
      Thank you for your words, your story, pain, suffering, memories, thank you for your truth and humanity. All of it makes you so uniquely perfect.
      I love you.

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