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.