Saturday, June 11, 2011


I just watched the Dr. Who episode "When a Good Man Goes to War". There's something about that phrase that moves me.

A good man, I like to think of myself as such. To be good is something I aspire to in all of my life. I work alone and I own the business, there's no oversight bar my wife who isn't there most days. I could easily tell folks that their bike requires repairs that they don't in fact need. I could even supply used parts from previous repairs to back up such claims. There is little chance I could get caught. I won't ever do that. I don't fear being caught, I don't fear punishment. I fear not being a good man. I fear it because the only thing that has stopped evil in all of history is the willingness of folks to be good.

I've never been in a war. I will never be in a war, not at my age, not as a combatant anyway. But I have been in mortal danger a time or two. I once worked a job where on multiple occasions I was robbed at knife point. The last time it happened I hit the guy and chased him out of the store. It was a dumb thing to do, I was very lucky I didn't get hurt, didn't get killed. I didn't do it because I was good, or because I wanted to do good. I did it because I suddenly realised he couldn't reach me. In that instant my fear turned to anger and I acted.

I make no claims that my experience is equivalent to going to war. But it was a taste of fear and danger that goes beyond the bounds of most daily life in the privileged western world in which I live. That act, hitting someone, lashing out, even though it was justified, it changed me. I knew then that I was capable of unthinking violence. I'd been in fights before as a teenager and during all of them all I wanted was for it to stop. No wonder I never won any of them. This was different.

When a good man goes to war, if he is indeed a good man, then he must believe that that war is justified. Even if that belief is correct that man can not help but to be changed. This is why we must go to war only with the greatest of reluctance and in full knowledge of the consequences. This too is why it is so important to be good, to strive to be good, because the veneer of civilization is so thin. We all have the capacity for all the possible actions people are capable of. To be anything less is to be less than human.

When a good man goes to war. That phrase touches me. So sad, so complicated, so human.

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