Simplifying War

No parent wants meaningful public discourse and policy to come at the cost of their own child. At the end of the day I would love to see tighter gun control measures, less boots on the ground in Afghanistan, a cure for cancer and a better understanding of mental illness and the possible treatment approaches for depression; but not at the expense of Annie's life. My heart breaks for parents who champion change in their child's absence. Theirs is a job of constant heartbreak and courage.

To the parents who so fearlessly continue to give voice to the evil which robbed them of the very babies they created inside their bodies: I am forever grateful to you and forever in awe of your bravery.

You are an army waging war against enemies many of us have never had to look in the eyes. You do not quit. Your tears have run dry and your resolve has intensified. You look deep into the eyes of the enemy and you don't break your gaze.

You put on your fatigues, pick yourselves up by the bootstraps and head back into the trenches with demons no momma or daddy should ever have to fight.  And you fight.  You fight like hell.

You know better than anyone that you can't simplify war.

The enemy is there-

but the enemy is omnipresent and illusive.

You must fight on all fronts-

with weapons you didn't even know existed with offensive measures you've never even considered with strategies you never wanted to author

You are a guerrilla warrior.

Under your surge, you will engage people's minds, break their hearts and persuade them to act- not for you-

but on behalf of that picture on the fireplace of the little boy who used to ask you to play tickle monster... long before he faced real monsters.

You have seen those monsters. Better than any of us, you have seen them.

And you know- deep down in the fabric of who you are- that there is no easy way to get rid of them.

We simplify it, don't we?

As if a policy change-doctor- pill- counselor- a little more prayer- or just picking a better attitude!- would chase the monster away and win the war once and for all.

As onlookers we forget that some wars never end. Some wars are hard-fought and long-lasting. Some wars have names like "The 100 Year War." Some wars, as Pastor Rick Warren so painfully wrote about this weekend, never subside.

"In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, Matthew took his life.”

Some enemies are deeply rooted in the marrow.

Defeat is not that simple.

General Stanley McChrystal, the four star American general who led all U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, was recently interviewed by Foreign Affairs and asked about his role in leadership as compared to his predeccesor, General Casey. In essence- was one leader more essential to the surge in Iraq than the other? The humility and wisdom in General McChrystal's answer has stuck with me.

He said, "People tend to simplify things. They try to say, 'It was all screwed up here and then it got all good there,' or, 'This decision was decisive.' I have never found anything that clear."

Me either, General McChrystal.

He ended the interview by reiterating again that there is no one single way- no single leader- no single strategy that can precisely and ultimately dismantle an adversary.

"If you go back in history, I can't find a covert fix that solved a problem long term. There were some necessary covert actions, but there's no "easy button" for some of these problems."

Those of you waging wars unending know.

You know better than anyone that there is not an 'easy button'.

You know better than anyone the overwhelming, misguided urge the rest of us have to simplify what is not simple.

You know, in the same way that a decorated war veteran knows, that a covert fix rarely solves a problem long term.

You know torture that does not subside.

Don't Fight Alone

From a girl who fights small battles of overwhelming fear and anxiety with 200 miligrams of Zoloft, a psychiatrist, a supportive husband, yoga and prayers for mercy and a clear, calm, mind... I know first hand that I can't fight alone. I know that what I have- this obsessive compulsive disorder that leads to a barrage of intense thoughts that makes me feel terrified for NO LOGICAL REASON- has no simple fix.

I don't choose it. I can't prevent it. I don't want it. I don't understand it.  It is not rooted in reality. And there is no covert fix that makes the thoughts go away. General McChrystal said it best. There is no "easy button" for some problems.

For me, it is a multifaceted attack on a war unending. I don't simplify it and neither should anyone else.

Simplifying the enemy is dangerous. As if all enemies are the same.

As if all wars can be fought in one way.


The only thing historically certain and constant about any military approach to a war is this: It takes an army.

Battles are not won, lost or fought alone. Ever.



So what do you need from your community?

Those around you who have no idea what it's like to fight your war over and over and over again...

No one wants you fighting alone. And we don't want to simplify a war with trite, pithy quotients. With opinions. With black and white solutions that have no bearing on your enemy. With empty grace and borrowed empathy. With intolerance and blind hearts. With battle-cry's we don't intend to proclaim on your behalf for the long haul.

We can't afford to simplify battles any longer. We are tired of losing wars and are ready to wage wars... with you, for you, on your behalf.  No matter how long it takes.

How can we walk with you? How can your friends fight with you?

Tell them. They will listen.

We will listen.