Love isn't easy.
In fact, love can be very hard. Love's demands can pull us in hard directions. We know this. Our greatest pain comes from those we love most. If we didn't love them, we could walk away. Leave the pain behind. Jump on a train with our dog and sing a slow country tune and forget. When all else passes away, love remains.
I had the privilege recently of seeing a wedding ceremony of a couple who'd already been together nine years in a marriage that the state didn't recognize. Now they have the pleasure of joint filing of taxes, among the many benefits that matrimony provides. They were already about 5 years into the raising of a son. They had been through the brutal reality of cancer. So, when the vows came to the "in sickness and in health" part -- they had some idea of what that meant.
I always cry at weddings. Most weddings, I think, are about hope. Some weddings are tied to a rather forlorn hope, but hope nevertheless. Listen to the vows, though. Traditional wedding vows are realistic and tough. "Forsaking all others." "In sickness and in health." "Til death do us part." When you're young and all hot and bothered, they don't tell you about helping your mate through chemo. They don't tell you about watching your mate slip away into a mass of useless flesh because of ALS. Honoring the love that brought you together in the first place – that's tough. Love is not for wimps.
As I write this, once again we set out for more war. The USA will sling bombs on people. We get better and more clinical all the time about the war we visit upon others. We can call in drones. We can fly amazing planes that can drop all manner of explosives from the sky. Look up. Imagine if the sky rained fire and destruction at a time you knew not. This is the war we visit upon others.
I imagine that some truly bad people are destroyed through our country's efforts. I can't pretend that some (most? all?) of the folks we want to bomb are innocent angels. They're not.
But we talk about the right of self-determination. Unless we don't want self-determination. We want democracy. Unless we want stability more. Don't you know the world's energy reserves are in the Middle Ease? We must pay the huge costs of maintaining an order that we don't much like and doesn't serve the people of those lands very well.
So, as a nation we're somewhat fickle dance partners.
But war for us is an insane business. I have students today who don't really remember a USA at peace. The kindergartners of 2001 are today's college students. But even though they don't know their nation at peace, they're not touched by the war either. We have managed to fight two wars simultaneously while mostly ignoring the wars we're fighting.
The vast majority of our country has only tenuous connections to the military and the actual fighting that has been done on our behalf. Some families mourn the loss of a family member. Some couples have really had the "sickness and health" clause of their vows sorely tested by severe injury. But most Americans remain untouched by the ravages of war.
Hard to do when the sky can fill with fire and destruction at any moment.
OK. So, I'm not part of the cut-and-run crowd. Fine. What's next? I mean it – what's next? Do we just stick with the same-ol', same-ol' in a desperate hope that the slogging mire we're currently in is magically going to improve?
What is this war? Who are we fighting? Are there still connections to the tragic events of 2001?
Or, is this something else?
As we prepare for more action in Iraq that started several years and several thousand casualties ago, I recall another time when we were going into Iraq. In 2003 American theatres loosely banded together in something called the "Lysistrata Project." Theatre folk across the country staged readings, performances, projects based on Aristophanes' great comic yawp for peace. Where is that theatre now?
As I have said before and will say again – the older I get, the more I think that the stories we tell are about love. If it wasn't love, why wouldn't the characters just leave the stage? What keeps them in the room fighting for their objectives? Most often, I think it's about love.
We don't really know how to do it well all the time. Sometimes we get love right. But as often as not, we stumble. We get distracted by fear and anger and betrayal. And we forget about love. We find a place where the demands of love are too heavy for us to lift. So we let our love fall away like dry leaves in autumn.
I love my country. Even at our worst, there remains outstanding and unexpected goodness (and sometimes greatness) in the people of this country. We sometimes even allow ourselves to journey into territory of genuine nobility. And sometimes we get it all wrong. The attempt for a "more perfect union goes terribly awry. But the gift of love is that we love – not because of perfection – but sometimes because of the lack of perfection. Sometimes we can love others for their foibles. So I love my country.
I fear for my country. We don't really understand or like the war we want to continually fight, so mostly we act as if it doesn't exist. We go to the mall, we go to the movies, we go see Wicked or Chicago – again! -- and we can have a fine evening. Yet, every minute of every day, brave young men and women put their lives on the line in an increasingly chaotic world.
I'm just another theatre guy. I don't claim to possess a rational and elegant solution to all our problems (including a cure for neuralgia and bad breath). But we need to talk about it. There are some folks reading this who probably think, "We talk about this crap all of the time. Can't we talk about something else." And I'm glad you are part of a community that does talk about these issues. Mostly, as a nation, we don't.
I love the theatre. Deep in my heart, I'm only truly comfortable around show people.
What I long for, though, is a raising of the conversation. What is this war? Do we have more than one war? Who are we fighting? Are there still connections to the tragic events of 2001? Or is this something else? When we fight now, do we fight simply from fear? Do we go to war simply because that is what we know how to do? And, what can we do for the veteran, the families left behind, their children?
I love. But sometimes my love hurts. I wish I lived in a land where a leadership serious about war would ask for national sacrifice, not the sacrifice of the few and the financing of windfalls for those already rich. I wish I lived in a place where we would seriously talk about what we want as a nation, and how that might differ from what we need.
There are a lot of questions for us. I don't know that we have to answer the questions. But it might be worth it to ask them.
And face the dangers of love together.