Peace better for business and high school seniors

Bruce Simmons

I was headed for my class about this time a year ago, finished with morning duty, shuffling papers to make sure the attendance roster was handy. I stepped through the door, checked to see who was already there, glanced at the clock to see how few minutes remained before I had to mark tardies and then noticed something slightly different in my first period seniors.

The television was on, which wasn’t unusual, but it was turned to CNN instead of CMT, and everybody was watching. There were no last few winks of sleep, no final exchange of exciting gossip or complaints about the monotony of work. Instead, a couple of high school students were scrutinizing a replay of President Bush talking about a war on terror that would last 30 years or more.

The bell rang and the school day officially started. I switched off the television, and the questions started immediately. We didn’t make any progress in Brit Lit that day; Shakespeare took a backseat to worries about the possibility of going to war.

I spent some time in the Army a quarter century ago, and my students knew that. It meant an amusing story every now and then, a break from the routine of class, but suddenly I was a source of pertinent information.

Dan Maiden asked THE question. “Will I be drafted?”

“No,” I said. “Probably not.”

But that wasn’t enough to satisfy him. There followed a quick lesson on how the draft works, on how long it takes to train troops and move them into action.

“It would probably be over before you were mobilized,” I said.

They were mistrustful. They had reason to be. It wasn’t CP, or honors English. Only a couple of them were even considering college, and that was a community college in Elizabethtown or Owensboro. These kids would be perfect candidates for the draft, and likely be sent into combat arms. They knew it instinctively, or learned it from fathers and uncles caught up in the last big American war.

I didn’t have to go to that war, thank God. My wish is that no one has to go to war, ever. But sometimes a nation has to fight. World War II, for instance, was necessary.

World War I wasn’t.

Crossing Khadaffi’s Line of Death was necessary; the invasion of Granada wasn’t.

I remember a line from Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy, a theme that ran through the three books, “Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.”

I’ve mulled over that for decades, and I’ve found damned few exceptions to its logic. There’s the aforementioned World War II and the embarrassingly effective occasional light swat on the nose of a puppy dedicated to chewing, or slap to the well-padded bottom of a toddler reluctant to veer away from danger, and that’s about it.

Most of the time, war isn’t necessary at all.

In the movie “Kelly’s Heroes,” the hustler Crapgame suggests a way around the Tiger tank that’s keeping enterprising American soldiers from looting a bank behind German lines. “Make a deal!” Crapgame urges. “Maybe the guy’s a Republican. Make a deal!”

Can’t we find some other way of persuading people than punching them? Aside from being (we claim) civilized Christians, we’re capitalists. War hurts the economy; it’s peace that provides the best environment for business.

And it’s much better for keeping high school seniors alive.

Bruce Simmons is a senior print journalism major from Glasgow. He is also a former teacher at Ohio County High School.