Independence Day seems like a good day to comment on the recent controversy over the US Army's Virtual Army Experience at Summerfest. Critics of the exhibit object to what they see as the glorification of war. I have never served in the military (I'm a boomer, but turned 18 after the Vietnam war was over), but I readily accept the fact that war is a tragedy and combat is hell on earth.
But it is also the case that we live in a world where it is sometimes necessary. In that world, we have to avoid the glorification of war, while we honor military service. The critics forget that.
If we are going to avoid conscription and send to war only those who volunteer, we need to persuade people that, while war is hell, those who serve are doing something that is not only necessary, but that can be done with integrity and in a way that fulfills the human need for accomplishment.
The critics don't believe that. War, to them, is just undifferentiated killing. There is nothing about what we fight for and how we fight that is distinctive. But, in a world where evil exists - where there are Nazi Germanys, Soviet Russias and Al Qaeda - that leads to the charnel house just as certainly as a mindless celebration of conquest.
So we've got a difficult balance to strike. The irony here is that, from what I can tell, the Virtual Army Experience did a pretty good job of striking that balance. It wasn't about splattering people (like the Grand Theft Auto game that the Peace Action Network and other "non-violence" activists did not object to), it was about accomplishing a simulated mission that involved respecting - actually saving - noncombatants and operating within rules of engagement. That it was graphic means that it did not sugarcoat what is involved.
The Army exhibit was trying to say something about its mission in a difficult world. The "peace activists" are trying to deny that world exists.
Summerfest is a wonderful community asset, but its behavior here (including its dissembling about the objections to its actions)has been shameful.