While Thomas is putting on a fashion show for me, asking me whether he has worn things or not, to which I, a typical guy who notices nothing, must respond, "I have no idea, Thomas," I am writing this post. And I must say, I think Rob's little note at the end of last post is quite hilarious and I'm glad he did not simply write what I had said, which was a plain, "Thank you to Rob for typing this up while having it dictated to him." Laughter is most appreciated.
Today was another scorcher. At the end of the day I was riding through 90+ degree heat, plus ridiculous humidity, plus 10-25 mph wind. Except for a few short roads, the wind was always either right in my face or a crosswind, or something in between. For anyone who has biked through such wind, or for anyone who has a good grasp on physics, you know how much such wind would slow me down or how must energy it would take out of me. Most of the day I chose to slow down instead of keeping pace and feeling really tired later, especially when I was on US-20 and the massive trucks speeding by only made the wind worse. After six hours of biking and taking long rests, we finally made it here to Perrysburg, Ohio (just south of Toledo. We are staying with yet another most gracious host, the sister of my good friend from seminary, Laura Bensman. Thank you to Laura and Rich Bensman for helping coordinate this, and for Jenny and Brandon for hosting us).
But because of the wind and the scorching sun, I spent a good long while today cursing the wind gods and the sun gods and the road gods and every other god that might have played a role in making today a rough day for riding. I also managed to have some time in between curses to think about what I wrote yesterday and the comment that was posted.
I am a 23 year-old idealistic male, the things that I think and believe and say are going to be passionate and inciting. In fact, that is what I'm good at: saying and doing things that create a strong emotional response in people. My philosophical and ideological "heroes," namely Kierkegaard, Wilberforce, Cato, and Dorothy Day, all mastered the art of making people very, very angry. With good reason, I might add (although in the case of Kierkegaard he was fairly arrogant). Here's what I think: the reason there are so many things wrong in our world, and always have been, is because we are convinced we are doing things right and don't want to hear anything that contradicts it, so if we do hear a contradictory opinion we get fed up and miss the point entirely.
It was not my intention to upset anyone, though I knew full well while writing (or dictating, I should say) yesterday's post that I would upset a few folk. I love the soldiers very much, and I love my own family members and friends who currently serve in the military even more. And is it honorable to make sacrifices and risk your life for others? Absolutely! I admit, I am a coward and would and could never do what millions upon millions of soldiers have done throughout history. What they do is beyond me and I would never think about demeaning their actions.
All I'm getting at here is that we are biking upwind. We have been trained to think that the military and war are necessary for our peace and security. Most of us have been trained so well that we can't even imagine that love actually works. We have been trained to believe that what the soldiers do is inherently good. Forget the fact that I believe all violence is wrong and unnecessary, I still remain it believes true that honoring soldiers diverts our attention from the real issues. But the wind we are biking against is so strong that we don't even realize what's happening in our minds. Honor the soldiers because they keep us safe from external threats and we miss the fact that the biggest threats to our safety are internal.
I think most people would agree that there are plenty of things wrong with this country. But there are plenty of things wrong with this country for the same reason that there are plenty of things wrong with any country. What the soldiers do is incredible, yes, and I am constantly amazed and constantly depressed that so many brilliant people are killed-in-action or put to risk in combat, but I still believe that nothing any soldier has ever done, nothing that this country or any other has ever done, has actually made the world a better place. National and military pride tell us differently (and trust me, the fact that I can say these things without being put to death is not lost on me), but the fact remains that there are now more slaves in the world today, at this very moment, than the total amount of slaves ever owned or traded pre-1865. Ultimately, the Civil War and the Wilberforce campaign failed. Failed. Martin Luther King, Jr. Failed (in some respects).
We are biking upwind. We need to reorient our minds and our hearts to freedom. Honor and love the soldiers, yes, but they cannot nor should not be the end of the story or the only story. Whatever we believe, folks, the military and the soldiers should not be put up on a pedestal above everyone else that fights for freedom. And when we put them up on a pedestal and honor the country and such, we act as if that's all we need to do--the soldiers and our government will do the freedom fighting. That's what I'm getting at. There is so much more freedom fighting to do than the government and the soldiers can or will ever do. We need to take up the fight. We can't simply honor other things and think we've done our job. We need to risk our lives and our social status in the most radical of ways to truly achieve freedom. We need to go to war, not in the typical sense but against the world in just about every way possible.
We are biking upwind. All of our minds need to be re-adjusted and that is a serious task. We cannot any longer give the task over to others. Giving money is great, supporting with encouraging words or spreading the word is great, but that's not enough. We need to adjust our minds and hearts to action, to act for freedom. We need to take up the fight, get our hands dirty, risk everything if necessary, to really and truly fight for freedom. Honoring the soldiers simply is not enough. We need to honor ALL the freedom fighters like Lord Wilberforce. And we need to become "soldiers" ourselves, every one of us, to end the most cruel and widespread attack against the freedom that we claim to have. We're biking upwind, but we can do it. We just need to take it on.
(Again, this post, while an attempt at clarification and reflection, might still seem inflammatory or offensive. One last time I will say that it's not meant to be. In fact, I can almost guarantee that if you are offended by these last two posts that I probably agree on most everything with you and it is simply the way that I write and the attitudes that I bring toward life that upset you. So take issue with me as a person, not with what I'm saying)