“We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it… Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves – to wish that he were not so bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good.” ~C.S. Lewis
I am a white female, and as such, have rarely been subjected to ethnic or racial degredation. Even in places like Hawaii where white military men are sometimes looked down upon, being a white woman has usually given me a pass in life…until now. Unless you count that one time when I bumped into a big, local Samoan woman on the Senor Frogs’ dance floor in Waikiki while making fun of how she danced…I almost got beat up that night…but I digress. Because I am stuck in limbo waiting for violence outside this base to settle enough to drive to the other end of this city to the base at which I’ll be stationed for a year, I fill my days with recreation. One day I challeneged a newfound friend to a friendly game of ping pong in the military rec center/tent. We were playing and jumping around chasing stray ping pong balls and having a fun time when I suddenly caught the most evil look being directed right at me from a local man who was doing some repair work inside the tent. I never understood before what someone looked like who hated or wanted to hurt me, but this was most definitely that look. I froze and a chill ran up my spine because I’ve been taught to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary that may cause danger inside the base here. My ping pong opponent noticed my immediate stiffness and calmly said, “Eh, no worries mate (he’s Australian), these men are Pashtuns and to them, you are the quinessential definition of sin and evil right now.” Wait, what?? He went on to explain that A. I was a woman B. I had my bare arms and head exposed (wearing a polo shirt), and most importantly C. I was playing a sport…apparently the triple whamy trifecta. I know I come off as some sort of sheltered little puppy as I write this, but I know that in life most people have experienced being the target of hatred for no other reason than they are just being themselves, and I can now sympathize. We continued to play ping pong, but I took note every time the construction men passed me with their haunting, warning looks which pierced right into me, as if they wished their eyes were actual knives. I am new to this hatred, but the brief exposure I had was the darkest, scariest thing I’ve witnessed.
Later as I was mulling over the concept of hatred of enemies, an interesting discussion came up with a solider here. He’s been a soldier on the front lines for over fifteen years, and he has seen and done it all. The topic of hatred came up and he looked at me squarely and said, “You know, as a soldier I don’t hate my enemy. I don’t hate that man out there that I’m ordered to shoot. On the contrary, I understand that we are merely opponents in this war and I know he is probably fighting his fight for good and sincere reasons. If I get killed at the hands of the enemy one day, I only hope he is a worthy opponent that gives me a run for my money.” He even had a sense of reverence in his tone about his enemy combatants – both past and present.
So in the span of a few days’ time, I have witnessed both sides of this war. I have seen the raw, generalized hatred directed at me becuase of the people I come from and the people I represent. I will never be anything more than that symbol to those men. They will use my ping pong as additional fodder for their own bitter resentment of an entire civilization. Then I see through the eyes of a calm, experienced soldier who knows no hatred – even of the men who have taken so many of his fellow soldiers and friends. He stated matter of factly that he doesn’t fight this war for his country alone, but for the safety and security of all countries who are threatened by the sort of hatred that breeds exponentially here. I’m grateful to men like him and all the soldiers in this fight who are fighting hatred with cool and collected experience and understanding that this war for us is not about hatred, but instead about the love of all those back home who should never ever be subjected to the sort of raw hatred that exists here. How is it I have found a glimmer of hope in the midst of all this?