Friday, October 15, 2004


Reading the many essays, posts and articles about this great war presents a plethora of studied positions on its waging, and its wages. In the hearts of many lies great fear. There is despair that our system might not withstand its own divisions; apprehension in the face of a foe that is a new meme of violence as much as it is a people consumed with darkness. There is fear that the world we have nurtured and that nurtures us is at odds with history and the future. We can see people everywhere who live out life as ordinarily as possible while they skate around the edges of a vast transfiguration.

There is, of course, common sense in the logic that in the face of deconstructionists we must retain normalcy to defeat our foe. The economy must hum along as best as possible, if for anything else than to afford the means required for the fight. And so, the President, shortly following 9/11, implored his countrymen to keep shopping, keep going to shows and living. Understandable. We are also asked to keep vigilant; to be patient when removing our shoes for inspection at the airport.

One is left with a sense that the main fight in this war is to retain a sense of normalcy, often elusive, sometimes oddly intact, coming and going like a tide. And yet, there is a question that is not often asked. It is not asked by our leaders, not by politicians, nor captains of industry, or many who are good citizens; it is a question not asked of each other, or even assumed by most people:

What are you willing to sacrifice for this great war?

The answer is not obvious---perhaps because so few suggest anything substantive. Certainly, there are those who sacrifice who are primarily in the military. They are overseas, sweating out the details on the front line. Their families are here in the United States, living without the companionship and help of their family members who work in harm's way. Can their burden be shared?

During World War II, posters concerning conservation and the collection of raw materials like tin and cooking fat along with appeals to purchase war bonds were a testament that the war required sacrifice by soldier and civilian alike. Our system has no need for tin and rubber drives now. But what are we prepared to sacrifice?

Many complain about the Saudi's Wahhabist regime, yet they pump volumes of gas into their SUVs. Is it inconsequential to give the Saudis your money? Would you be willing to pay a higher tax on gasoline if the revenue collected was put towards alternative energy research, and get off of Arab oil? Or even just to shore up our oil reserves so we can buffer ourselves from OPEC? Would you be willing to give up some of your tax cut for the same cause? How about purchasing a more fuel efficient car? Or making your home more energy efficient?

The main sacrifice Americans can make, aside from blood on the front lines, is declaring a new relationship with energy---both in where it is harvested, and how it is consumed. One of the failings of President Bush is his reluctance to ask his citizens to sacrifice. So far in this war for our survival, we are asked to do very little. There will come a point when shopping will not be enough. As the stability of energy prices decline, our sacrifices will inevitably increase. We should begin now, and pursue our sacrifice with a vigor that reflects true patriotism. We all can be heroes.