Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Lately, I've been working on a novel. This isn't my first attempt; in fact, I've even made it to the end of the story a few times, though more often than not the effort was aborted midstream. However, this time something is different: I've actually gotten good!

It's hard to say precisely when I turned the corner, nor can I definitively declare that I have, only that it seems so, but my skills at fiction have moved pleasantly from adequate to above average. Who knows what brought on this creative springtime? I just hope it continues.

Sixty-five years have passed since the Normandy Invasion. I don't think we should "retire" all talk of D-Day now that it's come of age, but I do hope we can always remember it without ever having to repeat anything of the kind. The world is not a peaceful place; one need not look very far to recognize this truth. But these days thousands upon thousands of soldiers perishing on heartbreakingly bloody battlefields is almost unheard of. Not that the changes in warfare give one much cause for celebration--guerrilla tactics, terrorism, "smart bombs"--but military institutions appreciate more than ever the value of human life, even if this is not always for the right reasons.

Whether out of compassion or expedient coincidence, wars just don't kill like they used to, not even in the world's most violent conflicts, the possible exception being the horrors within the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has cost an estimated three million lives over six years, mostly due to disease, famine and displacement rather than shells and bullets. Granted, these numbers pale compared to the lives lost in World War II in only four years, but the latter conflict had a far more massive scope and involved many more participants. Congo, however, is a desperately poor country fighting in, for lack of a better term, the "old school" way. This should neither trivialize its plight nor dissuade us from addressing the problem, but it is something of an archaic war being played out in modern times.

But let's face it: Congo's plight has already been trivialized. It's a punch line. Not a funny one, not something that makes most people literally laugh, but something that surprises few, another war-torn nation in the Third World. It diminishes us all to think this way, but what can we do from such massive distances and against such great odds? Whose job is it to stop the fighting, the conscription and exploitation of children, the masses of refugees? Other nations in Africa? The United States? The United Nations? Europe? China? No one is stepping forward into the quagmire. Perhaps they should reconsider from the perspective of enlightened self-interest, since empathy alone seems insufficient. Congo is one of the world's most mineral rich nations: they have diamonds, gold, copper, bauxite, and many other valuable commodities. A stable, healthy Congo benefits not only the Congolese but the entire world. So far, no one has deemed it worth the risk to step in, possibly because some of these industries are being exploited by ruthless factions within the country.

It's a sad example. On the other hand, while Congo's status is not unique in the world, it reminds us that locales enduring high casualty counts are relatively rare these days, at least compared to nations at war in the recent past. Part of that reflects where wars are occurring. Sudan and Afghanistan are large, desolate countries where the population density and the nature of the fighting keep the number of dead reasonably low. Is this what we want? In some ways, war seems crueler, more capricious and random, more absurd than ever. In others, it seems more contained and not as lethal.

Evidently, there are no good old days, not even now. But it could always be worse. We know this because it has been!