May 3, 2023–Each week I sit across the table from five gentle men. If this were a different time in American history, rather than sharing breakfast tacos, we would be trying to kill each other.
One is British, a native of County Durham, England. If this were 1776, I would be ambushing him and his fellow redcoats as they marched through Lexington, to protest the high tax on tea, a beverage neither of us deign to even drink.
Arrayed around us are native Texans. Three of the four would undoubtedly be fighting for the Confederacy, doing their best to impale this Yankee on their rusty bayonets. The fifth member of our breakfast cabal is from a certified Fredericksburg founding family, and his probably anti-slavery position at the time would have him working the fields in woman’s clothing to avoid the rope of the roving lynching posses.
All of martial history is absurd when you step back from the timeline. I just saw a photo dump of a local leading citizen enjoying vacation on the streets of Hanoi, sipping coconut cocktails where American blood ran in the streets. The only difference is this is 2023, not 1963.
We see another level of former enemies breaking bread at the several confabs held at the Nimitz Museum, where Zero pilots and American sailors who tried for mutual destruction in 1943 now toast each other and compare war stories.
In yet another example, years after the hatchets were buried, Native tribal chiefs met with the hated Texas Rangers to compare notes of their pitched battles across the Llano Estacado. Standing in the middle of the scrum were the German settler children who were snatched by Comanches and repatriated to the settlers.
As my 4-year-old grand likes to say, what’s happening?
Is war a prisoner of time? Are our schoolyard brawls over a perceived slight or a curly-haired cutie only meaningful within that small window of time? Looking back at some of the fair maidens you were sweet on in 4th grade, are you grateful or still agitated that some other guy won her hand?
A couple of my kids just returned from two weeks in Scotland. It is a land once subject to wave after wave of invaders, from the Angles and Saxons to the Jutes and Frisians.
They showed me so many photos of castles. You couldn’t throw a rock without striking a castle. They’re like Legos over there… literally. One had been taken apart, stone by stone, and used to build another castle across the loch. Their favorite was a castle keep where the walls were high enough to hold cattle. That tiny hectare of land where clans fought and died to claim from men wearing a different pattern of tartan, was now knee deep in manure.
Skimming one of those “ranty” pages, I scrolled through 57 posts of people complaining about the number of pickles on their hamburger. It’s a hamburger, people. Where is your perspective? What kind of life must we lead, to take time to denigrate something that is one small step up from nothing?
Burgers, tea, taxes, tartans… yes, these can all be important factors in our lives, depending on our hunger, thirst, finances, and sartorial sense. But isn’t it funny, that the further away they are in time, the sillier it seems to fight about it?
Let’s look at what we are fighting about, as if it were 50 years in the future. Let’s enjoy our tacos.