Fellow Tulsans: Visit the Wall

Vietnam War Memorial Traveling Wall

Fellow Tulsans, you have till Sunday to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Moving Wall located now behind the Union 6th grade center near 61st and Mingo. Please go and honor these men and women who gave their lives in service of our nation, to a cause not everyone was convinced was just, in a world that had believed wars had been fought to end all wars. And now we’re ten years into wars after 9/11, one in Afghanistan that had everything to do with 9/11 and one in Iraq that was based on mistaken intelligence and really had nothing to do with 9/11. Regardless of what you think about war or peace, what your philosophy is, the very least you and I can do is somehow honor those who fought, served, died, survived wars they did not cause or choose but simply did what they were trained to do.

If you are a pacifist you will find more “ammo” for your cause in the horrific stories the wall tells. I read a story written by a army officer who retrieved bodies of fellow soldiers in a downed helicopter in a Michelin rubber plantation in Vietnam after a week of being shot at trying to get to the wreckage. When they finally formed a perimeter and were able to reach the bodies, they were so decomposed the hands fell off when they were pulling them out. He searched the ground to recover all the bones to put in the body bags. Even the death registration troops with them were sickened and had to keep distance from the charred and decomposed bodies. War is horrific, and no one knows this more than those who have been through it.

In front of one of the panels is a photo of the brother of one of my friends and co-workers, Bill Campbell. Bill’s brother, Jimmy Lee Campbell, died in Vietnam in 1970. The photo has the caption, “Thank you Jimmy Lee Campbell . . . we love you and we miss you–Bill and Sue Campbell and Family.” When you see all the flowers and messages like this, it hits home how many people locally are affected by wars our nation fights.

Prayer: Dear God of All Power . . . teach us, teach all nations, that you alone are Lord and sovereign over the whole universe. According to Psalm 46, You make wars cease to the ends of the earth. Make these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cease. Bring peace on the earth and give food to the hungry, clean water to the thirsty, land to the desolate, jobs to the jobless, health to little children who suffer, and your love to those who know only hatred and conflict and despair.

Bible verses that call for peace from Mennonite resources

Have we been precise in our punishment?

Five years ago in Wineskins, Muslim leader Ilyas Muhammad called for us to support precise punishment by our nation, requested President Bush to be ‘precise’ in carrying out punishment. God’s law of restitution (Leviticus 24:17-22), better known as ‘life for life’ or ‘eye for an eye’ seems concerned with precision in punishment: don’t allow the power brokers to go beyond the act committed and mix an extra measure of revenge with just punishment.

The question for us is, have we been precise in our hearts and actions, or have we grown, in the past five years, more racist? Are you afraid of Muslims? Arabs? Anyone with appearance of an Arab? Traveling in airports and being vigilant might also train us to be racist, to look out for certain people who look a certain way and suppose them to be more likely to be terrorists.

I remember my Iranian neighbor, after 9/11, saying, “We cried the whole day.” She said these heinous acts were done by a group of evil people, not any one nation or religious group. Nana appreciated me stopping by, and she offered to cook Iranian food for our family, an offer that I gladly accepted.

In 1979, when terrorists held American embassy hostages in Iran, America’s enemy was an Iranian Muslim cleric named Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. My school posted signs marking each of the 444 days the hostages were in captivity. I had an Iranian neighbor then as well. Laleh Khimyahi claimed Iran as her homeland, and she was jokingly chided by classmates and myself to “let our people go!” as if she could do something about it. We didn’t realize then how insensitive we were being toward Laleh. In the same year, the Russians invaded Afghanistan, and the U.S. ran an intelligence operation to help a small band of militant Muslims, led by Osama bin Laden, to break the Russians’ resolve. Osama bin Laden helped communism fall but is now the most hunted man in the world.

I wrote this in the first Wineskins after 9/11, and the war in Iraq had not yet started, so these comments apply to Afghanistan but also apply to Iraq:

Our presidents acted with great restraint not to start all-out wars against Iran and Russia during this period. President Carter, for instance, attempted to rescue the embassy hostages with precision. Our current president’s father also acted with precision, electing to stop the Gulf War after Kuwait was free, rather than continue to go after Sudam Hussein as many wanted him to do. Twenty-two years later, Iran and Russia are better friends with the U.S. What will be our relationship with Afghanistan and the Taliban government in twenty years?

I believe with all my heart that the wicked doers of this unspeakable mass murder should be punished. But will our country be precise in punishment? Will we be precise in our punishment or will we add hatred toward Arabs or Muslims to our justifiable righteous indignation? We don’t have to torch an Arab’s car or mosque to be guilty of seeking revenge on our neighbors; our revenge might be closing down ourselves to people because they resemble the profile of the terrorists or becoming afraid to step out boldly and speak to our neighbors at this crucial time, sharing hope and comfort and moorings that Jesus Christ offers when we live under his rule.

Have we been precise in our judgment?