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Sow Chaos, Reap Chaos


Marine Capt. Cameron West said, “We are all in this together.”

He and other troops, Iraq or Afghanistan war amputees,  traveled to Boston to offer encouragement to those who lost limbs on April 15 at the Boston Marathon. Their message: “Life’s not over.”

While this was a generous gesture, I can’t help but think that they’re not just missing a leg or an arm, but the point. And an opportunity.

When son H was in grade school, one of his teachers taught conflict resolution. I reinforced this and emphasized looking beneath the surface of behavior.

We don’t have to work hard, here, excavating for answers to why someone would want to harm us. US imperial fingerprints can be found anywhere there are resources to enrich the death profiteers. Since the wake-up blast of 9/11, we’ve wasted precious time and countless lives.

So many Americans were rabidly patriotic for months following 9/11 (and are still), their minds imprisoned by “my country right or wrong.” We witnessed this again when two young men, identified as the alleged perpetrators of the Boston bombings, were associated with Islam.

Capt. West lost his leg, amputated on the battlefield, to an IED while on foot patrol in Afghanistan. He said the Boston attack was the work of extremists who share the same anti-American ideology as his attackers. “This was an act of terror,” he said, referring to Boston.

Human beings in AfPak-Iraq would say the same about US intentions in their countries.

Imagine if even one of the troops who flew to Boston, seeing the marathon victims, or one of those victims, seeing the troops, had elaborated on the “life’s not over” with more than bonding over shared injuries, challenges, and how-to advice. Had talked cause and effect. Had said, “Let’s examine why this happened.”

Had continued with:

“Why do we choose war?”

“How do we end the violence?”

“What can we do to sustain peace?”

“Why aren’t we questioning a government that sends its young to be maimed, to die thousands of miles away?”

“Why aren’t we questioning a government that sends its young to maim, kill, to destroy civilizations?”

“Let’s consider the people in these countries, what they’re thinking and feeling, our weapons aimed at them, their children. The children.”

Yes, Capt. West said, “We’re all in this together.” He’s right.

We are all in this together. Whether we identify as Americans, Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Syrians, we are all in this together. Whether we are adherents of Taoism, Sufism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, we are all in this together—human beings.

Whether we turn on the TV to watch reality shows, read Foucault, power the computer and scroll through photos of celebs without makeup, work crosswords, are either elated or outraged that a sports figure has come out as gay (or believe this should be a nonissue), we are all in this together. Whether we are scared stupid because the government demands our dumbing down to launch perpetual war or we question every noun, verb, pronouncement spoken by the deciders, we are all in this together.

And because we are all in this together, we cannot label as terrorists those who use improvised explosives against us without acknowledging our own use of WMD, terrorism, against them.

We deliver chaos, we receive it.  And we are all in this together.

Missy Beattie can be reached at


Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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