“War would end if the dead could return.” — Stanley Baldwin.
Just imagine you wake up the following morning to the sound of bombs exploding and artillery firing. The enemy has invaded. You didn’t think it would ever happen, but there you are.
Suddenly you’ve been thrown back into the 1940s.
Now, what do you do? Do you gather your most prized belongings and flee? Or do you kiss your wife and children goodbye – send them packing – and then pick up a gun and fight for your homeland? Assuming you don’t have to stay, that is. Assuming that you can leave.
Should you go? Or should you stand and fight?
I remember reading a quote by Bertrand Russell, who once said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” Yet, I suspect there is little debate about what most people reading this feel regarding Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.
I firmly believe war is wrong. There are never any winners when it comes to war. To quote Harry Patch (one of the last surviving combat soldiers from the First World War), “War is organised murder and nothing else.”
But, if that’s the case – if you don’t believe in war – what do you do when war comes knocking down your front door?
Do you stand and fight in defence – do you engage in war – or do you walk away? Do you find another place to call home? And what if leaving isn’t a choice? Do you accept your fate because you don’t believe in killing another human being?
There’s another quote that’s always struck a chord with me. Words once uttered by the great Mahatma Gandhi. He said, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” I don’t doubt that he’s right. However, it feels idealistic when I think about what’s going on right now.
Because let’s be honest, man’s ability to transcend his ego is pathetic. Of course, peace is right and war is wrong. It’s easy to say that. But peace can only be maintained if both sides believe in it. And there are always exceptions aren’t there? Like standing up to tyranny and oppression?
If no one had fought and died for our freedoms, where would we be now? How much worse would our lives be?
Killing someone in self-defence is protected under the law for a reason. Just imagine someone decides to invade your home. Image you have nowhere to run and that no one is coming to your aid. Imagine this person is intent on killing your children. What do you do? Do you hesitate to kill that person? In order to protect those that you love? If you’re left with no other choice?
Martin Luther King once said, “If a man has not found something worth dying for, he is not fit to live.” That’t powerful isn’t it? What if that thing is freedom, equality or human rights? Are those not worth dying for? Are they not worth defending to the death? If not for you, then for your children and your children’s children?
I honestly don’t know what I would do if I was in the situation the people of Ukraine find themselves now. Whether or not I would have what it takes to kill another human being – even if it is for a righteous cause. For something that I strongly believe in.
Although the thoughts have crossed my mind before, I’ve quickly put a lid on them – never thinking for one moment that I would ever have to contemplate killing another human being under the conditions of war.
Perhaps I never will. Or maybe – if this shameless act of aggression is allowed to stand – we all will. Maybe it will be our children who are forced to make this choice.
I can think of nothing worse.
After all, here we are. War has returned to Europe. It’s the closest we’ve been to World War since the Cold War. And right now we need to ask ourselves, what would we do?
How would we respond if we woke up to bombing and heavy artillery tomorrow morning? What if we found ourselves in a war we didn’t ask for? What if we were made to choose between accepting the rule of tyranny and oppression or killing those trying to enforce it upon us?
Finally, we need to ask what we can do to help.