Thoughts from Dr. Joe: On opposite corners

On a recent Saturday, on opposite corners at Oceanview and Honolulu in Montrose, diametrically opposed perceptions faced each other waving their placards hoping to entice those passing by into the labyrinth of their perspective political ideologies. As I observed, I thought of the words of Anais Nin, "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."

On the northwest corner individuals waved signs that read: "War is never the answer, and Thou shall not kill." As cars approached they became more animated and fueled with the passions of their beliefs in their quest for attention. I thought of a quote from H.L. Mencken, "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face to rule it."

On the southeast corner of the street, a young woman and her son stood in silence, holding signs that simply read, "Support our troops!"

It was a standoff. Both sides vying to be heard stood with divergent ideas on opposite ends of political thought. Could there be a bridge that would join these variant perspectives? The chance was missed, because on the northwest corner there was no indication of support for the troops. I found it ironic and teetering on the border of irreverence that those so abhorrent to war would air their grievances in front of the memorial dedicated to fallen soldiers. I saw no irreverent intent. They would have had to be combat veterans to understand. Do they not realize that nobody hopes for peace more than those who fight?

The woman and son holding signs in support of our troops were hardly sanctifying the battle. They simply asked for a moment of indulgence for those living in harm's way. Her husband, a gunnery sergeant in the Marines, is serving a tour in Afghanistan. I sensed her noble nature. She represents the lone wife who waits. By standing in silent vigil she was doing more than she realized by asking us to support our troops. Any Vietnam vet knows things would have been different if we had the support from home.

On the opposite corner, those abhorrent to war were stirred by their thoughts trying to save us from ourselves. Man's nature is prone to both good and evil, thus a proclivity to war has always been and will always be our Achilles' heel. They will not save us from ourselves, but they have to try. Any Vietnam vet knows that things would have been different if the pacifists could have eradicated war.

"Those who abjure violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf," said George Orwell. "Men can only be civilized while other men are there to guard them."

Subsequently, Kipling's poem, "Tommy," castigates those who are irreverent to the soldier: "Yes, making mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep!"

Saying that "War is never the answer" is analogous to saying that "War is always the answer." It took war, not slogans, to free the slaves and purge Europe from the Nazis and the Japanese from the Pacific. Regretfully, sometimes war is the answer. The soldier who fights gives them the right to wave their signs.

Years ago I dreamt that the world was a safe place and all the answers were clear. Then I woke up in the stinking jungle and all I saw was darkness. Choices are never clear. At the end of the day it is who you are and what you stand for that brings clarity. It comes down to sacrifice and honor. I am convinced that freedom is paid for in blood.

There are truths on the northwest corner that are falsehoods on the southeast corner. But Winston Churchill was right when he said, "Tonight we sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at

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