It is in our innate human nature, to shield ourselves psychologically from losses. Never mind the fact that it’s done and irreversible. We still feel the need to convince ourselves that it wasn’t really a loss. That it happened for a reason. That there’s a purpose behind it that makes it all worthwhile.
As I was reading through old news stories from years past, this thought struck me most clearly as I read about Obama’s remark that thousands of Americans lives were wasted in the Iraq war. Thousands immediately howled back in protest. “The soldiers died for a reason, fulfilling a purpose; how dare anyone suggest that their lives were wasted?”
How dare anyone suggest that the emperor is not wearing any clothes? Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second. Our world that we live in is full of beauty and joy, but it’s also comprising of tragedies and senseless losses.
Last year, thirty thousand Americans died in car accidents. They didn’t die for any reason. They didn’t give up their lives as part of some greater purpose. Their lives were lost tragically, senselessly, without reason. This tragic waste of lives is indeed something that should tug at our heart strings, but that’s a tug that we need to address not by deluding ourselves into thinking that thinking that their deaths fulfilled some purpose. It’s something we need to address by pushing for greater vehicle safety regulation, tougher laws against drunk driving, and greater enforcement against dangerous drivers. These were all things that people had done in decades past, thus saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
Let’s similarly be honest with ourselves about the Iraq war. It was a tragedy, that should have never happened. Mistakes were made & judgments were compromised, leading to the senseless loss of 4500 American soldiers and 100,000 Iraqi civilians. They were brave soldiers who nobly put their lives in our hands, and we failed them. The least we can do for them now, is to acknowledge our mistakes and the senseless devastation that resulted, and to work as hard as we possibly can to ensure that such a tragedy doesn’t repeat itself.
I’m always optimistic for the future, but let’s acknowledge that it is bound to bring with it more missteps & tragedies. Both on a global scale, and in our own personal lives. When these missteps occur, let’s resist the urge to delude ourselves with false justifications. It may make us feel better in the short term. But only by acknowledging our mistakes and learning from them, can we come out of the experience stronger than before.