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OPINION | United we fight

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HAGÅTÑA  — Last week over lunch, friends and I revisited the often pondered question, “Why is there war?” It was precipitated by a lunchtime review of the latest protest that had turned violent, the newest black man shot by a cop, the just-looted strip of downtown in cities near and far, and the most recent slap-down between non-mask wearers and those who abide by the safety recommendations.

These are the topics we discuss these days with alarming casualness. We do not debate politics, travel, movies or music anymore. Regarding the latter — what is there for a middle-aged person like me to even consider? Cardi B’s lyrics for WAP?

I think not. Instead, we find ourselves preoccupied with the big questions. Not who will be the next president; rather, what other systemic options there might be that a vote can actually make real. In other words, instead of voting for a person, why can’t we vote for a way to run the country? I rather like the idea of voting for a set of rules rather than a set of ideas. Enough of the possibilities, the myriads, the rainbows. Give us the black and white.

We are not shocked anymore by anyone’s private sexual life. For a brief moment — no pun intended — it was titillating, but it is not the case today. Now, rather than wondering what these choices say of the person, we are seriously questioning why this information is news in the first place. We never needed to know; but now that it is everyday news, we’d rather not know. It was better, and more fun, as gossip. When it became headline news, it became boring and has become irrelevant.

Not only do I not personally care, but I am also offended that a journalist or publisher thinks I might be. I am sure I am not alone.

Is philosophical the right word? It might be, though the term, if it exists, must reflect exhaustion, cynicism and disinterest that weigh upon us like a thick, static stench.

War. Why do we have it?

I was expecting my friends to breezily enumerate the usual reasons, “capitalism,” “greed,” “terrorism,” and the popular, “because men are stupid.” But there were none of these that were suggested. There wasn’t even the obligatory, “If women ruled the world, there would be no war.” Not even that.

Instead, a glaze washes over our eyes and our minds wander when confronted by the topic of violence. We are at a point where there seems nothing more to discuss.

As I slowly savored my BLT, I despaired slightly that I had nothing scholarly to offer upon the topic. Finally, the excruciating guilt of squandering a Ph.D. moved me to say one word: “Unity.”

“Unity?” my lunchmates chorused.

“Yes,” I replied thoughtfully, “people fight in the name of unity. Isn’t that twisted?”

Nothing more was said on the matter, but a few days hence, I am standing by my words. After more thought, I am convinced that people do not go to war for any other reason than the need to separate one group from the other — those for something, versus those against it. In order for this disagreement to become a full-blown conflict, a unification must occur. And it is this state of being united that becomes the incendiary element.

If you ask me, we are living in a moment where unity has lost its benevolence. Rather, the climate of impatience from societal fatigue has sharpened the lens through which we process information. Indeed, when a politician proclaims that united we are stronger, few of us actually believe it. As a matter of fact, these are days when silence equals endorsement.

The bad guy, today, is the guy that keeps to himself. What a world.

What are we to do with the beloved adages that include, “Be yourself,” “You are beautiful as you are,” “You don’t need to change to please anyone,” “Be you,” and “Follow your heart.” At this moment, these are not aspirations. These are crimes.

Yes, people fight because they unite. That’s how it is. Nevertheless, I’m hopeful for a happy division sometime in our distant future.

Dan Ho, a native of Agat, is a writer and teacher and holds a Ph.D. in indigenous studies. Follow his garden adventures on Instagram @HoandGarden

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