As a writer, I spend alot of time thinking about words. Words as symbols, since that's the basis of all language. Words have power, and depending on how they are used the power invoked by a single word can shake you to your core.
War is one of the words I've been thinking about alot lately. It should evoke fear, anger, outrage and despair. But it doesn't. We toss the word around so freely, throw war around the way we throw just any other word around.
It started in the eighties, with the Reagan administration's War on drugs. It was meant to signify that finally the government was going to get serious about drugs and drug related crimes. That we were going to have a "take no prisoners" sort of mentality. Drugs were supposed to be as heinous as Nazis or something, I suppose. So, I like everyone else in my generation, I grew up thinking drugs were a serious problem. Which they are, especially when you think of the connection between drugs, poverty and crime. But, drugs all alone are hardly worthy of the term war.
And these days every where you turn, we're at war. Still waging a war on drugs, not to mention one on terror and one on crime and one on illiteracy. War no longer refers to the utter desolation of the human condition that causes us to kill and destroy each other. Any situation that calls for problem solving, the most basic of human abilities, we call a war, which should only ever refer to the most appalling of human conditions.
In The Fifth Element, a bad science fiction film starring a model and an action star, there is this scene where the perfect creature is learning about us, about human beings, and she comes across the word "war" and it shocks and disgusts her. To the point that she almost fails in her task to save the human race. And that's what that word should do. We should hear war and stop breathing. We should always remember that war means that people die. That people do the worst possible things to one another under the guise of fighting for their beliefs, or for the freedom of other people, or for their own freedoms.
As human beings, we should always remember what we are capable of, both good and bad, and we should never allow someone to diminish the power of our most basic symbols. Stop using this word to mean anything other than what it means: bloodshed, horror and desolation.