Yesterday afternoon we went to a barbeque at the in-laws' wonderful home. The place was built to entertain, with roaming gardens, three koi ponds call connected by a circulating stream, and magnificent vistas of Flathead Lake. Add to that good food, a nice Malbec or Cornoa beer, and a set of gregarious and friendly people, and you have a time ripe for good conversation.
You never know what you will hear, or learn.
I spent a good part of the occasion getting to know a fellow named Jop. He is a Dutchman, aged 84, who still has an eye for the ladies, an active mind and keen views on politics, war and the world with which I found myself in complete agreement. I learned that Jop was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and that he was 12 when the Germans attacked Holland. It was the bombing of Rotterdam that forced the Dutch to capitulate after only five days of fighting -- Jop was there.
At various points during his career as a research scientist, Jop was involved in understanding the effects of radiation poisoning, for a considerable period at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and more recently in Chernobyl. It was interesting to hear that the damage done by Chernobyl may not have killed nearly as many people as the dropping of the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities, but the damage overall was much more wide-spread there; more territory, more drift -- and, though Jop did not allude to it, the crushing blow to the Soviet system. Still, he believes in the ultimate viability of nuclear power when run properly and carefully.
Having seen all this, Jop is a devout pacifist.
It is a belief system I understand well, and share. It is not a matter of age; I have always felt this way. If an enemy who had no regard for life attacked us, I think I would not last two minutes in the holocaust that might follow. I accept that, just as surely as I accept the serious unlikelihood that anyone in today's world could attack us and maintain that attack without destroying their own economy in the bargain, well before their troops reached Montana.
War is outdated, and so is the standing army prepared for war. Unfortunately, no one seems to realize this, and we spend billions of dollars and thousands of lives under our illusions. Al Qeda will not conquer the United States -- and does not want to -- but they can hurt us where we live, in our pocketbooks, and have done.
But only because we let them. As long as there is money in it for someone . . .
The 84 year old and the 62 year old have some wisdom to impart. We have learned from history, from the history we lived through and the history we studied. We scream against ignorance and forgetfulness. It's our job.
There are those who listen. The number is growing.