A Thoughtful Question from a Young Woman



I received an email yesterday from a young woman who had heard me speak. She had what I believe to be an ernest question and it is one that I’m often asked. I decided to share her email and my response so that more people can know my thinking on what is definitely not and easy question. (Her name has been changed to protect her privacy.)

Hi Jeff –

I just have a question for you.  
You have a deep love for the USA and try your best to keep your oath as a US Marine.  You would do anything for the other marines and you believe the US military will never fail.  But at the same time you disagreed with the Bush policy and used your sexuality to get out of the war.  What is the balance between your passion for the USA and the Marine core and your distaste for war?  Can you describe your internal conflict?  Thanks!


Hello Susan,

Thank you so much for your email and for your thoughtful question. 
Yesterday was my birthday so my thoughts have been toward reflexion, all that for which I am grateful, and all that I’ve learned. 
Before I forget, I would normally never correct spelling in someone’s email to me but since you’ll likely use it in your paper, it’s Marine Corps not Marine Core. Common mistake. Don’t sweat it. Now you know.
Now to the question– That inner conflict, the one between a love for peace and an impulse toward violence is not peculiar to me. I believe it is the war each of us fights. In some ways, it’s the only war that matters because when each of us has won that war within, wars without will cease to be. Of course if you say that out loud, there are those who will rush to point out a myriad of hypotheticals (and sometimes real examples) where “war is necessary.” Those people are losing their war within. They have found it too difficult so they take the path of the coward and cowards hate to die alone. Therefore they herald their limited viewpoint so that more can join them in their ignorance.  They seek the easier, softer way although it masquerades as the more difficult and courageous. It takes more courage to behold the divinity within our enemy no matter how misdirected we judge his actions to be. Like I said, there will likely always be those who are there to advocate for war. One big reason for that is that some people get very, very wealthy off of war and these people are willing to “invest” a lot of money to advertise a Yankee Doodle Deception to keep the poor voting (and spending and fighting) against their best interest. The sad truth is those people never sacrifice their own children to the Beast. They are all too happy to send the someone else’s children. They always have been. So if that’s the case, if there are all these people out there advocating on the side of “the sad necessity of war,” what can I do personally to keep American service members from being wasted on this altar of greed and what can I do to end the death of so many thousands of innocents at our hands? Yes, my activism has taken on some pretty public forms but in truth, I think the best I can do is to resolve personal conflicts nonviolently so that others may see what a happy and peaceful life that brings. Although I often fall short, my goal is to ever be seeking the way of the Peaceful Warrior.
Yes, I do love America. I love America for the wonderful advances in science and medicine we’ve brought to the world. I love the incredible Art, in so many forms that has come from this country. I love that we continue to hold out the banners of “liberty, freedom, justice and equality,” hopefully as something we can look forward to and not back at. If we are to be brutally honest with ourselves (which I believe is the only way to grow), from our very beginnings we have failed to offer those things equally to all our citizens. In fact, shamefully we have even often denied citizenship with “all the rights thereunto pertaining” from so many of our own. Currently LGBTQ people in America do not enjoy full citizenship, even if we were born here, even if we’ve worn the uniform of the US Military. But, I love that we seem to continue to stumble forward, often clumsily but with the intention to become better and better. And I love that dissent is built into the very essence of patriotism. “Love America” yes. “My country right or wrong?” Hell no. 
Now to the Corps: the Marine motto is “Semper Fidelis” which means “Always Faithful.” When I took the oath to become a Marine, I took it for life. That means, even when it is difficult, even when it is unpopular, even when no one else can understand why– I must be true to core values deeply ingrained in every Marine: honor, courage and commitment. I must, even at the cost of my own life, do what I can to protect those fellow service members, our Constitution and the wonderful (if currently divided) people of The United States of America. I must follow my own conscience even if to do so causes me to be labeled a traitor. 
I hope I’ve answered your question. If I haven’t or if something was unclear, I’m happy to do my best to answer it. I wish you good luck on your paper and please, please get to the polls and vote in November. Remember, a government “of, by and for the people” depends on The People to function at its best.
Most Sincerely,
Jeff Key


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