[I never gave up on Don Quixote, though I often gave up on myself. The children of warriors are no less of a casualty in the conflicts of man.]
Over the decades, I have met a great many special kids -- special perhaps by a curious default --these children of the storms as I know them. That sad kind of trustless distinction that far too many of them carry for the remainder of their lives. You find them a lot in the company of animals and very often around the wonderful world that keeps and cherishes horses. These children are broken, damaged -- often unknowingly -- flotsam it seems, barely afloat in a foul sea by the sheer will of life itself, or perhaps the honest generosity of some creature. An animal deemed unworthy of God's grace; soulless by divine circumscription, a beast of burden, a toiler for the great canons of righteous warfare, and yet, denied that simple holy distinction by the sheer weight of humanity's ceaseless need of a selective and ultimate symbol for the validation of a uniquely human disease: self-predation.
In 1989, I wrote an essay for The Chronicle of the Horse, entitled "Horses: An Investment in Youth." I had come to recognize these children, for one is only granted acknowledgement in such a secretive society through the forced abandonment of all others. A code that lives in the eyes of the victims, as if blood alone can cleanse an open wound. We all know each other by our scars, the invisible marks of penance for the crime of existence -- or convenience. Or that in a world of incomprehensible giants, a denial of simple mercy. For in those moments of hatred and confusion, love must flee for the safety found at the ragged outskirts of our imagination. With the door bolted shut behind us.
We never cease to be somebody's child. Even in death, we are remembered as once being born. A matrix of miracles really in a world where violence and apathy dictate the lyrics of a long and oddly persistent hymn. A requiem perhaps. Taps. Pipes echoing through barren branches of an old forest. A flag neatly folded, heads bowed at half-staff -- the cold earth beckoning. And one war is never enough.
I've spent the better part of five decades wandering backwards through the wreckage of a half-dozen or more wars -- each with a participant that carried my name, my blood, ultimately my future, locked in the primal puzzle of a shared DNA. And what also seemed like a shared responsibility to enforce the dictate of a purely political manifest -- rightly or wrongly, on this tumultuous and perhaps chronically reckless planet. And children continue to fight these wars, for it seems that the 'sins of the fathers' are never enough to satisfy the insatiable greed contained in a stubborn point of view; so powerful in a single moment, so dwarfed by the continuity of all the moments.
We cannot live in a world of faith and war. Some dichotomy exists, forcing the spirit to serve two separate masters, as if the pastor and the politician can only possess the same truth on different days of an identical week. We say, Thou shalt not kill...but we kill just the same. Because we are right, because we are justified, because...it is what we do. And we look into our children's eyes, we tell them it is wrong, it is a horror, it is against God...but please child, take up this gun one more time.
Generational. The dance of the damned it would seem, for war makes prisoners of the betterment we're truly capable of achieving in this world. An inheritance that lingers in the minds and hearts of all we touch, all we make and all that follow. Somehow, sometime, we need to break the bonds of our relentless ambition and leave one single generation at peace. It just might catch on.