War and Peace

War and Peace Cover Image

John R York

October 21, 2023

What a World

I told my wife, Paula, that I was going to do a blog called “War and Peace” and she told me not to write about war and suffering and death and depressing stuff, because nobody wants to read about that. Okay, so I won’t talk about those things.

Of course, it’s hard to ignore the fact that one billion or so humans have died as a result of war throughout human history, or that 187 million died in wars from 1900 to the present, or that there were conflicts somewhere in the world every single year in the twentieth century. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

I try to ignore all the information in the media about current conflicts going on around the world. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is on the news every day. Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria are all currently experiencing civil wars. There are tensions between the United States and China, and then there’s North Korea who is always threatening to blow us up. And now, we have this crap-hitting-the-fan war in Israel, which will likely ignite the whole Middle East once again. I already talked about that in my apocalypse blog, so that's not what I want to talk about.

I suppose we should also ignore 2021 FBI report highlighting an increasing risk of violence against government institutions, private organizations, and individuals. The possible perpetrators are primarily “lone wolves,” but potentially also militias and other organized groups such as animal activists, anti-abortionists, and white supremacists. The implication is that Americans are at risk of a civil war. But, no, I don’t want to talk about that.

My grandpa served in World War I and my father served in World War II. I served in the Vietnam War and my little sister served in the Gulf War. I’ve traced my family tree back to family members who fought in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. So, my family has a long history of being directly involved in war. But I'm not going to talk about.

In earlier blog posts, I’ve mentioned that I am a Rotarian. For those of you who may not be familiar with what that is, the Rotary is an international organization focused on philanthropic endeavors which include fighting disease, providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, supporting education, and a bunch of other good things, including promoting peace. There are over 46,000 clubs worldwide in more than 200 countries.

I do have something on my mind about wars and peace.

As a Rotarian, I receive a periodic magazine imaginatively titled The Rotary Magazine. Each edition has several articles about Rotary projects and people from all over the planet. Now, I must admit that I don’t read every single article in every issue. But I do scan through them, and I found a short piece in the latest edition that caught my eye. It was titled “Our Clubs: Leading with Hearts”. I might have skimmed over this article too, except for a small map of Vietnam pictured on the first page. I read the article.

The thing that hit me like a brick was the fact that there are now six Rotary clubs in Vietnam - spread out over both the north and the south of the country. Of course, today there is no North and South Vietnam. There is just Vietnam. For some reason, this simple revelation of the existence of Rotary clubs in Vietnam struck me as incredible.

I departed the Vietnam conflict in December 1972, but the war raged on until April 1975, when North Vietnamese tanks rolled through the gate of the Presidential Palace in Saigon (which isn't called Saigon anymore). It wasn’t a popular war here in the US, so if you were a military person returning home, you kept your head down and didn’t talk much about serving over there. As many as 2,000,000 civilians, over 1,000,000 North Vietnamese soldiers, and over 58,000 Americans died in that war. Millions more were wounded. But I promised not to talk about that stuff.

What I wanted to talk about is this: I’m not sure I can explain why, but I was totally surprised that, after the horror of all that fighting and misery and death (not to mention the fact that we actually didn’t win the war), nearly 50 years later, there are now Rotary clubs in that country. And this sparked another memory. As early as the 1990s, American businessmen were traveling to Vietnam on business trips to create commercial relationships with the Vietnamese. I remembered being asked to join one of these delegations. I declined because all I could remember about that country was the animosity and cruelty between the warring factions. After slaughtering each other for years, we were now going to be business partners with “the enemy”?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not holding any grudges against the Vietnamese. I'm glad U.S. relations have normalized with this country. But this Rotary article caused me to think about what my grandpa and my father must have thought many years after the “big wars” were over. We all know that Germany, Italy, and Japan are now our strategic allies and critical economic partners. To someone in my generation, as well as subsequent generations, this seems like no big deal. There are many Rotary clubs in all those countries. And now there are Rotary clubs in Vietnam.

So, what I'm thinking is that war and peace are apparently just inevitable components of an insane cycle. When a war is finally over, Rotary clubs pop up to spread good will and peace. What a world, what a world. Maybe we should put those kinds of efforts at the front of the cycle?

We seem to be trapped in this absurd cycle, like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a mountain only to see it roll down again as it nears the top. Why? Why in the hell do we, mankind, keep finding reasons to go to war with each other when there are obviously better options – like peaceful coexistence, mutually beneficial business ventures, respect for cultural differences, and Rotary clubs working together to make the world a better place to live?

This is actually a rhetorical question. I believe the answer is quite obvious. Many of you already know my view that the world is full of assholes, and it only takes a few of them to create conflict by stirring up those segments of a local population who are gullible, easily misled, and predisposed to being manipulated. But I don’t really want to talk about that either. (For more information on Assholism, however, you can click on the tab “Assholes” on this very webpage.)

What I really want to talk about are puppies – and donuts.

When things seem too awful to think about or beyond my endurance for coping, I think of puppies. There’s nothing like a basket of squirming, squeaking puppies to take one’s mind off vexing problems. I can find lots of puppy videos on TikTok. Paula wants to get a puppy, but I’m not so sure. It’s a lot of work raising a puppy, but they are cute. I’m sure I’ll come home one day and find a puppy addition to the household. Then I'll have less time to stew over conflicts and assholes.

Some people get a puppy and then don't take care of it, or they deliberately train it to be mean. But let’s not talk about that.

Donuts are much easier to deal with and they provide a lot of joy and nutrition. I think they should create a new food group for donuts. I love donuts. I guess there are some people who don’t like them, although I can’t imagine why. How can you not like fried sweet dough with icing on top. Crème filling inside makes a donut even more orgasmic!

I’m sure there is some health-crazed person out there somewhere who is contemplating the introduction of a beet-flavored donut with artichoke icing. Gag me with a spoon. Ugh. Let’s not talk about that.


There are Rotary clubs in China and Russia, so maybe there is a glimmer of hope that we can sort things out with the people in those countries without having to go to war first. Unfortunately, there are no Rotary clubs in North Korea or in Islamic controlled countries. I can’t help but wonder if the Middle East, the cradle of humanity, might someday also become the grave of humanity. But I don’t think we should talk about that.

If you're wondering why the spot for the picture that suppose to go with this blog says "Image coming soon" - there's a bug in my platform's application. They're working on it. Meanwhile, you can picture in your mind the photo that is supposed to be there. It's a sixteenth century painting of Sisyphus rolling a giant bolder up a mountain.

Let’s just think about puppies, donuts, and HALLOWEEN!