All the Kind Young Men

All the Kind Young Men

All the Kind Young Men

By John Mallon

In the refusal to live nobly, evil and cowardice go hand in hand. Great men don't build shrines to themselves on every street corner.  They don't need to. Other people are more important.

Genuine love is costly, and we are taught that "there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." What does the GI on the ground in Iraq have to gain personally from being in a foreign land ducking bullets? Other than the sure knowledge that they have done something great in their sacrifice in bringing liberty to others?

Kindness, of course, overlaps with love but it can be offhanded, free to give and precious in its results. Some argue that the Allied initiative in Iraq will produce "100 little Bin Ladens." Not necessarily. Among the most moving photos from the war on the websites of newspapers are those of children receiving kindness from the big bulky soldiers and Marines.  

This is especially true in the eyes of the little Iraqi boys, who have likely known little but cruelty and want, despite their parents' best efforts. What is more moving than the crisis of grace in the eyes of a hurt child encountering kindness for perhaps the first time ever: "Can I trust this? Is this real? Can I believe in this? Will it go away? Will it be snatched away? Can I afford the vulnerability required, which I so long for, to accept this kindness? Will there be more to come? What if there isn't? Do I have the courage to accept this strange new thing, kindness?"

It is a big risk. All the kind young men will eventually move on. To the next objective, and eventually, God protect them, to their own little boys, girls, dads, moms, and wives. But their kindness will have changed the world. Even if only the world of one child. If only the little boy Saddam had known the off-handed kindness of a big American soldier or Marine. Or a British one. Or from one of the Allied forces. If only.

We should especially note the presence of what I call "The Coalition of the Grateful"—those Eastern European coalition allies recently liberated from communist oppression who don't need the motives of America or the difference between occupation and liberation explained to them. 

I focus on the kindness of these men, while fully acknowledging the presence of many brave service women on the ground in the war zones of Iraq, to highlight the false modern notion that kindness, life-giving nurturance and delicate care is mainly the province of women. 

Male kindness has a special necessity to the human spirit all its own. And it has gotten a bad rap. But a new standard has been raised by the noble masculinity of the firefighters, Police and rescue workers of 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing. This masculine goodness manifests itself most especially in the most terrible of circumstances. Men at war are too often portrayed as arbitrary and cruel. And some can be. But this one-dimensional stereotype flies in the face of the history of the American fighting man. 

I have a friend in Germany whose aging and ill father absolutely loves America and Americans, though, sadly, he has never visited, and likely never will. He loves Americans and America because of his experience with American servicemen when he was a child and they were liberating his country as they were simultaneously conquering its evil regime.

When the lies and propaganda of America's intentions in this effort fade in the face of the facts, chances are good that instead of producing future terrorists, the witness of free men securing liberty for oppressed people will produce a new generation of free men capable of giving kindness to children and bringing liberty to nations because they have been touched by nobility.

© 2005 by John Mallon


Mallon is Contributing Editor of Inside the Vatican magazine.