I could have been born in England.
I could have been born in 1750 to a good Anglican family that loved Jesus. I would have served proudly in his majesty’s service, sailed to America as an Englishman among Englishmen, protected my fellow citizens of the realm from the French and Indians, and helped enforce the laws of Parliament and my King. I would have been dismayed when riots started in the streets, when protesters threatened violence and attacked tea shipping vessels. I would have begged my fellow Englishmen to simply pay their taxes like good citizens and go about their lives. I would have followed orders and marched to Lexington to confiscate weapons and forestall a civil disturbance, only to have my countrymen open fire on me and my fellow soldiers, killing my brothers and friends. Those men that shot at me would later be called heroes for years to come. I could have been killed by a hero.
I could have been born in Germany.
I could have been born in 1900, to a good Lutheran family that loved Jesus. I would have paid my taxes to the Kaiser like Jesus commanded and joined the army to protect my homeland and my countrymen. I would have marched off to war thinking it would be easy and over soon. Only to be stuck in a trench for the next four years. Every so often my commander would order us over the trench and we would charge enemy lines. My brothers and friends would die next to me from machine gun fire. The men that shot at me would later be celebrated as heroes. I could have been killed by a hero.
I could have been born in Austria.
I could have been born in 1920 to a good Catholic family that loved Jesus. My family would have moved to Germany when I was quite young, only to suffer poverty and hunger as the newly defeated country suffered under the heavy post war burdens imposed by France and England. I would have grown up feeling keenly the injustice done to a country that had had to accept all the blame for a war in which blame should have been shared by all. I would have seen the rise of a charismatic leader that was going to “Make Germany Great Again” and been excited as he did just that. I would have feared the lack of freedom in his new Reich, but I would have paid my taxes like Jesus commanded. I would have become a priest to avoid military service. I would have seen the war take its tole on my parishioners. I would have seen women and children starve to death under an Allied food blockade. I would have seen my city leveled to the ground by an American airplane and the bodies of my sisters and mother strewn around me. The pilots that killed them would be called heroes. I could have been killed by a hero.
I could have been born in Japan.
In 1939 to a good Buddhist family that loved the emperor and respected their elders. I would have been six when my family and every single person I had ever met in seven years of living were all killed in one moment by a single bomb dropped on my hometown of Nagasaki. The men that dropped the bomb would later be called heroes.
I could have been born in Korea.
I could have been born in Vietnam.
I could have been born in Iraq.
To a good Muslim family that worshiped Allah. I would have seen my brothers and sisters die of starvation due to economic sanctions designed by America to punish the dictator of my country that they had supported just years earlier. I would have seen the TV interview where the former U.S. secretary of state said that the deaths of my siblings and over 500,000 of the boys and girls my age were “worth it.” I would have stood by as the United States bombed my city, killing my young fiance who lived too close to a government building. I would have buried the woman I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with, and picked up my father’s rifle with hate in my heart to defend my homeland. The western media would have called me a terrorist.
I could have been a terrorist. I could have died in war started by the president that you voted for, funded by money that you earned, and forgotten about just a couple years later by everyone in your country.
But I wasn’t. I was born in America. The heroes from these wars, are my ancestors. The kids that fought in Iraq are my friends.