Reading Snorri Sturluson’s Edda, I came across the story of the Battle Of Hiadning. In this battle, at the end of each day of fighting, the slain are re-awakened so that in the morning they may fight again. In this way, the battle continues forever.
This story made me think of America’s military situation in the world today. We’ve been killing others and being killed ourselves somewhere in the world for a very long time now. I admit that I am not wise enough to know if our Eternal War is really for the greater good or merely perpetuates or even exacerbates the evil that men do. Perhaps, as with those brave warriors of Haidning, it is not a matter of personal moral fault or virtue, but simply a curse, a terrible fate which a person –or a people– must endure.
What are our options? Should Americans NOT fight Evil? And if we grant that we should, that it is our particular duty and burden… Are we wise enough to know what Evil is? One may at first thought answer, “Of course we know what Evil is!” But consider… We Americans often attempt to nip Evil in the bud, so-to-speak, before situations or people can achieve their full potential for great Evil; we even justify pre-emptive strikes for this reason. But the world is, obviously, a complex place… and reasonable people can reasonably disagree about the ultimate results of certain activities. Predicting future Evil from current facts can sometimes be as hard as predicting the weather next month from a cloud in the sky today. No one is perfectly capable of predicting from the seed whether good or bad fruit will eventually be produced.
Also, are we Americans– are we humans— intelligent enough to know how best to fight what we perceive as Evil for the long-term good? Or, are we simply blundering about, fighting the wrong enemies in the wrong ways?
George Orwell also wrote of a form of perpetual warfare (“We have always been at war with Eastasia.”) in which, similar to the Battle Of Hiadning, the enemy is never completely defeated– only the Orwellian eternal enemy changes appearance from time to time.
For Americans, our Orwellian enemy has morphed almost seamlessly from Spanish Imperialists to Latin American unfriendlies to Axis Powers to Korean Communists to Russian agents to Vietnamese Communists to Iraqi soldiers to Al Queda terrorists to ISIS insurgents– and on to whoever or whatever is next. The United States has been at war with “the enemy” for a hundred and fifty years.
Americans are caught in the curse of the Battle Of Hiadning. And according the mythology, the only thing which will bring an end to the curse is Ragnorak— a complete overthrow of the current world order. However, since this will be such a catastrophe, it is hardly something one can wish to speed forward. It is almost as if America is sick, and the only cure is death.
Is there no other way to the end the curse?