What is particularly striking in both novels is the ever-present large rectangular television sets, seemingly in each room of each house, which are constantly turned on. And what is constantly running are reports of the endless war.
Written soon after World War II, predictions of future long wars were not all that surprising. The public's indifference to these wars in these novels, however, still jars the reader.
What angers some Americans today is our cultural indifference to our endless war in Afghanistan (although this might be changing). The president promises only two more years of war, added on to our approaching 11 years. Anybody celebrating?
The recent massacre of 16 Afghan men, women and children by an American soldier on his fourth tour of duty puts the spotlight once again on this long tragedy.
What is "victory" in a country where Alexander the Great, the British Empire and the Soviet Union all failed in their military adventures?
Al-Qaida only has about 50 members left in the country, having departed to friendlier waters; so that mission was accomplished years ago. Victory should have been declared then, followed by the withdrawal of our troops. That decision was not made, which is a mystery to the American people.
If our present goal is to keep the Taliban under our thumbs, what happens when those thumbs are removed?
What is particularly galling from a Christian point of view, besides the evil inherent in war, is the fact that the sacrifice is not being shared. Few of us know soldiers serving in Afghanistan, so the war seems remote. Few members of Congress, or their children, have served; so the Congress is removed, too. Our candidates running for president — with the exception of Ron Paul — never served in the military to my knowledge, and thus they are also removed.
Another issue from both a Christian and economic perspective is the fact that this war is costing America $2 billion per week. And where does that money come from? Probably China, because it is all borrowed money. The immorality of all of this debt, added to our $15 trillion national debt, should be a concern for all people of faith and non-faith! We don't need George Orwell or Ray Bradbury to tell us that what has happened in Greece soon will be a drama coming to our own neighborhood.
Ray Bradbury in the late 1940s wrote a series of short stories collected into one volume called "The Martian Chronicles." The stories are about the settlement of Mars beginning in 2030. The exploitation of natural resources was the initial thrust (remember that Afghanistan is also rich in natural resources, a factor in all wars and occupations). The Martians died from the chicken pox brought by the first settlers. Toward the end of the book, a journey to Mars meant survival from an atomic war that was destroying the Earth. The book ends with the last citizens of Earth, now the first new Martians, building a large fire; and the father of his family explains to them why he is burning all reminders of Earth (government bonds, an essay on religious prejudice, stock reports, etc.).
Bradbury's words, put in the mouth of this man, are prophetic of our gadget-oriented misplaced priorities: "I'm burning a way of life, just like that way of life is being burned clean of Earth right now. Forgive me if I talk like a politician. I am, after all, a former state governor, and I was honest and they hated me for it. Life on Earth never settled down to doing anything very good. Science ran too far ahead of us too quickly, and the people got lost in a mechanical wilderness, like children making over pretty things, gadgets, helicopters, rockets; emphasizing the wrong items, emphasizing machines instead of how to run the machines. Wars got bigger and bigger, and finally killed Earth."
As Jesus warned: Those with ears let them hear.
— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune religion columnist