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October 2019

It was the best we could do: a four-day weekend over Labor Day. A badly timed kidney stone, following by a horribly wrenched back, wrecked our vacation plans. So we headed to a favorite place—the tiny town of Nashville, Indiana. From Chicago just head south, turn left at Terre Haute, and take another left at Bloomington. There’s plenty to do and see, from small store shopping, to exploring a great state park, and for us the best—viewing the incredible works of Indiana’s school of impressionist painters. Nashville was and still is an art colony.

Nashville has a small playhouse, but on stage that first night wasn’t a play. It was a revival. In 1969, on a farm 43 miles from Woodstock, New York, over 400,000 baby-boomers converged for what was billed as “an Aquarian Exposition: 3 days of Peace and Music.” It became known as Woodstock, the mother of all rock concerts. Fifty years later, we just had to go. The performers were excellent, the music did not disappoint. But best of all was the audience. There we were, aging old boomers, many in tie-dyed shirts, dancin’ in the aisles or bouncin’ in their seats. Midway through a song, a lady in front of us spun around and gave us high-fives! Back when, she had gotten within five miles of Woodstock but couldn’t get closer.

But at one point, things got very quiet as a performer sang a folk song from Woodstock. Though written in 1955, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” became the song for a generation, and even for a nation, struggling with the Vietnam War. Its haunting verses repeatedly ask a question: where have they gone—the flowers, the young girls, the husbands, the soldiers, the graveyards, and back to the flowers atop them? Another question always followed: “Oh, when will they ever learn?” The audience politely applauded, but it was an uneasy polite, as if people were saying, “We don’t want to go back.” For the time had been one of the most turbulent in our history. It was a time of shouting and screaming, of fighting at home and abroad, and of nightly dinnertime body counts that never seemed to stop.

History has a frustrating way of repeating itself. We never seem to learn from our mistakes. Mankind hasn’t been able to get war out of its system. So why do we fight wars? The reasons are intertwined. For one, war is about is about power and control. One side covets what the other side has, whether land, natural resources, access to waterways, or anything else. War provides the opportunity to steal it. A second reason is the desire to claim superiority over others. Some people view themselves as fundamentally better than their neighbors. Multiplied on a national scale and left unchecked, it leads to class warfare and eventually genocide. We only need to look back as for as the 20th century to see the results, to Nazi-occupied Europe, Bosnia, Rwanda, the Soviet Union, and Bangladesh. And there is a third reason, one that often accompanies tragedy: money. War can be awfully lucrative business, and some people are more than happy to profit off of another’s suffering.

There you have it: power, superiority, and money, the very reasons why our country has been at war for years with the culture of life. St. Teresa of Calcutta, who had a way with words, said, “How can there be too many children? That’s like saying there are too many flowers.” Children are God’s flowers, and we have destroyed them in numbers hard to fathom.   In the 20-year Vietnam War, our country lost 58,000 military personnel. In 210 years of all shooting wars, we have lost about 1,270,000 service people. In the 46 years since the start of legal abortion, we have lost over 62 million unborn. Where have those flowers gone? To garbage disposals, dumps, and incinerators—certainly not to graveyards. In our country, that’s too dignified.

We tend to forget the enormous social cost of what we are doing. We forget that children do not remain children for very long. Next time you go to church, look around at all those empty spaces. Do you think that had they been allowed to live, at least some of the aborted ones would have occupied those seats? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, we’d have more priests and religious out of that group of 62 million? Or more artists and musicians, more plumbers and carpenters, more engineers and crafts people, more social and health care workers and therapists so badly needed as the boomers continue to age? Where have they gone?

And where has decency gone? We live in a country violent in the extreme. In Chicago, children have been shot watching television in their living rooms or sitting on their front steps. Kids are killed while trying to learn at school. In a way, it’s unsurprising. Legal abortion teaches that violence is the answer. Ultimately, violence is the unspoken rationale for legalized abortion: for superior people, might makes right. Sadly, our children are being trained to be killers. Sex education is all about turning kids into sex addicts and sex objects. Why? It’s because when they make their inevitable mistakes, Planned Parenthood and others will be there to administer the “fix”—for a price. There’s money to be made in war.

There’s another question, one absolutely begging for an answer: in this horrible war, where have we gone? We are His flowers, too. One of the greatest dangers of war is that as it drags on, it can desensitize us. The war itself, with all its sufferings and tragedies, just becomes part of life’s wallpaper, something we see but don’t see at the same time. Few people pay attention to the fact that for centuries, some peoples have been killing each other. That’s exactly what is now happening in our country: we are killing our children under a claim of right. Another annual body count of the unborn? Who cares. We’ve become indifferent, complacent, and even lazy as we rationalize our silence. But there’s a price to be paid. We are losing our sense of justice. As evil takes deeper and longer hold, we start to forget what right even looks like. We become the casualties of the brutal war on life, perhaps the greatest casualties of all.

Oh, when will we ever learn? Oh, when will we ever learn?


Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2019. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at and on Facebook.

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