War is not a sports game. And yet, and yet.
I’ve seen this with Ukraine and Russia, and now I’m seeing it with Israel and Hamas. In the past, I saw it with the Iraq War. It’s like being in Ancient Rome and watching gladiators go at it against each other—but worse.
I get this impression that people are thinking, “Three-nil to Russia!” “Touchdown! Israel clinched it in the nick of time! Look at that crowd over there! It’s unbelievable!” “Foul for Israel: goaltending!” “Kiev scored an own-goal—oops!” “Send them off the pitch! Russia—red card!” “Hamas scored a home run! And that’s a ball game!” “And that was a surprise save by Ukraine! If you look over there, Putin is fuming!” “Slam-dunk by Hamas!” “And Netanyahu’s been sent to the penalty box!” “Penalty kick to Ukraine!”
You want to watch sports? Watch Arsenal or Real Madrid or Dynamo Kiev. Watch the LA Lakers or Boston Celtics or Chicago Bulls. Watch the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots or Oakland Raiders. Or watch the Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants or New York Mets (boo!). Watch England and India play cricket. Hell, you can even watch Donald Trump make an idiot of himself on the golf course. But Israel and Ukraine are not playing fields. They are war zones. These are people’s lives we’re talking about, not just points on a scoreboard.
It’s saddest from people who support a particular side because they want to see justice in the world. But even in just wars, even after the American Civil War and World War II, it was changes made in peacetime that brought about justice, not just the wars themselves. (There are vanishingly few just wars. Rarely is your opponent going to be an Adolf Hitler.) You can win the war and lose the peace.
But these justice-seekers treat the wars in Israel and Ukraine in the same way the thrill-seekers do: like a sports game. All they want to do is score goals over the other guy. You can’t point out the problems with the other “team” because if you do, it means that their team loses. You can’t find a solution for both Israelis and Palestinians, or the different ethnic communities in Ukraine. Someone’s got to win and it has to be them. These people want to win the game, not heal the pain.
War is not a sports game.