Once again, we find ourselves at the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that attacked both the United States specifically and the West generally. Over 3,000 people died, and still many suffer from health complications related to burns, smoke inhalation, PTSD, and other injuries. The DoD has updated its official US casualty numbers to 6,750 as of 9/10/12. Countless insurgents have been arrested or killed, as have innocent bystanders, who have been either “collateral damage” or worse, targeted by their own countrymen. It’s easy to see, from this data, why some folks disapprove of violence and violence’s god, Ares. Violence begets violence, and it’s never fun.
I have written before that Ares is a violent god, and that he actually does like violence. One could reasonably argue that the whole mess we find ourselves in today is quite amusing to him in one way or another. Ares, while mythologically speaking may be a god of violence-for-violence’s-sake (as clearly given in the Iliad), was not worshiped as violence-for-violence’s-sake sort of god, with the only possible exception being in Thrake, though the sources are probably biased. No, Ares is most often an avenging, reactive, and protective force bent on punishing or destroying those who transgress various boundaries.
As I’ve described before, outside of Homer, Ares’ mythology is rife with examples of him acting as an agent of retribution and justice, and this is a major theme in the plays of Aeschylus. When Ares’ daughter Alkippe is raped, he kills the rapist in retribution. When Thanatos is captured by Sisyphos, it is Ares who brings the criminal into the hands of Death (he kills that guy, too). Ares rages against Hephaestos when his brother traps their mother on a throne, and he punishes Leto’s adultery by denying her shelter to give birth to his new siblings.
Ares also shows us however that violence and its application aren’t always perfect or just, and that those we entrust with violent authority aren’t perfect, either. In a jealous rage, Ares transformed into a boar and killed Adonis. While known for punishing adultery in others, Ares himself has a famous affair with Aphrodite. Ares is often shown as a coward who whines when he is wounded and flees from battle the moment he is hurt.
And this brings me back to our anniversary. The West went to war shortly after 9/11 against radical Islamists to avenge the transgressions of one people against both us and their own. As Ares, we were not perfect, and committed transgressions of our own. Yet let not this anniversary be dominated with the litany of transgressions, but rather the litany of those whose lives were lost because of this event. In the end, all the silly excuses, from WMDs, oil, to plain old ass-hattery are just that: excuses. Today is about the dead, and avenging those dead by keeping their memories alive so that they never really die. Let it stay that way.