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Birmingham Bombing Funeral 1963

Three unidentified African American women, crying and grieving, are helped from the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, during funeral services for three young African American girls who were killed in a bomb blast, Sept. 18, 1963, Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo)

Reputable news sources have recently claimed America’s 18-year involvement in Afghanistan is our longest war. Respected historians and authors have argued it was our 25-year commitment in Vietnam.

America’s longest war -- the fight against racism -- actually dwarfs both Afghanistan and Vietnam in length. As our interminable conflict has evolved, so has its lexicon.

Associated deaths are no longer "war casualties," their meaning often blurred by a frenetic, easily manipulated news cycle.

Soldiers, once distinct by their uniforms, are now camouflaged in smug hypocrisy and unctuous guile. Though, occasionally, the less fraudulent troops will openly brandish anachronistic flags and hurl incendiary epithets.

This war’s long ignored, most savagely brutalized casualties were only recently acknowledged, but not with customary flag-draped coffins. Instead, brown steel monoliths hang at a former battle site in belated concession to their suffering. The irony as poignant as it is apparent.

Unwieldy cameras initially depicted the war’s brutality with grainy black and white photos. Ubiquitous cell phones now expose its malice with unsettling clarity.

Battle lines, once shifting and perilous, are now precisely crafted within the safety of state legislatures.

What has endured is toxic and intractable arrogance, which now terrorizes with brazen hostility and subjugates with Machiavellian cunning. Simmering and sublimated resentments erupt on lonely highways and crowded streets, on neighborhood sidewalks and previously safe playgrounds. Their most malevolent expression profanes our most sacred places.

Yet, many victims bear no external scars. Rather, they suffer the indignity of being willfully marginalized and disenfranchised — by limited housing options, at employment interviews, college admission offices, and voting booths — betrayed by and effectively interned in their own country.

Though nurtured by acculturated self-righteousness, America’s longest war was conceived in callous indifference. Tolerance and humility were its first victims. The war many say began April 1861 has yet to claim its last.

Larry McClung, Lincoln

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