“Even though we’ve divided ourselves into enemies and allies, both sides have good people. Reasonable people.”
– Aina Sahalin & Shiro Amata, Mobile Suit Gundam: The 8th MS Team
Episode 8, “Duty and Ideals”
Aina and Shiro are from opposite sides of a bitter war. But at this point in the story, they’ve come together twice to save themselves and each other. This has been noticed now, and they are being interrogated by the people they answer to. Though they are in different places, and in slightly different circumstances, they are saying the same thing, beginning with this quote and culminating in a hope for peace.
For as long as there has been war, there has been a need to dehumanize the enemy. It has not always been much of a stretch, given how inhumane people can be. Conquering hordes have been rightly infamous for burning homes and sanctuaries, stealing gold, food, and other goods, tormenting their fallen, helpless victims, and most especially for the violation of women and girls. And that’s skirting around even more monstrous acts of cruelty and barbarity which would make even the forces of Hell shrink back in shock. With such awful truth made bare throughout history, it is small wonder how easy it is to see an enemy as a monster, and how needful it has been, as well, for how else can ordinary men slaughter them as they need to?
And yet, history also makes manifest that “the enemy” is every bit as human as oneself. Warriors of every age have shown each other a measure of honor even as they have fought to the death. Mercy has been granted, unlikely friendships and alliances have been forged, and some of the most dangerous, blood-soaked armies in the world have held themselves to certain codes of conduct. And the greatest, most stalwart soldiers of today have as their backbone a code of integrity which enables them to be brutal when needed, and then to swallow it all and move on to live in peace.
Even in the Hell of war, it seems, people have tried to be better than their base nature would make of them.
The enemy may be monsters, but not all monsters are evil. Dangerous, yes, but not evil.
This truth is what holds back some of mankind’s most savage impulses. Indeed, it is often when people forget this, forget that their foes aren’t evil, that they descend themselves to commit the very same depraved acts of cruelty, barbarity, and evil which they see their enemy as being guilty of. After all, if the enemy is all evil, then surely it is no evil thing to destroy them, right? To do to them as they have done to others, and worse? That’s supposed to be a good thing when the enemy is evil, isn’t it?
Ah, but it is not.
Not only because two wrongs do not make a right, and not only because one cannot commit atrocities without staining oneself, with no regard for one’s justifications, but also because, quite simply…
Both sides have good people.
And, yes, they have evil people, too. But it is the goodness that we have a harder time remembering, and greater need to remember on occasion.
Whatever the conflict, both sides are just… sides. Nothing more than sides, with strengths and flaws, pros and cons, good people and bad people.
We’re all just people, in the end.