Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day - Time For A Different Focus

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. In numerous cities all over the nation, there will be parades and speeches. Bands will play. Military color guards will display their absolute precision in impressive uniforms. Flowers will be laid at the graves of fallen soldiers. Expensive floral wreathes will be placed at public memorials. The American flag will be proudly unfurled for passersby to see. The nation will proudly, somberly -- even tearfully -- mourn the loss of countless men and women whose lives were involuntarily snatched away by the killing machine we call war. Old and young war veterans -- having witnessed more human devastation than any person should -- will be honored, as they remember the horrors they survived, but their buddies did not.

Memorial Day, as it is commonly celebrated, is not working. On the altar of national pride, we continue to sacrifice too-large a percentage of our younger generation. The concept of collateral damage is far too heavy a price to pay. For every military person who physically dies as a result of combat, there are others who die a psychological death. They have broken spirits, broken bodies, or both. Their families relive the nightmare of the reality of war daily.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying suddenly eliminate war. It will not disappear overnight. Yet, we should not consider ourselves morally superior to other nations, just because we are us. Every nation glorifies death in combat. We are disgusted by Muslim extremists who encourage wives and children to become human bombs, yet we do the same. In the name of national service, we call upon our young men and women to serve in active combat zones all over the world during a so-called time of peace, for reasons that have more to do with mineral resources than human resources. This is the same message on the flip side of the coin.

The dead are dead. Instead of celebrating the dead, maimed and broken one day out of the year, why not celebrate the hope that future generations will not engage in war to resolve conflicts? War has proven to be ineffective. We have tried to hide our own ulterior motives behind the so-called necessity for war. We witness the genocide of ethnic peoples in foreign nations and stand silent. We disagree with the politics of nations that hold vast resources of oil, gold, etc., and we invade on the pretext of spreading democracy. Stop the hypocracy!

If we are truly concerned with peace, we must focus on peace. We must concentrate on devising methods of administering peace. We must funnel our efforts, funds and people into developing "weapons of peace." We already have the ultimate weapon. It's called love -- not some weak, flimsy romantic concept of infatuation. Real love is tough, hard and unrelenting. It recognizes the value of every human being. It demands respect, even when people disagree. It refuses to accept wrong for right.

Mahatma Gandhi was effective in his non-violent protests because he had a deep, loving respect for humanity. He recognized the connectedness of one human being for another. He understood that instituted governmental abuse of one people over another is wrong. He defended that principle through non-violence. That type of love for humanity withstood the challenges. It broke Great Britain's rule over India. Love conquered all.

Administering love can be grindingly hard work. It requires that we listen to one another. It acknowledges the truth of our existence -- that even if we don't like the other person's dress, accent or culture, that person is made in the image of God and due our respect. We must meet on the plain of understanding. We can't engage in any kind of successful diplomatic process, unless we're willing to learn one another's perspective and history. If the goal is worthy, the processes to achieve the goal must be worthy, as well.

Maya Angelou made a statement about love that is so true. "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."

I don't know how you feel, but I believe my children, your children, our grandchildren and everyone's are worth the effort to substitute love as the weapon of choice instead of war. Love is THE ultimate weapon of mass transformation. In so doing, could it be, we may yet find...peace?

What do you think?

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