In Memoriam

War is a nasty business. This Memorial Day gives us a chance to remember those U.S. soldiers who have died fighting in wars. This is important. The sacrifice of a life for any cause is a substantial tear in the fabric of creation. Death affects many, and not only those who die. Death affects families, friends, co-workers, and communities. Death affects us all. Death is ugly, horrible, detestable. Let us then commemorate the sacrifice innumerable soldiers have made over the years.

Let us also remember that the reasons soldiers go to war and are willing to lay down their lives are often very different reasons than of those who send them to war. This is not to say every soldier has pure and righteous motives, but the glory of the soldier often hides the duplicitous and dubious goals of the political and economic motivations that seem to underlie every war. Let us not forget the difference.

And then we have the great burden on all of humanity that are wars. That soldiers die is terrible, but non-soldiers die too, and in often far greater numbers. These other members of humanity include children and other innocents. Let us remember them too.

And let us remember that wars are no grounds upon which to build mythologies.

My desire is to know truth, to understand the consequences, and to act in whatever way I can in light of that truth. My hope is that this Memorial Day is more than just remembering, rather I hope we honor the dead by creating a world in which the soldier is a thing of the past.

Death of even one affects us all.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

~John Donne, from Meditation XVII
Memorial day was first enacted to commemorate Union soldiers who had died in the bloody American Civil War.

Battle of Gettysburg aftermath. Dead soldiers in the
wheatfield near the Emmittsburg road; 1863 July.
Photograph by Alexander Gardner.

As I get older I have a harder time seeing war as an adventure to be enveloped with brass bands and waving flags, and my simplistic reverence for war heroes is being replaced by a deeper sense of the tragedy of war and the stunning sacrifices made by those who have fought and are currently in war zones.

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