Sunday, May 29, 2005

THINKING OF MEMORIAL DAY

[Note: Portions of this entry appeared as a "Letter to the Editor" in the Indianapolis Star on Monday, May 30, 2005, Memorial Day]

"MEMORIAL DAY" VS. "VETERAN'S DAY." For anyone who might be wondering: Memorial Day (formerly known as "Decoration Day") honors all who have lost their lives in military service to America. Veteran's Day honors all living military Veterans who have served in an American war. Click here for a brief history/explanation of Memorial Day. I find it valuable to contemplate the likenesses and differences between these two national observances.

MEMORIAL DAY IS NOT A PRO-WAR DAY. Memorial Day observance is not synonymous with being pro-war. Nor do I think conscientious objectors, pacifists, nonviolence advocates, peace seekers, war resisters, or war protesters should yield their patriotism to anyone on such days. Whether or not I think a particular war is justified, or whether or not I think war is a valid approach to resolving international or intra-national conflicts, I can--and do--honor all who have died or served our nation in times of war.

PROFOUND RESPECT. For me, honoring the war dead or the living who have served does not "bless" war or condone violence. For me, it affords an opportunity to express my profound respect for those who have served in war--often involuntarily, often with grave reservations, often in the face of terrible options, often with little awareness of how they were being deployed and for what particular small or great objectives.

WE MUST FIND A BETTER WAY. Simultaneously, these observances afford us an opportunity to contemplate how far we have to go as a nation--and as a human family--in transforming our means of advancing liberty, encouraging democracy, and promoting justice. War--and those whose lives are snuffed out or haunted by it--gives us every indication that we have not yet explored or employed our best intellectual and spiritual resources for addressing conflicts. Every Memorial Day and Veteran's Day is an opportunity to consider: "Given the cost in these precious lives, we must find a better way, not just repeat the past again and again."

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