Sunday, November 11, 2007

VETERANS, WAR, & DREAMS OF PEACE
A Veterans Day tribute and a call for discernment regarding war

ARMISTICE DAY - 89 YEARS LATER. Today is the 89th anniversary of Armistice Day, the day Germany surrendered, ending "The Great War." We now observe November 11 as Veterans Day. At least 8,538,315 soldiers died in World War I; there were 37,508,686 total casualties, or 57.6% of all troops deployed by allied and axis forces.

FOR REMEMBRANCE. I've found numerous poems in tribute to those fallen in World War I, but chose the following, called "For Remembrance" by Basil Ebers, to post:

What is it, O dear Country of our pride,
We pledge anew that we will not forget?
To keep on Freedom's altar burning yet
The fires for which a myriad heroes died
Known and unknown, beyond the far sea's tide
That their great gift be no futility.

Faith with the Dead kept through our living faith;
In this alone the true remembrance lies,
The unfading garland for the sacrifice,
To prove their dream of Brotherhood no wraith,
No moment's hope--its birth-pang one with death--
but the fixed goal of our humanity.

HONOR THE WAR DEAD, NOT WAR. A fine line it is, but oh so critical that it be observed and guarded. The line--almost imperceptible when inflamed with hatred toward enemies or drunk with hard-fought victory--will glorify or condemn us. It is the line between honoring the war dead and war itself.

NEVER DREAM OF ITS VIOLENCE. Honor with reverence those men and women who died in battle. Weep and mourn for civilians cruelly caught in the strife. Give due respect for lives laid down in the name of freedom. But never glory in war. Never embrace its horrors. Never savor its torments. Never dream of its violence. Never drink to its return. Never gaze upon its power, lest its illusion seduce you. Lest war lust obsess you. Lest its siren sound lure you into its labyrinthine bowels and you swear allegiance to it, live for it, and your soul die even as you breathe.

NOT ALL WARS ARE EQUAL. Not all wars are equal. A vast majority are not really necessary. This is not so much a reflection on the troops who fought them as it is on those who chose and directed them. The current war in Iraq is an example of an unnecessary war.

VETERAN DREAMS. I know some Veterans and they are men of integrity. Some fought in World War II, some in Korea and some served during the Vietnam conflict. They tell different stories. All are glad to be alive, grieve their lost comrades, and relieved that their service is ended. None I know wish for their sons or daughters the opportunity to fight another war.

A NEW CROP OF HOMELESS VETERANS. I've worked with homeless vets for years. Just when we were getting most of the Vietnam-era Vets connected with counseling, housing, and the costly, life-long resources that are necessary for ones whose minds, emotions, bodies, and souls have been ravaged by war, America starts breeding a new crop soon-to-be homeless Vets. It doesn't take years for Vets returning from doing our government's dirty work to show up in soup lines and missions; think in terms of months. It takes many years, however, to overcome what a few months in front-line action can do.

WAR FINDS A WAY. War always finds some twisted way to justify its own necessity and perpetuation. Once engaged, it plants its gruesome seed then argues for its rebirth in every generation. War is self-perpetuating; few generations can resist it.

ART'S PROMISE AND POWER. Recently, it occurred to me (or at least resurfaced within me) that a way to reveal the hollow way of mammon and violence, and to simultaneously bring light to grace and peace, is through arts and literature. Case in point: the Czech Republic. Political partisanship is getting us nowhere. The evangelical church has lost its witness amid partisanship. But art--the written word, the dramatized situation, the lifted song, and the vision graphically cast--has more power to delegitimate war and cumber, and to bring the possibility of grace into our lives than the currently prevailing methods of choice.

Photo: I snapped this photo during an early-morning visit to the Korean War Memorial

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