(Article changed on May 27, 2013 at 11:54)
.My Flag. by Marta Steele
.My Flag. by Marta Steele
Back in third grade, when we kids used to sing songs without thinking much about the words, we were taught one song called "What Shall We Do for Memorial Day?" It ends, "God bless our heroic dead."
I just sang along. Would God hearken to us and bless those fallen patriots? Just American ones? The song suggests red, white, and blue flowers, so evidently so. We always pronounced "an iris, too" as "irish stew," which could, but didn't imply that other patriots, whether enemy or ally, probably deserved similar homage.
What SHALL we do for Memorial Day to make a difference, whether or not the dead consciously receive our homage? Eliminate the source of hideous PTSD and the hideous deaths that cause it? Well, of course.
So we should honor Memorial Day by seeking peace.
But people have been doing this since time immemorial, though one wonders about the really ancient chronicles of war--those condoned by God in the Old Testament and even older ones--made-up chronicles of ancient kings' outstanding victories on battlefields. Those who stayed home were chicken. Wait a minute. Both Odysseus and Achilles tried to avoid conscription into the Trojan War, one by cross-dressing, I believe. But once there, you had to partake of blood and guts either by killing or falling, and each was described by Homer in rapturous detail.
But each victim's past and lineage were also described with rustic, nostalgic detail, invoking the tears that adorned the leafy trees of their homelands and the grief of families left behind, for example. So clearly the Poet had mixed feelings and I call the "Iliad" the greatest antiwar poet of all time, not because he championed peace or heroic values per se, but because he portrayed all sides of the issue in lurid detail, triumph and tragedy simultaneously. "Why follow Agamemnon, king of another place, to avenge his brother's domestic problems?" asked more than one hero. "Why miss the joy of watching my son come of age and why not be there to teach him what's right [heroic values?]?
So the question remains how to wage eternal peace. The Messiah may or may not come, and now would be a perfect venue for his arrival, as would any that involved war. There are amazing, isolated stories where peace prevailed, but they stand out in history. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Not always. Tom Paine inveighed against the Quakers for their pacifism during the American Revolution.
I must be so predictable, ending so many of my articles with "How?" and so I won't this time, leaving the impossible answers to my readers.
This Memorial Day, I will answer my own question the way my twelfth-grade history teacher answered my question, Down South no less, about how to eliminate racism.
"Marta," she said, "one night there has to be a rain over all the Earth, and when we wake up, we'll all be gray."
Good answer, Miss Prim. Truly a wonderful teacher. But can this answer apply to peace? It can reign, when it does, but can it rain over us?
Try again. This is important. Though many would disagree, I believe, the best way to honor our heroic dead is to eliminate the equation between heroism and blood&guts.
We're all God's children, blessed Jesus, as the Bible elsewhere tells us. 1 John, for instance, has " Dear friends, now we are children of God . . ."
If this is becoming tiresome, you may stop reading here, because my conclusion probably won't satisfy you all, because even on OEN it's impossible to preach to such a diverse choir.
Peace starts within us all. But peace meaning not only the absence of war but the absence of war as a permanent solution. I've suggested before that evolution to a higher level is an answer. Human nature is fifty-fifty, and that's that.