Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Promise of peace in war

Unexpectedly, yet not unpleasantly, I ended up at the cemetery yesterday. On Memorial Day, listening to speeches, my daughter's high school band and a very moving round of taps from trumpet players fanned out along the grounds.

After a busy weekend of neighbor-gathering-be-outdoors-in-the-beautiful-weather graduation parties, Lily, Tad and I walked toward Autumn's parade route and staked out a shady spot. I had yet to catch her in a Memorial Parade and for this, her last official marching band gig, I opted to go. I was handed a mini American flag and not quite sure what to do with it. When I spied my parents, I waved it at my dad, a WWII veteran, then I tucked it inside my pocket. I do not love my country before God or even the world. I am grateful to live where I live and be able to safely express a minority opinion. And I feel compassion and gratitude toward veterans and soldiers. I stop short of pride, because then I would be buying into an unjust system. I most certainly am not glad men and women encountered the ravages of war.  I admire their certainty, dedication and service. I grieve for their losses. Losses I witnessed up close a personal a year-and-a-half ago.

Wandering to the Alamo on a warm November day, seeking some peace in the mission and a bit of a history lesson, I got my heart ripped to shreds when I encountered 31 maimed soldiers. A Quaker with pacifist ideals, I felt out of place, but also that Spirit had nudged me there. [read more at http://salonforthesoul.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-mere-tourist.html]

Perhaps, again, it was Spirit that pushed me to join my family at the cemetery yesterday.

I lurked in the background of the band, scouts, officials and soldiers from all eras centered on the empty flag pole. Through branches, I witnessed the flag being raised and heard a lot of words that felt empty for me, all in praise of American troops. I have nothing against American troops, just everything against war.

As the speeches droned on, I moved farther and farther back until I felt comfortable turning around and walking through the graveyard. I landed on four very old stones representing the infants who had been lain there. I heaved and felt a horrendous flash of grief sweep through me. Grief for these infants, American soliders and ALL victims of war from ALL sides. For an instant, I felt a smidge of what God must. Grief over any loss of life, but, especially, when we take each other's through aggression.

Assuredly my feelings were stoked by Sunday's worship and a personal revelation about a Quaker movement that honors all war victims, soldier or not, American or not. There was moving ministry, including a woman who spoke of the German relatives they visited 15 years ago with whom they quickly grew close. Talk of war made conversation uncomfortable until both American and German families recognized the suffering on each side. The elder German said he knew what was happening was wrong, but he had two options: join Hitler's youth or be shot.

The wave I felt yesterday was similar to what I experienced at the Alamo. I cried both times, yet this one I was able to let move through me and not get stuck. And I wondered why it is so important in our culture to put soldiers up on a pedestal after we have taken their humanity, or lives, away. Early, local memorial days paid homage to Union and Confederate soldiers. There seems division even in peacetime remembrances.

This is what came to me in worship:

What are we honoring
with Memorial Day?
    Soldiers who died
    lives cut short
    "our" soldiers
    Still taking sides
    as if we aren't one,
    perpetuating the
        arbitrary lines
              in the dirt
    don't cross, or I'll
    Stirring up more
    than grief or memory –
    false righteousness,
    We act as judge
    condemning, not
        forgiving our trespasses
    And what would our
        slain comrades advise?
        that we continue in
            the vain that robbed them?
    if so, then their lives
        were casualties

If we step back,
taking a longer view,
a small piece of
God's perspective

And open our hearts
to ALL victims,
then these deaths
have meaning
a lesson we 
must learn so
that future Memorial
Days join us in a
universal, unified
toward the peace
promised in the
Kingdom of God

Listen to this post:


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