"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
Ask ten people what Memorial Day is about and you'll probably receive ten different responses. Mentioned are claims of 'recognizing those who have served and fallen in defense or service to their country,' 'identifying patriots who unselfishly answered the call,' and 'acknowledging the heroes of battle.' A common theme encountered in the discussion is remembrance. But, what else should be remembered? Are there not other aspects of war that need remembering?
Remember the architects of perpetual conflict, the schemers and tacticians who design the strategy, chart the acts of aggression, and lay the blueprints for other's destruction.
Remember the plague of nationhood that infects the innate free spirit of men, disrupts the natural order of peaceful exchange and fuels the slavish obedience to political orders; regardless their legality or morality.
Remember the irresponsible who jump at the opportunity for conflict, forgetting reason, composure, and diplomacy. Remember how they delegate to others the duty to lead the engagement.
Remember the Masters of War who profit from this heinous spectacle- those who gain power and tarnished wealth. Watch them flaunt their booty paid for with the bloody currency of children not their own.
Remember the cheerleaders who urge on 'their' warriors with shouts of jingoistic fervor; yet refuse or find it unnecessary to give up their comfort of state side security.
Remember those who have witnessed, first hand, the horror of battle and tasted the acrid flavor of war's experience.
Remember those who discover an epiphany, a life changing understanding that war is not the glorious adventure of Hollywood imagery, not the youthful pastime of an entertaining video game.
Remember those of this group who then fail to warn others of this newfound knowledge, who fail to convince compatriots of the needless sacrifice and stolen innocence.
Remember those on the sidelines who do not obey their conscience to speak out against the carnage, who hold their tongues through shyness or cowardice; who stand by silent as family, friends, and neighbors are whisked off to their inevitable doom.
Remember the children who witness war and its atrocities. Remember the confusion within young minds told killing is wrong, than struggle to comprehend the exception of war.
Remember their bewilderment when told to accept the killing of strangers that have done them no harm.
Remember the irreconcilable conflict within the hearts of Christians whose testament instruct 'love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.' and 'If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also (Luke 6:27-29)' Remember their befuddlement when finding serving their state (be it the U.S.A and/or Israel) requires disregarding these principles. Remember the ideological clash when told serving their 'country' preempts faithfulness to their God.
Remember the broken bodies and shattered psyches, still with us to remind us of war's human cost. Remember the lost potential, the dashed dreams, the oceans of shed tears, the newly discovered war against desperation and hopelessness.
Yes, remember the fallen, the dead. Visit their resting places with solemn respect. Make note of their obscenely abundant and escalating numbers.
Remember that each grave has a face, a story, a soul represented by that slab of coldly etched stone or weathered cross.
Then, remember the graves throughout the world without adornment of a marker- a name, an individual, sentenced to a burial of eternal anonymity. Don't the numbers now grow exponentially? Some were enemies, some were allies. Remember they also once walked the earth as those you honor. Remember they also aspired to a life of peaceful contentment, though driven by a different philosophy or creed as a means to obtain it.
Remember how, when living, all sides were compelled by opposing views of righteousness but now all are colleagues in death.
Do not only grieve for their loss but remember the lies and liars that killed them.