Veterans Day celebrates ALL those who served in the military. Memorial Day, which is in May, is the official day to celebrate the country’s war dead.
I have mixed emotions about “celebrating the war dead.” Part of me is patriotic to a fault. I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free….Even though that is one of the corniest songs ever written and many people sing it half-mockingly, I always take it seriously.
I’m a guy’s guy in this country. I’ve blogged before about my patriotism and the fact that I would have enlisted if all of my family, friends, and role models hadn’t advised against it. At this point I still think about the reserves–maybe I could become a chaplain. But at 30 with a wife and child, I don’t want to be shipped off to battle as bad as I did at 20. Still, like the NAACP reminds us, “freedom ain’t free.” War is hell, but apparently, it has been a necessary evil for a long time. In the Old Testament, characters like Joshua and King David had some serious blood on their hands, and these were God’s main leaders. Even though there is a lot of war and bloodshed in the Bible, the Old Testament ends with a message of hope. One day, the prophets prophesy, people will turn their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Less impaling, more farming.
There is no war to speak of in the New Testament. The book of Revelation is certainly apocalyptic, but those are abstract visions of the future. Jesus himself urges us to turn the other cheek. Sounds sort of wussy, I know, but it does work better than vengence killing.
From the time of Jesus, we had crusades, countless wars, technological advances in torture, weaponry, and execution.
All that led us to World War I, which ended 90 years ago today. 20 million casualties. It was the war to end all wars, the said.
That is, until World War II, with at least 50 million people killed. (Those are accepted conservative figures–was it really that bad?) Since then, I’d like to think we’re learning Christ’s non-violent way. Gandhi did it in India. MLK did it here. The only problem with our non-violent leaders is that they tend to die violently. But, they are willing to die, and their causes live on. Think about it: Martin Luther King is marching non-violently down the street to protest an unjust law. They turn fire hoses on him, they beat him, release the dogs on him, cart him off to jail. By not fighting, he makes them look crazy on the six o’clock news. The lawmen are the monsters and the negroes are the upstanding citizens. Next thing you know, we have a black president!
The point is, I love the troops. I don’t know why they are in Iraq or Afghanistan. They probably don’t know, either, they’re just following orders. For all of our military might, there is still a better way. We honor the vets because of what they have done. Even better would be if they never had to do it again.