Memorial Day

Rev. Meredith Garmon

It is the Memorial Day weekend. So let us remember.

I know that many of us are conflicted about glorifying war, violence, and nationalism.

Many of us are cognizant that courage and heroism and sacrifice are found in all vocations. And that, for example, teachers, nurses, social workers, and employees of nonprofits serve and protect our nation’s thriving as much as soldiers do.

I know that many of us believe that US war-fighting has had less to do with preserving freedom than with preserving corporate profits, and that anyone volunteering for armed service must know that, or should. Whatever your beliefs about that, let us remember our fallen warriors.

Let us remember our loss -- the young lives, jewels of their families and their communities, that were taken from us. Let us remember, and discern what meaning we can from of our loss, for, as Archibald MacLeish says:
The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.
They say: We were young. We have died.
Remember us.
They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.
They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.
They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours,
they will mean what you make them.
They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say,
it is you who must say this.
We leave you our deaths.
Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say.
We have died; remember us.
Remembering, then, let us re-commit to building and strengthening institutions of peace, that none of our children’s children will be remembered by the generations following them for having died in war.

1 comment:

  1. “Let us remember our fallen warriors.” OK, but what does that proposal even mean? Not much, I’d suggest. Not, that is, unless we can say what we actually DO by remembering, what actual difference it makes whether those warriors are remembered or forgotten? Unless we have a clear answer to that question, then I’d suggest that we literally do not know what we’re talking about when we suggest that our warriors should be remembered.

    Remembering might mean, for instance, that we build more memorials like Maya Lin’s breathtaking Vietnam memorial wall on the mall in Washington. But beautiful as that memorial is, potent though it is in bringing tears to our eyes and sobs to our throats, what does it mean that we have it there?

    Again, I’d say, not much-—maybe nothing at all, unless we actually DO something differently because we have experienced it. Short of that, I’d say, we are not really remembering; we are merely disguising our forgetting. Which is even worse than forgetting frankly and straightforwardly, because it adds hypocrisy to inaction.

    The meaningless of “Remember our fallen warriors” is never more evident than when we consider the various outcomes that are proposed for our remembering. Some might say, “I remember them, and therefore I take up the torch they have dropped and enlist myself in the war they couldn’t finish.” Plausible enough, I suppose. But someone else might say, “I remember them, and therefore I utterly refuse to be party to warfare again—-I’ll refuse to serve, I’ll urge others to do the same as long as I have breath to speak. Perhaps I’ll stand unarmed before advancing tanks, like that anonymous hero of Tiananmen Square.”

    But notice this: If “remember our fallen warriors” can mean both of those things, then I’d say it in truth means nothing at all. It ends simply in contradiction, empty of content.

    So I’d suggest we stop with the platitudes, and start with action. My own preferred action would have more in common with the protesters in Tiananmen Square than with the next battalion of troops shipped out to fight in the quagmire we mysteriously call “the Middle East.” (“Middle” of what? “East” of what? Seems we can’t even say clearly where or in which direction we go to fight!)

    But whatever action you may wish to advocate in the name of “remembering the fallen warrior,” please, at least, advocate it specifically and clearly. Otherwise don’t kid yourself—-or the rest of us—-that you’re advocating anything. Or remembering anything.