This is a big moving season among my friends and family. Upsizing, downsizing, relocating for a new job.
It hard work picturing the future. Lots of photos have been shared, and questions: will that table in the basement fit? What about bookshelves? Anyone have extra lampshades?
Even the birds in my yard are busy building, planning, rearranging. A pair of house sparrows rounded the entrance to their chosen birdhouse. Two great crested flycatchers spent days visiting unclaimed nesting holes, hopping in and out, calling back and forth, flitting from tree to tree.
We all carry pictures in our heads of how the world should be, what's possible, what isn't. Friends who grew up on farms can’t picture themselves in neighborhoods like mine. The neighbors are too close. The yards are too small. Friends who grew up in inner-city Philly enjoy my hammock, the flowers, the peaceful patio, but after a few days find it all too quiet. They can't imagine being so far from the corner bodega. Can't picture how they'd make friends in a place where no one sits on the stoop on a summer evening.
In America, that picture is shaped by war.
At a graduation ceremony this weekend, I listened again to our national anthem:
and the rocket’s red flare,
the bombs bursting in air,
gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there.
Our nation was born through war. Still carries the scars of civil war. Still sees war as an essential component of who we are, who we will always be.
Memorial Day, when I stop to think, makes me uneasy. Our kids march through our leafy streets and stop at the bandstand for speeches honoring those who have died.
It’s right to honor those who have sacrificed for our nation, but I sometimes wonder: do we glorify that sacrifice rather than mourn?
And when do we honor those whose sacrifice led them in a different direction? When do our children march in celebration of those who worked to avert conflict or gave their lives to end disease, build schools, feed the hungry?
I follow a group called Veterans for Peace, begun in 1985 by U.S. veterans concerned about the nuclear arms race and U.S. military intervention in Central America. Since then the group has grown into over 120 chapters around the US, with affiliate chapters in Vietnam, Mexico, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Okinawa, Japan.
The group’s mission is to call attention to the human costs of war, for both those who fight and the civilian victim communities. And to invite world leaders to picture a world where diplomacy, humanitarian aide and education are more well-funded priorities than guns and drones and spies.
Each Memorial Day chapters around the world ask us to remember more honestly, and mourn more fully, the reality of war:
It is natural to first remember those who are closest to us. Many of us have been personally touched by war. But we must also extend that mourning. We must remember the combat veterans, civilian victims, and their families, who are all equally human beings. Honoring and remembering some deaths while ignoring others not only perpetuates war, but also ignores the moral injuries of war, which some now recognize as a significant cause of veteran suicide. This Memorial Day, Veterans For Peace is reminding the public that the human cost of war is more than human soldiers, but also the people who are caught in the crossfire.
“Our message for Memorial Day is to remember all who have died in war and to understand that no one wins,” said Michael McPhearson, Veterans For Peace Executive Director. “There are people who profit from war, mainly those who invest in the defense industry or possibly the oil sector. But the veterans and civilians who survive war suffer for the rest of their lives. And the entire society is robbed of billions of tax dollars which could be spent on jobs, education, healthcare, infrastructure and sustainable energy.”
I’ve posted before about military spending before, and about the call to be agents of peace.
Chapters of Veterans for Peace point out that a strong defense lobby drowns out other voices, even those of military leaders who insist that investments in aide, education and diplomacy would go farther to secure real peace than additional military funding.
According to the Borgen Project, an organization dedicated to ending global poverty,
The Secretary of Defense: Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates emerged as one of the strongest advocates for increased development funding. The former head of the Pentagon repeatedly said that the U.S. can’t win today’s national security challenges with force and military might alone. Gates warned of the “creeping militarization” of U.S. Foreign Policy.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said he would hand part of his budget to the State Department, “in a heartbeat.” Admiral Mullen also said, “U.S. foreign policy is still too dominated by the military, too dependent on the generals and admirals who lead our major overseas commands, and not enough on the State Department.”
The Generals: In March of 2010, fifty retired three and four star generals called on Congress to increase funding for the International Affairs Budget. The Generals noted that investments, non-military tools of development, and diplomacy foster economic and political stability on a global scale. It also strengthens our allies and fights the spread of poverty, disease, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
84% of military officers said that strengthening non-military tools, such as diplomacy and development efforts, should be at least equal to strengthening military efforts.
What would it take for Congress to pass a budget that held defense spending steady and doubled aid and diplomacy?
What would it take for us to picture and work for peace, rather than endorse and support those who profit from weapons and war?
The Borgen Group offers suggestions for impacting budget and policy.
Veterans for Peace offers ideas and events for Memorial Days for Peace.
For my own Memorial Day observance, I’ll be spending time praying about what it means to “seek peace and pursue it.”
Asking God to show me my place in his larger picture of peace.
Other posts about war, guns, peace:
Making Peace: What God's Children Do, March 24, 2013
Guns, God, Mercy, March 10, 2013
Guns and Good News?, Jul 15, 2012
Choosing Life, Jan 27, 2013
Blessed Are the Peacemakers?, Jul 22, 2012
Earth Day Shalom: Ripples of Resurrection, Apr 22, 2012
May, 20, 2012