Thursday, May 26, 2016

Memorial Day

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)
One of my (many) pet peeves is the confusion of Veterans Day and Memorial Day - which plays out all over social media. I mean, I get that it's not a huge issue - maybe in the same category as mixing up there, their and they're. But Veterans Day, which began as Armistice Day to mark the end of the First World War on 11/11 at 11 is a time to honor all of our veterans. Memorial Day honors those who lost their lives. 

Memorial Day goes back to Decoration Day - after the Civil War - as a time to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. I cannot even begin to imagine the world of 1868. We think we are living in polarizing times and no doubt we are. But 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War, roughly 2% of the U. S. population at the time. That's one in fifty persons. Every extended family must have felt that grief, and every town in America. 

Whatever our politics, and regardless of whether we believe a particular war to be justified or not, the men and women who die serving this nation in a time of war deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. As the prayer above puts it, "in the day of decision [they] ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy." We honor them best, however, not by empty rhetoric but with an abiding commitment to freedom. And it's disciplines. 

And, I think, to also work toward that day when war is studied no more, when swords are beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks - that day when our young people are not sent off to die on the battlefield anymore. Or as President Eisenhower once said: 
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. 
May we commit ourselves this weekend to being instruments of peace, for the sake of those
who gave their lives in times of war.