The intimacy that arises in listening and speaking truth is only possible if we can open to the vulnerability of our own hearts. Breathing in, contacting the life that is right here, is our first step. Once we have held ourselves with kindness, we can touch others in a vital and healing way.
'Only when we work for the day when the US is no longer the world leader in war,' writes Quigley, 'will we have the right to pray for peace on Memorial Day.' (Photo:Shawn Harquail/flickr/cc)
Memorial Day is, byfederal law, a day of prayer for permanent peace. But is it possible to honestly pray for peace while our country is far and away number one in the world in waging war, military presence, military spending and the sale of weapons around the world?
The world's leading war maker marks another Memorial Day, ostensibly a day of prayer for peace that too often betraysthose"not fallen but pushed" in ourceaseless wars.Among others, Howard Zinn long cited the day's "hypocritical patriotism" andurged,"Let us not set out on the same old drunken ride to death." Fiercely echoing him long before was MarkTwainand SiegfriedSassoon; later have been theveteransofVietnam,Iraq,Afghanistan. Perhaps the most anguished call "for these who die like cattle"camefrom World War One's Wilfred Owen, killed a week before the Armistice. In his "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and "Dulce et Decorum Est," thought to have been written between October 1917 and March 1918, Owen savagely took on the "old lie" that, in the Latin source, "It is sweet and right to die for your country."
DULCE ET DECORUM EST
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind. Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime... Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.
We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere... A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.