There was a bit I caught on the radio this evening about how since the 4th of July is considered a day to celebrate our country's birth, maybe today should be held as a day to grieve, not just a day of cookouts. I do love a good hamburger, though. Anyway, happy Memorial Day, y'all. This is stolen from LesbianDad (source of so many good things), who brought it up from the depths of Democratic Underground. No, I'm neither a Quaker nor a Christian, and yeah, it's long, but read the whole thing.
A Pacifist's Memorial Day Pledge
As a Quaker and a Christian, I have been an anti-war activist since I first carried a black banner of mourning in a Memorial Day parade during the Vietnam war. I lived in a small town full of dyed-in-the-wool supporters of the war and President Nixon, who were shocked and scandalized that I was not joining in as they praised the Lord and passed the ammunition. All I could think of was the brothers, fathers, sons, nephews, cousins over there getting their asses shot off because military contractors couldn’t bear to see their profits go down, and hawkish politicos couldn’t bear to admit they were wrong and take their medicine.
They called me “disrespectful” then. I told them I had plenty of respect for the poor guys getting blown to hell and back, but still more respect for those who were honest enough to tell the truth about the war. That I had little respect for those who believed the lies our government was telling them because it was more comfortable that way, and none at all for the greedy bastards telling the lies to make money or stay in power.
I was not very popular.
In some circles, I’m still not. War is an admission of failure. War never solves problems, it only changes the problems’ nature. In the short run, wars can produce change that looks like resolution, but all they really accomplish is to put off the inevitable. Sooner or later, someone will have to deal with the root causes of the problems; the only question is how many wars do we want to have to delay that necessity?
And wars are always more expensive than addressing the root causes of the problems. We do little to deal with social and economic and political injustice because of the price tag, yet the price tag in lives and dollars of the wars that inevitably result from those injustices is infinitely higher. And the longer we put it off, the higher the price.
Are some wars inevitable? Are some necessary for survival? Is it possible for war to be a lesser evil?
Yes. But only because we first committed the greater evil of ignoring the causes of war. Committing that greater evil can sometimes make war the lesser evil, but all the greater tragedy for that.
We do not live in a perfect world. Not everyone shares my views. Sometimes military action can be part of a solution, when we have already procrastinated too long or been too stingy to solve the problems in their early stages, when non-military solutions are still possible. In an imperfect world, even a pacifist can benefit from the presence of a strong, committed, ethical military, led by men and women of integrity and dedicated only to defending the helpless and being the last resort against tyranny.
I am deeply grateful for the benefits such a military conveys upon me. I know that I would not have the freedom to pursue my pacifist agenda without their strong shield in this dangerous world. How very ironic, isn’t it?
I recognize the unhappy necessity of their existence, and I recognize the individual courage, commitment, and devotion each member of the services has shown to protecting me. In return, I pledge this: I will never rest from my efforts to ensure that every single other solution is tried before sending you into harm’s way. Your willingness to sacrifice your lives for me demands nothing less.
And I pledge this:
To uphold my own commitment to the well-being of you and your families, in gratitude for your commitment to protect me and my freedom.
- I will support fair and generous compensation, including educational and retirement benefits, for your service.
- I will support the highest quality medical care and treatment for you and your families.
- I will support—and demand—that the training and equipment given to every service member is of the highest quality available to ensure their safety on the battlefield.
- I will demand that the elected leadership to whom your commanders are ultimately responsible hold themselves personally accountable for your safety, in all decisions pertaining to sending you in harm’s way.
And I will continue to work, every single day, to advance the skill of humanity to solve our problems without resorting to war.
I shared this pledge once, many years ago, with my father, who was a Marine. He listened, and I thought he would point out how silly and idealistic I was being. There was a funny expression on his face by the time I was done and I thought he was going to tear into me, for sure. For my “disrespect,” maybe, or my “impractical” dreams. I didn’t realize at first that he was trying not to shed tears (because Marines don’t, ya know.)
Finally he said, softly. “Hoo-raw, baby. Semper fi,” and caught me up in a big hug. I miss him so much.
Happy Memorial Day, Daddy. Semper fi, from your pacifist little girl.