Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Honoring the Fallen

The radio this morning brought news of legislators in Arizona seeking to illegalize the use of the names of soldiers killed in action for purposes designed to stop the war. The offenders would be war protestors who wear T-shirts with the names of military victims on them.

This is a fairly sticky issue because the effort grew from the anguish of parents who have lost sons or daughters and who feel that use of their names in protesting the means of their deaths will demean the value of their sacrifice.

I can understand their feeling that way. No one would want to think that their child died for naught. Parents who want this law undoubtedly continue to support the war, and most of them, I am sure, feel that if they didn’t continue to do so, the pain of loss would be magnified.

As one who has both served in the military and protested this war, I think I can empathize with these folks to a great extent, and I’m sure I can’t say much that would ease their anger over this issue. However, I also believe that this kind of legislation is inappropriate.

I have participated in ceremonies during which we read the names of the fallen, but I have never known a protestor who acted out of disrespect for a fallen soldier. In fact, the protestors I know are deeply grieved by the loss of each life that war takes. I know, too, that a great many people have trouble grasping the concept that protest is designed to honor those who gave their lives. The willingness to risk one’s life for his fellow man is certainly noble. “No greater love hath a man than this; that he lay down his life . . .”

The protestor does not devalue the fallen soldier even though he does demean the cause for which he died. In fact, his grief for that loss is heightened by the knowledge that this young person should never have been placed in danger. We honor those who serve, but rail against a culture that doesn’t offer clear alternatives to military service as a way to serve the country and the world.

Most of us believe that war is practiced far too often and could usually be avoided. Most of us believe that WWII was a war that had to be fought, but precious few, if any, conflicts since then fit into that class, and we believe that America could stand on much higher moral ground if we quit glorifying the sacrifice of our young people’s lives in favor of glorifying more humanitarian efforts.

Just think what we could have done if we had used the billions of dollars we’ve thrown into the fires of Iraq to fund the willingness of those fine people who died there in more positive, less destructive pursuits.

Who will be the next terrorist, the son whose father we kill, or the father whose son we feed?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

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