An aspiring pacifist speaks on Veteran’s Day

A trumpet plays Tapps as a casket is lowered into the ground flanked by uniformed men in form, a military cemetery is marked with small flags on every grave, a long bearded homeless man begs in the streets. For many of us, this is what we think of when we remember Veterans Day.636338-flag-and-graves-at-the-delaware-veterans-memorial-cemetary-in-delaware

As an aspiring pacifist, I feel conflicted on Veteran’s Day. I want to honor the individuals who serve with courage, powering through their fears and anxieties to risk their lives for my freedom. I want to throw my arms around them, encourage their healing from the traumas of war, and I feel deeply grateful for the many choices I have because they have served. I know I have the privilege of speaking to this because of the freedoms these individuals have provided for me. So, I do not say this lightly.

I hate war.

I feel an intense instinct to resist the glorification of war and the ways in which it inflicts and perpetuates the brokenness of nearly every aspect of our life together. When we look at systems of power, resorting to violence creates an environment where another use of violence is a central mover in the system. In war, one person’s safety is another one’s demise and the demise of her family, society, and entire well-being. The consequences of war: social structure demolition, innocent deaths, the eradication of environment resources, the implosion of webs of interconnectivity, and fear and trauma begetting (more) fear and estrangement and eventually … another war.

Why is it that we put so much time, energy, and cash into our biggest failure as humankind?

I am only speaking for me. I’m not speaking for the denomination I work for which has a very “sane” just war stance. But I am speaking as one of those crazy ones focused on reconciliation in cultures of violence. We simply must look at systems of violence with a critical eye.

Peace & justice work is intentional, demanding, and sometimes downright exhausting. When it is done well, it can weave light into the fabric of injustice – but often it means untying string to re-weave into to something different and better. We must encourage individuals, structures, and institutions to think both larger & smaller.

We think larger to dissect the systems that break us so deeply we must work for generations to heal. We think larger because of the connectivity of our world, the impact of globalization, and our human tendency to elevate our needs above others’. And, we think smaller because every individual matters. We think smaller because our impact on the world is breath by breath, choice by choice, action by action.

This is not sentimentality. Any more than is our honoring of our Veterans, fallen or living. There is no sentimentality in war. The thing that centers me is that together, all of us, warriors and reconcilers, want a world where our jobs are unnecessary.

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5 Responses to An aspiring pacifist speaks on Veteran’s Day

  1. Wendy Fsher Grimm says:

    I struggle with Veteran’s Day, too. I particularly struggle with the statistics of how many women and men are sexually assaulted by their fellow soldiers and how many of those victims live in fear and silence because of the culture they are a part of. Victims and perpetrators all march in the same parade. I struggle with the reality of what type of young person enlists – not all – but as a last resort of those who do not choose education, employment or reasonable engagement with their local communities. I struggle with the percentage of soldiers who solicit prostitutes, pornography, drugs and alcohol and glorify violence and what to “kill me some…….”. I struggle with the lack of clarity of why some choose to enlist. I struggle with the reality that after is all is said and done – war does seem to be necessary (at times). I long to cling onto an idealistic, All-American ideal of good guys/bad guys and defending the defenseless. Of being a champion of the weak, defenseless – of being a protector; no matter what the cost. That is a parade I can cheer. I can respect the enormity of the “wake up call” for those who had no idea of what they were volunteering for, were caught in, and what it must take to “do you job” under such harrowing circumstances. But I don’t applaud it – I respect it and want to embrace that person, that individual and ask them “what does it mean to YOU?”

  2. Mary Kay says:

    Very thoughtful, Shannie. Such a complex issue! In response to Wendy’s comments I think about my Dad saying that one of the disadvantages of doing away with the draft is that everyone is a professional soldier. Unlike WWII where you had men of all sorts of professions fighting and taking orders–those men could decide an order was idiotic or immoral and they simply wouldn’t obey it. Professional soldiers have much more on the line.

  3. Michael Snow says:

    Originally, Nov. 11 was Armistice Day, remembering when the fighting stopped in WWI. Some great quotes that you may like:

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