If there is a sin superior to every other, it is that of willful and offensive war. Most other sins are circumscribed within narrow limits…but he who is the author of a war, lets loose the whole contagion of hell, and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.
-Thomas Paine, The Crisis Number V (1778)
I will not share in the jingoism and nationalism exhibited by others on days like today. I will sing no patriotic songs. I will share no banal images celebrating our military. I will not cover my home in flags. This is a day of remembrance, of mourning, and of healing. On Memorial Day we remember the costs and evils of war, and how very precious is peace. While our warmongering politicians barrel ahead with bellicose threats of aggression, we honor those lost in battle and the families who will never again see their loved ones.
But Memorial Day isn’t just to remember the fallen. We also remember the often-overlooked survivors who, though they were able to return home, lost parts of themselves in the depths. These wounded souls must carry on each day, coping with memories of things that “should never happen under God” – memories those of us who have not seen war can never understand or even imagine. They too died in a fashion on the battlefield, for they are no longer the same person who left home. A recent study determined that an average of 20 US veterans die from suicide each day, many from the inability to cope with their traumatic experiences. This period of endless war and its long-term effects on our society will truly be a dark blot on our nation’s story.
Every life lost to war is a life cut short; a bright light of potential snuffed out. Someone’s father, someone’s sister, someone’s child. We may take pride that such people lived, but to celebrate such sacrifice is shameful. Honor them. Honor them not with hollow words and meaningless flag waving, but by striving to make war a distant memory. Honor them by reversing the tide of interventionism and militarism that has taken hold of our society and our government, mocking their precious sacrifice. Honor them by remembering the value of life, and recognizing that every drop of blood spilled in aggression is an unforgivable sin.