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 not sing patriotic songs. I will not share 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 conflict and the families who will never again see their loved ones.
But Memorial Day isn’t just to remember the fallen, but also to recognize and support those who returned home but lost a part of themselves in the experience. 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, and I fear this generation may never fully recover.
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 ridiculous flag worship, 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 demanding that peace and diplomacy always be made our first priority, with military action an absolute last resort. Honor them by turning away from our society’s sickening glorification of violence and conflict. Honor them by remembering the value of life, and recognizing that every drop of blood spilled in aggression is an unforgivable sin.