Today is Memorial Day, and the feeling it brings to me is a deep sorrow for all the generations of the young and strong whose lives were so brief, and the people who loved them left behind. And so I’m thinking about this odd “holiday” when we celebrate deaths and wars with picnics and parades. Of course, our deeper intention is to honor all those who made the greatest of all sacrifices with sadness and respect and appreciation. We say “they paid the price for Liberty” and they gave the ultimate gift a human being can give to “the cause” of freedom.
The cause of freedom? It does seem odd to me that deaths, any number of deaths, could cause freedom. I believe it is important and good to honor those who died, and yet it is hard to honor "the cause." I wish the world could find another way, a kinder way to be free and let others be free too. There are reasons, I know. History repeats itself over and over, until we finally learn.
In the countries of the free world, we are so incredibly blessed. It is natural and noble that we would want to bring those blessings to all people, all over the world. We enjoy more sanity and more safety than so many others, whose normal daily surroundings contain killing and dying and uncertainty. There are places where the people live in constant fear that at any moment, some of the horror around them will strike them too. That a roadside bomb will blow off their children’s legs, or a suicide bomber will mutilate and kill any random group of people, anywhere, just going about the everyday business of their lives. This is a way of life that is almost unimaginable.
Even though I know that all of us have chosen our lives and circumstances either knowingly or unknowingly, it deeply troubles me that so many would choose that way of life and death. This choice is usually centered around religious or political ideals and beliefs. Killing and destruction “for God” and “for the faith” and "for The Cause of _______" (fill in the blank) has gone on for thousands of years, and still we have not learned its lesson. Sadly, I know it will continue to go on until all of us together recognize that this is not the highest and best way to spend our lifetimes here. In the meantime, there are still a great many who sincerely believe it is.
The essence of that belief is separateness; that there is more than one God, and that "our" God (whoever we are) is the good God, and all the others are evil, bad Gods. And further, the belief that God needs us to kill each other, to protect Him.
This “way-of-death” instead of life cannot be ended by wars, as thousands of years of wars have already shown us. It cannot be ended by the forceful intervention of other societies and political systems. It will only end when te people who have chosen it come to a point of decision within themselves, that affirms clearly and absolutely “We don’t want to do this any more.” and then stand firm in that commitment. “We don’t want to build our lives around the edges of mine fields, and we don’t want to commit suicide in the insane drama of "murder for God." We don’t want to BE insane anymore. Now this will end.”
And where is God in all this? Watching patiently as we learn.
My Dad had a saying, when I was a little kid learning about life. “There’s at least two ways to do anything” he would say, “the right way, or the hard way.” We seem to have chosen countless different “hard ways” for bringing about peace and freedom in our world, and still not found “the right way” even though the majority of the word’s people do want peace and enough freedom to have a natural happy life.
The right way, when we find it, will not be steeped in rigid religious or political rules and traditions, and it will not be bought with revenge. Those are obviously a wealth of sources for all the wrong ways we have tried so far. The right way will more likely be based profoundly on forgiveness, tolerance, fairness, inter-relational respect, and commonsense. These are things that must begin within, in hearts and minds; because that's where the real power is. These are things that cannot be dropped on people or countries like bombs.
After wars of revenge for thousands of years, when is it enough? We cannot ever discover now who fired the first shot. What must be done now is to decide to make the last shot anybody fired a moment ago, the Last Shot. The right way, when we find it, will simply be the way that allows each and all of us to worship our personal God, and have dominion and responsibility over own own life, and nobody else's, respecting everybody’s right to the same.
But meanwhile, life goes on, and many countries send money and planes and trucks and troops to “kill the killers” without really noticing that we have become them, and so the dance of death continues. Wars only perpetuate wars.
There is an old saying “You’ve got to fight fire with fire.” As absurd as this actually is, it is still a popular saying, even though everybody in the world knows– You CAN’T fight fire with fire; you fight fire with WATER, because that’s what actually works. Adding more fire, very obviously, just makes more fire.
What is the water for war? The clear answer is love and respect, but you can’t just drop a few thousand tons of love onto an embattled city as easily, or as spectacularly, as you can drop bombs and rockets and fire. It wouldn’t make the feature story on the 10 o’clock news without any blazing explosions and gory photographs.
The truth is clear: There is nothing anyone can bring from the outside that will end war. War is created in the hatred of human hearts and the insanity of the human minds who have chosen it. It is those hearts and minds that must change, and when they do, war will end in an instant. In the meantime, their ideas spread and multiply, and are spotlighted on every newscast at dinner tables around the world.
Someday we as a human race will decide. Many of us already have. We as individuals will take back our mental and emotional and financial investment in wars and needless deaths, and remove our support from them. A child said it best, in the anti-war movement of the 70's. "What if they gave a war and nobody came?"
The driving energy of war is fear. I believe that most of the people who support wars do it not because they believe in the process, the rightness, or the usefulness of war, but because they are afraid not to. They are afraid that if we don’t go out into the world and kill the bad people, they will come over here (wherever “Here” is on the globe) and kill us, or take away our freedom and our safety.
They are already here. The world is connected now by instantaneous global communications. All the insane ideas of the world are propagated in every private home, in children's toys and computer games, on TV news, movies, and even commercials. Only a few days or weeks after some monstrous rape and murder of an innocent child, the copy-cat crimes begin to multiply and show up on TV too. Insane ideas have become so common that they seem almost acceptable and normal to many of us. They have actually become entertainment.
The world is a small planet we all must share. There is now no place on the earth that is not here. Ideas are running the world, and only ideas can save it. There can be faith and belief in honesty, honor, generosity, the strength of God within, and the family of humankind. Or there can be faith and belief in greed, external power, destruction, helplessness, and separation. Be aware of which ideas you are accepting, mentally and spiritually, without really noticing.
Even though He could not have foreseen the world as it is today, more than two thousand years ago Jesus of Nazareth told us “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” We are neighbors, whether we realize it or not; we are one single race, one single family. Whether we have acknowledged it or not, it is true.
I believe that a day will come when global communication will become so complete that everyone will know what everyone else is doing, immediately. That is when wewill finally say, to a great many of the ways-of-the-world, “We will not do this any more.” And mean it.