Originally uploaded by Daniel Greene.
…of all those who have died in service to the United States of America.
I almost kept this post to just that first sentiment, “In memory of all those who have died in service to the United States of America.” But that would be too safe. And I can imagine being criticized for copping out and pandering to blind patriotism.
Yet I know that many Americans’ patriotism is not blind at all, but rather… forgiving. I am reminded of a story my Granny Greene recounted. She spoke of a woman she had known who worked for the USO during World War II. She said, “When you walked by a young man in the canteen and he patted your fanny, you just smiled and kept on walking. That’s patriotism!”
And that’s what many of us do– smile and keep on walking. We know that countless men, and now women, have died in battles we wish had never begun. We know that the current war is not a popular war (and I use the word “popular” not only in the sense of “well liked” but also “of the people” because many American know that this is not our war, but a war waged by politicians either we didn’t vote for or we regret voting for). And we know that some people make it hard to be proud to be an American. And yet we forgive these deaths, these wars, and these people. We smile and keep on walking. We are proud to be American not only because of everything that is American, but in spite of things we might not quite approve of.
I believe we have more reasons to be proud of our country than to be ashamed of it. And we must always remember that no matter whether or not we believe in war, our countrymen and countrywomen who have died in wars deserve our gratitude and our honor. We cannot know what it is like to fight in wars unless we have fought in them. But we can remember the inestimable value of every human life and have the deepest respect for each individual who gave his or her life for America.
And let us not allow patriotism to blind us to the value of each and every human life lost on the other side as well. Our enemies are not necessarily evil, at least not down to every last person who has fought us in honor of their country. We must remember the fallen not only here, but there as well. We must force ourselves to have some compassion for the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons who have lost their beloved family members to these wars.
And we must work toward peace for our sake and for theirs.