Memorial Day

A friend told me she had seen a very young man in a soldier’s uniform outside the bank, with an older woman who was probably his mother.  It made her very sad, even though the mother might have been proud of her son.  Her story made me think of the line in Goodnight, Saigon about “We were so gung-ho to lay down our lives.”

I personally think there are many better ways we could be spending our money and our manpower.  The words of President Eisenhower continue to be relevant: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

I also think of the piece Dilys wrote in her answer to my plea for help in trying to deal with multiple issues that needed addressing.  I felt like I was trying to move a mountain of sand grain by grain, and had no sense of achievement.  This was the core of what she said, its formal language makes me feel supported by generations of Quakers who worked untiringly for freedom, for peace, for justice.

“When society has fed and housed the poor and nursed the sick, and when it has educated the disenfranchised and offered them a useful place in the economy of mankind; when the brilliant and advantaged have been educated for responsibility rather than for personal gain; when no one is standing around rejected while others feel themselves over-entitled; when war has been renounced and its instruments disassembled, only then will it be possible for us to consider whether our struggles offer us any sense of worldly success compatible with our convictions.”

I continue to read it again and again, it’s on my desk as I type.  It keeps me going when a progressive candidate loses an election, when a bill to stop air pollution gets gutted to please the special interests, you know what kinds of things I mean.  Then I think, we’re not here to just win a particular election, we’re here for the long haul, and this huge vision is what we are really working for.  Nothing less.  “When war has been renounced and its instruments disassembled…” That’s what I’m working for, and if it doesn’t happen in my lifetime, that doesn’t matter, I won’t stop.

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