Life Code

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, recognizing all the armed services members who died in war. I feel a complex mix of pride, gratitude, sadness, shame, and guilt. The cultural story that we have is these men and women made the "ultimate sacrifice" to defend this "great nation" of ours. Certainly this cultural story fits the life story of some of those who died. I'm mindful, however, that a sacrifice is something willingly given. Not all who served served willingly. Some were drafted. Some were fleeing poverty or other life circumstance. Some served in conflicts they wanted no part of. How many of these "sacrifices" were coerced, stolen by the machine of the military and political ambition?

And the greatness of our nation is similarly complicated. The United States is certainly "great" in the sense that it's powerful. In many respects, I'd also say that it's great in the sense of being worthy of emulation. We're also worthy of criticism. There are many areas where we have work to do and could learn from others.

My unease about the holiday is that it's so nationalistic. Yes, we should remember the dead and what they did for us, beneficial or not. The planet is covered in the dead; those who died in wars and for a myriad other reasons. I want the United States to be a vibrant, successful country with healthy, happy citizens. And I want that for every other country. Many of our most pressing problems are global problems whose solutions will require cooperation amongst people. Yes, we should remember the dead of our nation. More urgently, however, we should remember that we are all one global family.