Last Memorial Day, I wrote about my cousin – a Marine stationed in Afghanistan. A lot can change in a year, but by the same token, much stays the same. Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, over 1,500 American soldiers have died (according to stats on Wikipedia.) By the grace of God, my cousin is not one of them. He came home before Christmas last year. Unfortunately, he will be in Afghanistan for another tour later this year.
In this post, I will not venture into political territory, because I am unarmed and ill-equipped to stroll through that minefield. I also choose not to analyze past events to discern who is “right” or “wrong,” because judging is exactly what I want to do less of. What fascinates (and sometimes frightens) me is our human nature.
Since Memorial Day is a designated day to remember men and women who died during military service, it started me thinking about conflicts throughout history. Wars are fought for two main reasons: to protect or gain power and defend or spread religious beliefs. This may be an over-simplification, but that’s how my mind works best.
In college, I took a few Religions classes to round out my degree requirements, so I have an awareness of some spiritual beliefs other than Christianity. My knowledge is about as deep as icing on a sheet cake, so I won’t claim to know the ins and outs of every religion, but I don’t remember hatred being the basis of any of them.
This is why I feel the lust for power drives most conflicts, even when defense of a religious belief is claimed. Greed remains anonymous because no one wants to call it what it is. The conflict must be justified – and surely God (or the spiritual leader) would approve of defending and spreading the word.
I wonder if the world would be a different (read: better) place if we were more in tune to the weaknesses of our human nature and committed ourselves to strength training. Instead of allowing pride, entitlement and defensiveness to rule our actions, what if we gave humility and understanding a chance? Instead of assuming a wrong was done to us intentionally, what if we gave the benefit of the doubt that the slight was accidental? Instead of suspicious doubt, maybe we could draw on our faith and risk trust.
I know I’m a dreamer. Thousands of years of history point to our inability to overcome our weaknesses. No one is willing to be the first to lay down the sword (or disarm the nuclear firearm) because the consequences are too great. The irony is, that in destroying the enemy, everyone is destroyed.
So, until my dreams of peace come true, I will continue to reflect on Memorial Day. I will think of those families who have lost loved ones in war. I will pray that my cousin does not become a casualty of human weakness. I will appreciate the freedom I have to write and publish these words without fear –all because of the men and women who have fought to make this a right for citizens of the United States of America.
I’d love to read your thoughts about Memorial Day and/or human nature – please feel free to share 🙂