Saturday, July 4, 2015

Prayer for In(ter)Dependence Day

I was able to visit Washington again recently.  We went to Arlington for the funeral of my Aunt.

As I stood there in Arlington with my mother and my daughter and a few distant cousins I had just met, I could not comprehend how many graves there were.  Graves as far as the eye could see. It was huge and it was astounding - the sights and the silence.

The next day we walked.  We walked from the Washington Monument down the hill to the World War II memorial.  We stopped and remembered and told my daughter of my father's service in the Navy.  We found our states - Florida, New Hampshire and South Carolina carved into the rock pillars stretching above the fountain.

We kept walking, through the park making our way to the Vietnam Memorial. The monument was enormous and silent - much more silent than the World War II Memorial with its loud fountains.   I could not help but think that the monument was trying to tell me that making sure we don't need any more meaningful war memorials begins with me.

We continued our walking tour later that afternoon.  As the sun was setting, we walked through the Korean War Memorial.  We looked into the faces of the people who fought that war.    In that solemn place, I could hear and feel George Carlin making real for us the personal toll that war takes not only on the families of the deceased, but also on the survivors themselves.  How “shell shock” was intentionally diluted down to “battle fatigue” and eventually the pain was entire hidden behind a very clinical-sounding “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”. Carved into the wall of the memorial is etched “Freedom is not free.”  I looked into the faces of the monument and I saw “shell shock”, not PTSD.

We were getting tired.  It was getting late.  By the time we walked all the way to the Roosevelt Memorial, it was dark. Like the Korean memorial, it was about the people.  We looked into their faces too.  They were poor and lost and had no part of the cause of their pain and loss. There, carved into the rocks on the side of one of the waterfalls, Roosevelt's words read:
"I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded...I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed...I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war."
Independence is a myth.  We are incredibly inter-dependent.

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