veteran's day 2007
I am awash in complex emotions this morning.
I feel grief for our veterans—for their loss of limbs, or peace of mind, or their lives.
I feel relief that it wasn’t me;
and a little shame at admitting that.
I feel angry that we’re in Iraq at all,
and that it has distracted from a more defensible mission in Afghanistan.
I feel anger that we did not,
and still are not,
doing more to bring them all home.
I feel shame that I have not done more.
I feel gratitude that I live in a democratic republic
with more freedoms that most human beings.
I feel angry that “defending our freedoms” has become such a cliché,
an empty phrase used to defend the most ridiculous abuses.
I feel anger that “support our troops” is also an empty phrase,
usually requiring us to send even more troops into harm’s way
while simultaneously cutting benefits to veterans and their families.
I feel anger that our civil liberties have been eroded,
taken from us in the guise of “national security.”
I feel anger and shame that we haven’t done more to prevent that.
I feel defensive about criticism from the left—
that I should preach only pacifism and nonviolence
instead of saying that some wars are just.
I feel despair that our U.S. troops will be occupying Iraq
well into the next President’s term,
whoever that may be—
and the next, after that.
I feel grief for all the families in Iraq and Afghanistan
and a hundred other countries where superpowers—
nations or corporations or just powerful individuals—
battle over our world’s resources,
and our human cousins feel the worst of it.
I feel anger that our country,
once a shining example of the best society and highest ideals
that we humans could create,
is now the biggest bully on the international neighborhood,
even now looking for a pretext to start *another* war
and populating secret prisons and torture chambers.
I feel anger that the politicians are on the TV news programs today
talking about how they appreciate and honor the sacrifices of our veterans—
many of whom they sent into war in the first place!
I feel gratitude for all of the difficult and dangerous and deadly things
that so many veterans did,
because the felt it was their duty,
to their country or to their fellow humans
So, you might say I’m ambivalent about Veteran’s Day.
Each of us is fighting the good fight, in the theater of our own lives.
We are all veterans of many skirmishes,
physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual.
We have all been wounded by something in our past
and we all wear invisible medals
for sometime, somewhere
when we went above and beyond
what we thought we could do.
On the 11th day of the 11th month,
we honor the human spirit of perseverance
exemplified by our veterans—
and the echoes of that spirit in all of us.
So may we be.