During the Vietnam war protesters declared that the deaths of all those fighting in South East Asia were pointless and foolish, and they were right.
During that same war, thousands in the military fought, died, and lost those they loved for the declared purpose of protecting the world from the power of evil men, and they were also right.
Memorial day is supposed to be a day to honor something simple, those that had died in war. But of course, the war that it was started to commemorate (the American Civil War) was anything but simple. Just like the Vietnam war, or World War II, we paint wars as simple battles between good and evil.
- The noble North and the racist South
- The narcissist Nazi’s and the savior allies.
- The communists and the capitalists
But war and life is never that simple.
For those who died, many fought for something they believed in, others fought out of fear of being labeled cowards or traitors, others fought in pursuit of glory, and others after being compelled by the government. And of course, this is true for both sides
War, like life, is full of nobility and complexity. We want there to be simple lines of black and white. Right and wrong. But there rarely are, at least on the level of a single person.
And so on this day as we remember those who died in wars, good and bad (and in truth always a bit of both), let us remember that for each son and daughter that died, there were those who loved them.
Let us remember that even in the worst parts of humanity there is more often than not a thread of love and hope. Let us memorialize that and then choose to see this in the humans we go to war with inside our own minds, on political posts on social media, and in the traffic we fight on our way to work.
This is a practice truly worthy of those who died and even more so, of those who lived.