Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Somehow, it's fitting that tonight I held a small memorial service for my grandma. A close friend and his family visited Kansas City. My friend performed some prayers and said a few words about grandma. The point wasn't a gathering of people, I've had that through various close friends and family. The point was ceremony.

The day before, I watched the Phoenix land with a small group of people. And the night before that, I went to a party held by my adopted sister. This weekend on a whole has led me to think about my life, the lives of those around me, and what I want out of the world. What strikes me most is the substance of the past few weeks. As a society, I think we sometimes loose track of the important things. And then, I realize what today is.

I believe our country is sick. A festering illness is rotting away our very core. On Memorial Day, we choose to remember those that have given the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we hold dear. And yet, as a people we have taken those freedoms and spat upon them. The illness lies in our own ego and pride - the belief that we are always right. It hops into our churches and courthouses. It sinks into our speech.

In Iraq, our forces fight to 'bring freedom to the people'. What strikes me though is that I'm not sure we remember what freedom is. Freedom is not a form of government. Freedom is a way of thinking. Freedom is self-determination. The Founding Fathers of our country recognized freedom, and attempted to form a government that would foster an environment for freedom. How can we bring freedom to another people when we ourselves have forgotten it?

Our attitude toward freedom is only one among many symptoms though. Freedom is just one of many basic rights. In forgetting it, we forget our responsibilities to others which allow us to remain free. That failure of responsibility manifests itself in our lack of decency and respect for human dignity.

Churches have become havens of hypocrisy, espousing a message that condemns abortion as murder, yet supporting politicians that would ignore the right of the poor to basic health care. We condemn human rights abuses in China, but currently rank near the top for executing prisoners. Not to mention the current debate as to what does or does not count as torture. We allow debt collectors and creditors to encourage enormous debts of stupid children and then turn and collect from them until they die.

As a country, it is time to turn back to the things that made us great. When facing a powerful opponent, this country once chose to demonstrate our ability instead of only poking the bully. And on July 21, 1969 the results of that demonstration became clear. Man walked on the moon. In that moment, the world took a collective gasp and all realized their humanity. The biggest blows in the cold war were not military victories or defeats. They were the battles for the minds and imaginations of people.

Sadly, preachers, politicians, and schools continue to espouse egoist messages and hate. The current war is not about bringing freedom to the middle east - it's about forcing a people to move to our government, convert to our religion, and give us their oil. We are taking a valuable opportunity to lead the world and frontiers of science and instead focusing our resources on imperialism.

So, on this Memorial Day, I remember the soldiers, and hope that we also remember our humanity.

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