MEMORIAL DAY: GRIEVING, KILLING, OR PRAYERFUL ORGANIZING?
Memorial Day was created to mourn the dead of American wars: "That these dead shall not have died in vain; that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
The people of the United States have spoken clearly. This war is indeed "of" us – it is our young who are dying, losing eyes and legs and genitals and minds and souls. It is our schools, our firefighters, our levees, our health care, that are robbed and starved to pay its monstrous costs.
But this war is not by us, and not for us. Our soldiers are dying bravely to veil the cowardice of those who govern us. Our peoples – American and Iraqi – are suffering so those who govern us can celebrate their arrogance, their stupidity, their greed. Their idols.
The President and Congress of the United State have just now, on the very cusp of Memorial Day 2007, chosen to celebrate it not by mourning the dead but by killing more of them.
What shall we do?
Mourn, pray, organize.
Pray in the way Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught us: "Prayer is useless unless it is subversive, unless it shatters pyramids ."
Organize the way he taught us as he marched for justice and for peace: "I felt as if my legs were praying."
During the past month, we at The Shalom Center have been working with The Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah – Jews, Christians, Muslims – and with the leaders of the great church, mosque, and synagogue bodies of America, to imagine and plan a moment this fall for us to begin again.
To turn from conquest to community, from violence to reverence, from our old and arrogant celebration of the "discovery" of America by Columbus to the self-discovery of our best selves by our true selves.
To lower the barriers that separate our different faiths so that we can join with each other to fast in self-reflection, celebrate together the Infinite Unity that connects us, call out for an end to this war, to torture, to the celebration of grotesque violence that corrupts our media, to abusive violence in our homes and communities, to the rain of bullets in our streets and schools.
This month of discussion is beginning to bear fruit. Soon we will be able to share the Call that is emerging from them.
Meanwhile, this Memorial Day may we all keep in our hearts and minds, our prayers and meditations, our eating and our sharing, the vision that we can, we WILL, turn from conquest to community, from violence to reverence.
So that these dead shall not have died in vain.
With blessings for shalom, salaam, peace –