Memorial Day is really an excuse for using force to get our way, at every level. We don’t acknowledge that, of course, either at the national or personal level.
Despite how many times politicians or baseball announcers say that Memorial Day and its paired “patriotism” is not a glorification of war, is only honoring those who fight to “protect our freedoms” of “the greatest nation in the world” [Greatest in what? Poverty level? Infant birth rate? White terrorism?] it is a justification for using force, not as a last resort, but as a first, a standard operating system.
Armies and soldiers cannot protect freedom. They protect the nation. It is only the citizens of the nation who can protect freedom, and many of the citizens of this nation do not want freedom. It’s too demanding. And too inclusive.
Some people just like aggression and force. They applaud when a comedian or politician talks about spanking children. They think that protecting kids from bullies is wussy; you should teach kids to stand up for themselves and fight back.
They justify their love of aggression and force by saying that it is the way of the world, that people are going to be violent anyway, and all you can do is protect yourself.
There is some truth in that. There is violence in all of us. St. Augustine was right—there is a God-shaped void in our soul. But there is also a fist-shaped snarl in our brain.
I’m no pacifist, although I admire those who are. I’m a Niebuhrian realist. [Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society]
Maybe an Amos Wilson realist. Amos is a Presbyterian pastor who served almost his whole career as a prison chaplain. “There are some really bad people in there,” he says, “and they need to be kept there.”
I suspect that 95% of terrorists, as distinct from regular soldiers or people fighting for their homeland against outside invasion, would find a reason to keep on terrorizing even if all their demands were met. That gives credence to those who say, “The only thing they understand is force.” But even terrorists have people who love them and who share their narrative. You can’t eliminate them by force, for every time you do, you create a martyr whose family and friends want to avenge them.
Sharon Angle, as a US Senate candidate in Nevada, talked about “Second Amendment remedies.” Since the 2nd Amendment, which to most of its supporters is the whole of the Constitution, is about the right “to bear arms,” there is no question what she is talking about, despite how much she tried to wriggle as the election approached. Lee Harvey Oswald used a 2nd Amendment remedy on John F. Kennedy. John Hinckley tried to use a 2nd Amendment remedy on Ronald Reagan.
If we want a free nation, we can’t use force as a first principle. And we can’t let “force first” people run the nation or our institutions. Memorial Day should be a reminder of that truth!
John Robert McFarland
“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Harriet Tubman