Memorial Day/National Day of Remembrance in the United States arises from remembering the losses every town and most families suffered during the American Civil War. Across the Southern United States and across the Northern United States people paused to remember those they had lost. Let's not lose the value of mourning together as part of making peace.
Sometimes these national holidays become occasions to feel good and superior – or martyrs and superior. Memorial Day invites us to remember all those who sacrificed for their country. We honor those who’ve fallen in battle. We honor those who’ve lost loved ones. We honor those who’ve sacrificed, and I’ll include conscientious objectors in that group. Remembering the right of conscience is part of who we are and what others will fight to protect, we can also remember that conscientious objectors serve the whole in vital peaceful ways.
Sometimes we have enemies. Been there. Sometimes we are the enemy. Yes, I've been that. Jesus asked us to love our enemies, which is a mighty difficult thing to do, but for which we have plenty of opportunities to practice in our lives. One of the ways we can engage that practice and strengthen our abilities to love our enemies – that is, not to have enemies, no matter how we might be cast – is to honor their losses, mourn, and remember alongside them. It does no credit to the sacrifices of those who’ve died for values they hold dear and because sometimes they were given no choice, to dehumanize and demean each other.
It makes a difference to remember the people who’ve died that once or are still your enemies. When we share grief, we open our hearts a little to one another, and we can cross that river of tears to meet alongside it, learn more about each other, and discover and create new commonalities. We need great courage to meet each other in the raw and troubled space of grief, to acknowledge the sacrifices each has made, to be with the enormity of losses created by violence.
As a Universalist, I believe we’re one humanity. We have different cultures and beliefs and values. We have different experiences of oppression and freedom. But we’re still one humanity. I also believe God loves every one of us, not some of us particularly over others. When we emulate God’s yearning for us to love each other, when we gather up the courage to remember and mourn and be vulnerable together, then we’re living well in that image of the holy, and we’re also serving well the memory of those who sacrificed, those who were conscripted and forced to fight, and those who sacrificed for peace.
Wear a red poppy, plant flags, remember those who’ve gone before us. And also take the time this Memorial Day to reach out and share with someone who belongs to that group called “enemies”, doing your part for cultivating a world of peace.