I wrote the following in 2004 as the war in Iraq was spiraling out of control and there seemed precious few voices of reason. Now we are approaching the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks. Lots of flags are being stocked on the supermarket shelves. Television specials are being prepared. Soon pundits and politicians will once again wave the bloody shirt and speak of resolve and of freedom while using those words to justify continued surrendering of blood and fortune while giving up still more of the freedom that we claim to protect.
I thought it might me a good time to speak once again for the memory of a different kind of hero.
Some Thoughts in the Year of the War
When I was a small boy during the most frigid part of the Cold War, many of the boys I played with would boast of their father’s combat record in either Korea or in World War II. I was raised by my grandparents, my mother having died when I was only three. As a result, my father figure was far too old to have served in the military. In any case, he was a Lutheran minister and as such would have been exempt from service. In that time of cheap superficial patriotism such things were of great import in the minds of small boys. I suppose it must have bothered me a bit for I recall one day my grandmother opened a locked drawer in her desk and took out a rolled piece of parchment and what looked like a very large coin, some two inches in diameter which was made of bronze. She carefully untied the purple ribbon with which the parchment was bound and read from it to me.
The bronze coin, I learned, was a medal from President Wilson that had been given to my grandfather for his service during The Great War, as World War I was called before we began to number them. He was one of a group of ministers who, because they were fluent in both German and English, had volunteered to stand between the angry mob bent on harming the German-American community and their intended victims… armed only with good intentions and his faith. She then showed me the signature of the president and the seal and ribbon. You could hear her pride in her trembling voice as she read the name to me.
My grandfather’’s example was a great source of pride to me and greatly influenced my own personal decision later when I came of age during the war in Viet Nam. I became a draft counselor and an outspoken opponent of the war, …but that is not my point in this story. It is rather that we are told that service to one’’s country is done with blood and with the taking, and sometimes the losing of life. This is not so. The greatest acts of service and of courage are often acts of peace. It takes more bravery to stand alone against the mob with blood in their eye, unarmed, than to go forth into even the worthiest of battles.
This is a time for men of peace to stand, alone if need be, in opposition to the mob.
We are in woefully short supply of quiet, articulate heroes.
Be seeing you.
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