I've been watching the men in uniform waking by in the parade, standing in the crowds, calling in from Afghanistan and thinking. Thinking about Martin Luther King. Thinking about Dwight Eisenhower. Difficult thoughts, but important.
Thinking that fighting for one's home and family is not noble nor worthy of respect, for even the meanest wretch in a cave would do as much.
Thinking that fighting for king and country is not noble nor worthy of respect, for both sides in every army have claimed as much.
Thinking that fighting for ideals is not noble nor worthy of respect, for people have fought for the ideals of slavery, of racial or religious superiority, and for the divine right of kings.
Thinking that to be noble and worthy of respect, one must fight for ideals that are right and just, as the American ideals are at our best, for homes and families one will never know, and for future generations to come.
Thinking of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in our history who have died for the sake of lies, led into wars by men not fit to tie the laces of their boots, behind the cries of "Remember the Maine", by the lies of the Gulf of Tonkin, the lies of WMD, and others. They deserve our respect, for they believed in their leaders, but with a measure of reserve, for every soldier from the armies of Alexander to the Waffen SS has done the same. "I was only following orders" is not reason enough for killing. But even then, the picture reveals another layer: the soldiers on the ground are not responsible for policy, and many of them are trying to make the best of a bad - often hellish - situation. Some turn into Lt. William Calley. Some turn into Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson. There are no easy answers.
Thinking that I am proud and grateful for the men and women who are giving some - perhaps all - of their lives for my sake, but that at the same time I cannot look at one of them without thinking that the world would be a better place if that person could be a doctor, a teacher, an engineer, a truckdriver -- any honest work that wasn't the business of killing people.
Thinking that it is our tragedy that that is not the world we have chosen, and that so few of us believe we have the opportunity to choose at all.
Thinking of Martin Luther King, saying, "To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Saying, "God didn't call America to do what she's doing in the world now. God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation."
Thinking of Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican -- though he would certainly not be accepted as such today -- a soldier, and someone who saw the evil of the concentration camps first hand. Who said, on the occasion of the death of Josef Stalin, words that are often presented in shortened form but are well worth reading entire:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.Thinking that I will, I must resolve to choose, to be the change I wish to see in the world, and to stand up and call out things that are wrong in matters both large and small. And hoping that I will have the strength.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road. the world has been taking.
This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.