It is Memorial Day; a day for remembering. And it is good and right to remember.
Here are some things I remember.
I remember my dad, a two tour Vietnam vet, though you wouldn't know that from his license plate or his hat, speaking to a group of people in a university classroom. "Memorial Day is a sad day for me," he said. "It's a day I remember friends I've lost--not just in combat but here at home, from suicide or drugs or alcohol or homelessness." It was the first time I'd heard him say it so directly, in more than two decades.
I remember him, during the lead-up to the first Gulf War. How worried he was. I was young, then, and didn't have these words, but...there was a deep wound, there.
I remember being a kid, and playing war. Thinking it was a glorious thing, the guns and the planes, the heroes and the excitement. Watching war movies with my dad.
I remember the day the planes struck the towers. How clear and blue the sky was, with not a plane in sight. I remember how surreal it was. How I thought, "This is madness." And somehow knowing that this was the beginning of more madness.
I remember marching in DC with tens of thousands of others. I was with my dad and we walked down to the Vietnam War Memorial, and he found a name here and a name there. And I had the sense that this was going to happen, again.
I remember kids in my high school cheering when the principal announced that we were going to invade Iraq, and this deep sense of anger welling up in me that we would cheer death.
I remember going with a friend to a Quaker meeting in college, and feeling like perhaps peace was a possible thing, a palpable thing. Praying for it. Longing for it.
I remember hearing of the death by suicide of a young man from my high school who was in Iraq. A man--a boy--I didn't know well. And hearing that, during many months, the suicide rate among soldiers was higher than combat losses.
I remember people cheering for soldiers in the airport. How some seemed so appreciative, while others had faces that were hard to read. I remember my dad saying, "When people thank me for my service, I tell them to call up a favorite teacher and thank them instead."
I remember being in Bethlehem, with the fighter planes thundering overhead, and a young Palestinian man saying, "They are practicing for something big." And they were. And Gaza burned.
I remember being at a funeral, and watching two young soldiers fold a flag with shaking hands, and how I had the deep sense that it was right for them to do so, that this was not about any policy or any critique but about honoring a man who had served.
I remember people who have died fighting their own private wars, with depression or isolation or the weight of life.
And I remember writing all of this before. Sharing all of this before.
And I suppose that I will keep doing that, as long as we insist on adding names to the list of people we need to remember on this day.
We remember that on the night before Jesus threw himself into the face of violence, he shared bread and wine with friends. And we make a claim in the face of all evidence to the contrary that love wins. That breaking bread and sharing wine somehow has some power in the face of death's steady march. That we will feast together at a heavenly banquet.
So, yes. Today, I will remember. I will honor. I will pray for God's loving and gracious arms to hold the dead, to hold the widows and the orphans of war, to hold the veterans and the victims of war.
I will remember. And also. I will not consent to add names to the list. I will not--and I will keep saying this until I'm out of breath to do it--I will not dance to the drums of war.