I have been reading "A Persistent Peace" by John Dear, SJ. John Dear is a peace activist who has dedicated his life to nonviolently resisting war and economic injustice. Some of the book I find inspiring. Some of it I find troubling. One thing occurred to me as I read: if we want to struggle against injustice in a nonviolent way, our main task is to change people's minds. True nonviolence does not coerce others into doing our will but works to open hearts and minds so that others will be moved to fight injustice too.
After this revelation I began pondering how one goes about changing the minds of others. One way of doing this might be by surprising people. When we break stereotypes of "liberal hippies", for example, then sometimes people might think, "Hey, these people aren't who I thought they were." That might give them pause to listen. Finding common ground is another way we can work to open the hearts of others.
So here is my attempt at stereotype breaking and common ground finding: I am liberal, I have pacifistic leanings, and I believe very strongly in supporting our military personnel and veterans. When I have had occasion to talk with our soldiers I have most often found they have a deep sense of duty and pride in serving our country. Sure there are other reasons for joining the military and sure this doesn't preclude soldiers from being jerks anymore than anyone else. But, I believe that the majority of soldiers hold within their hearts valuable traits such as a desire to protect, a desire to serve, a desire to make a difference and a love for country. All of these are valuable traits that should be honored.
I find it appalling that our veterans and soldiers are sometimes ill treated, faced with financial challenges, unemployment or jobs that disappeared or changed while they were serving their country. Our soldiers give their lives for the sake of our country and should be treated accordingly.
Now here is where I ever so gently attempt to stretch minds in a different direction:
I think part of honoring that sacrifice is making sure it is not squandered on unnecessary wars.
Further, I find it concerning when we parade our veterans in front of our children multiple times a year. It's not that there shouldn't be times when we honor our soldiers and teach our children about them. But there are many heroes in the world. There are people in the world who, unarmed, put their bodies between victims of violence and the weapons directed their way. There are people in the world who dedicate their lives to finding cures for diseases. There are people who work to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. When we choose to honor one type of heroism over the others, no matter how worthy of honor, I worry that our children will grow up thinking that the only way to be a hero in this country is by holding a basketball, a football, or a gun.
Wouldn't it be great if all our soldiers had opportunity to put their desire to serve to use in a way that didn't necessitate violence and risk wounding their hearts and souls with PTSD and the like? Wouldn't it be great if our soldiers spent more time with the many peaceful ways that they help our country and less time with weapons? Wouldn't it be great if we honored all the heroes in our midst and took the time to teach our children a variety of ways they can grow up to be heroes? Wouldn't it be great if when soldiers are called off to war, upon their return they are given jobs, good health care and practical support rather than parades and lip service?
Together we can make such a world happen.