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  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

Give Peace A Chance | May 26, 2024 Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake

Updated: Jul 11


It’s Memorial Day Weekend originally enacted as a tribute to soldiers killed in American wars. It has become a time to remember all who have died. United Airlines expects the number of passengers flying the friendly skies to exceed pre-pandemic numbers. Over forty-three million Americans are expected to travel fifty miles or more. A big boost to the economy is anticipated with sales galore:  autos, mattresses, clothing. Oil prices and places of “hospitality” will certainly reap significant revenue increases. And the floral industry will be kept busy. On this day many will visit grave sites, placing flowers on the tombs of their dead relatives as they remember those slain. It is good to remember those who gave their lives to what they believed were noble causes. We must recall them to our consciousness. They were members of someone’s family and community. They impacted the living with their smiles, accomplishments, dreams, and presence. It is an opportunity to massage the void created by their deaths. The act of remembering has ties to the origins of this holiday.


Memorial observances began after the Civil War. Within a month of the end of the war, newly freed former slaves held ceremonies in memory and honor of those who had given their lives in the quest to create a nation without slaves. Abraham Lincoln in his eloquent Gettysburg address set forth a new or renewed vision of the young nation in terms of notions of freedom and equality never before enshrined in the ethos and polity of Western society.


Seizing the time, Lincoln orchestrated a grand moment in his address to the “held together” nation. He spoke passionately in gratitude to the fallen soldiers and with conviction to renew the new nation, fulfilling the promises of its founding.


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.


But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863




The nation was less than one hundred years old. Conceived in Liberty, it publicized the dazzling idea that all men were created equal. This was not a statement of fact. For the war just ending was a cause to free enslaved people, people not considered equal. The native people were not included in the “all people.” Neither were poor whites or women. There were glaring contradictions. Yet, it opened possibilities for the excluded to be included. This new birth of freedom opened possibilities.


However, even with the passage of the Freedom Amendments 13th, 14th, and 15th, the idea of equality for all was never fully implemented.




I understand black military personnel. They have felt that participation in the military was a way to enhance their acceptance in the larger social order, that it was an avenue to financial security and a path to higher education. During the Persian Gulf War, I served as a counselor to a few soldiers who were conscientious objectors. They were lured into military service through promises of a college education during a time of peace with little likelihood of war. Their hearts could not kill people that they had never seen and had not harmed them or threatened the security of the nation. They were not cowards. No, they aspired to the “new nation conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all were created equal” and could not fight against “appointed” enemies.


My father was drafted into World War II and designated a sharpshooter. My older brother, Neal, was drafted into the Viet Nam War and sent to Vietnam where he sustained crippling disabilities. I understand why they said yes to the drafts. Did the wars solve anything? Is the world safer for democracy as our nation continues to back war machines, stealing valuable resources from domestic needs? Let’s give peace a chance.




For years Congresswomen Barbara Lee has argued for the establishment of a Department of Peace just as we have the Defense Department, a disguise for a Department of War. What if we had such a department? Would we be engaged in all the current wars around the globe? Would we need over eight hundred military bases? With the arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, we should cringe concerning the possibility of destroying the earth and all that dwells therein. Yet, we keep churning them out as they find their way to Ukraine and Israel.


Kathleen Barry in Unmaking War, Remaking Men writes: “Unmaking war requires that we be present and face the atrocities our country commits. It means that we cannot avoid being hurt, steeped in sorrow, and even enraged when we are faced with today’s reports of killing in war. . . We need only to locate the present moment of war’ and occupations realities and open our hearts to that suffering, and allow our emotional knowledge to take us into empathy.  We do this because that is where we begin to make change by valuing human lives.


Dr. Barry without hesitation declares that war is not inevitable. Military personnel who conduct acts of war are trained to do so. They are not born people committed to killing in war. There is socialization that prepares them for such a vocation. She is convinced that our nation’s reliance on war can be transformed through empathy and the remaking of those participating in the war machine. Her confidence in the possibility of remaking soldiers is good news for me. War and rumors of war often enfeeble my spirit. I tire of the killing and the machinations of political leaders. Essential to achieving Dr. Barry’s world is the cultivation of a paradigm of peace resulting from empathy and a shared human consciousness.


Dr. Barry's vision supports the words and work of the National Council of Elders (NCOE):


“We, of the National Council of Elders, dream of new worlds. We have helped bring to life the movements that have enriched our humanity over the past 70 years. Yet we know that we have a long way to go to create relations based on peace, love, and mutual responsibility. In 2012 we gathered in Greensboro, North Carolina and wrote a “living Declaration” pledging to “be faithful to our own history” and to undertake with younger generations to do “everything in our power” to bring a greater measure of justice, equality, and peace to our country and to our world.” 


The Bay Area is well represented. Awarded filmmaker, Frances Reid, and I serve on the coordinating committee. Our beloved Gus Newport was also a member.


NCOE states that we must create a culture of peace for the remaking to occur so that “Everyone ‘neath their vine and fig tree can live in peace and unafraid.” It speaks not only to international violence, echoing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement that the greatest purveyor of violence “is my own country,” NCOE calls for re-entering talks about nuclear proliferation of weapons and vowing to never use nuclear weapons again. Demilitarizing local policing forces and banning the sales of guns that too often are the source of deaths of our children are critical to creating a culture of peace. The document ends with these words.


Our society is drowning in over 400 million guns. By all means at our disposal, and with all measures that will restore our spirituality and our respect for our neighbors, we will work towards a culture of peace. We call on everyone to become actively involved in the local and national efforts that are focused on keeping our communities free of weapons of war. Foremost, we must commit ourselves to protecting the children and helping them see the possibilities of a world where life is valued, protected, and cherished.


Barry says that our life-force, when brought into alignment with this unmaking of war and remaking of ourselves supplies the spiritual support needed to sustain his creative venture. We can do this. We must do this! We can unmake war as we remake ourselves. Barry continues “Then we will be fully invoking our humanity toward saving the lives of others. . .. We must ask nothing less of ourselves.”  Generations to come demand and deserve this.




RISE UP FOR HUMANITY

Myrna Pagán, Vieques, Puerto Rico, May 6, 2024

 

There’s a moaning rising

from beneath the rubble

in the children’s cemetery

called Gaza

There’s a moaning rising                                                              

from the bombed out hospitals

in the children’s cemetery

called Gaza

There’s a moaning rising

from the piles of amputated limbs

from the blood covered incubators

from the dead rotting in the streets

from the broken breasts of the massacred mothers

Is anybody listening

in the Halls of Power?

Will they keep turning a deaf ear

as millions rise and call for

CEASEFIRE

Will humanity be ignored by the

MERCHANTS OF MISERY

marching to the drum roll of evil…

MILITARISM IMPERIALISM GREED

There’s a moaning rising

from the river to the sea

WHICH WILL HAUNT US ALL

from now to eternity.

TIME TO SING OUT — WALK ABOUT — MARCH AND SHOUT

ARE WE READY COMRADES?

silence is complicity

RISE UP FOR PEACE

RISE UP FOR LOVE

RISE UP FOR HUMANITY NOW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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