Today was once Armistice Day. A day to commemorate the setting down of arms. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Western Front in WWI Europe went silent. Space was made for peace. A truce was had.
We have no moment of peace, except for with each other. We have no truce, unless we make it so.
And yet, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of this 11th month, we can offer a moment of peace for our wounded hearts, and our aching bodies. We can offer a moment in remembrance of those dead. We can offer a moment for those killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria…all the places where we send men, and women, and drones, and guns. We can remember all those shot down on the streets at home. We can remember those who took their own lives in despair.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of this 11th month, let us offer one another a moment of peace. Let us treat one another with kindness on this day, as a practice for the days and years to come.
Let us Remember.
Below is a piece I wrote in 2011, in memory of my father on Veteran’s Day. Abandoned by his father at age five, bullied and beaten by his elder brother, poor and working class with a brilliant mind, my dad lived and died as a wounded man. His legacy lives in my siblings and I, as we each work to heal the wounds of our family and to repair this world. I remember him on this day:
It is Veteran’s Day and I am thinking of my father, and all of those with souls stripped bare by war.
He has been with me much this season, as I have built the large household ancestor altar, taking photos and mementos from my smaller, permanent shrine. There is one photo of him, as a young sailor, looking happy and full of hope. That is not the man I knew. The man I knew is a man that I still wish I had the capacity to heal.
“The Good War” – in which over 50 million people died – broke many men. I say men, though obviously women were affected too. But it was largely the men of World War Two that returned unable to speak of the atrocities, or share their pain, for they had fought the good fight, on the side of righteousness. They found solace in the bottle and the gambling den, in overwork, and the small joys of family. My father was one of these. To blame his alcoholism, and the alcoholism of a generation, on war was not something we ever thought to do. It was some sort of personal failing, or a disease unique to the individual men and women. The failing was really ours.
Thank you Dad, for doing the best you could. I will keep trying to learn the lessons of your life – and the lives of your generation – refracted through the lessons of my own. I will try to learn true power, rather than force, compassion, rather than pity, and the ability to keep picking oneself up, and to sing and dance, no matter how hard things seem.
I will try to unlearn war.
To all who know the ravages of war, on both sides of the gun – for those who fight and those trying to eke out an existence for their families in a war zone – I hold you in my hearts. I pray that together we can create a world where healing becomes possible. For those of us fighting our personal battles: May we learn better to fight and heal from a place of deep love; May we end wars wherever possible, however possible; May we work for justice and for the peace that comes from the strength in our bellies and the love in our hearts.