Memorial Day Commentary and Reflection on BELONGING: Themes from Paul’s Letter to Romans

Major Michael Davis O’Donnell, 1 January 1970, Dak To, Vietnam, Listed on February 7, 1978 as Killed In Action, March 24, 1970:

If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.
(Note: See the end of this email for reflections about Memorial Day.)
BELONGING: Themes from Paul’s Letter to Romans

Of Heirs (A Theme from Romans)

Every man is his own ancestor, and every man is his own heir. He devises his own future, and he inherits his own past. — Frederick Henry Hedge

Your story is the greatest legacy that you will leave to your friends.It’s the longest-lasting legacy you will leave to your heirs. ― Steve Saint

On Slavery (A Theme from Romans)

Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.’ — Maya Angelou

Slavery is something that affects all of us. It’s all of our history. — John Ridley

I call for a march from exploitation to education, from poverty to shared prosperity, a march from slavery to liberty, and a march from violence to peace. — Kailash Satyarthi

No blessing, no good, can follow in the path trodden by slavery. — Dorothea Dix

Some people try to get you out of slavery for you to be their slave. — Mike Tyson

Slavery, racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry, subordination, and human rights abuse transform and adapt with the times. — John Prendergast

The distinguishing sign of slavery is to have a price, and to be bought for it. — John Ruskin

Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery. — Wayne Dyer

Racism, xenophobia and unfair discrimination have spawned slavery, when human beings have bought and sold and owned and branded fellow human beings as if they were so many beasts of burden. — Desmond Tutu

This is slavery, not to speak one’s thought. — Euripides

The Jewish festival of freedom is the oldest continuously observed religious ritual in the world. Across the centuries, Passover has never lost its power to inspire the imagination of successive generations of Jews with its annually re-enacted drama of slavery and liberation. — Jonathan Sacks

Long live the liberation of the workers of all countries from the infernal chasm of war, exploitation and slavery! — Karl Liebknecht

For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery. — Jonathan Swift

The existence of slavery cast the shadow of hypocrisy over the otherwise noble proclamation of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our Declaration of Independence. — Blase J. Cupich

It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice: for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin? — John Quincy Adams

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death! — Patrick Henry

Most Christian ‘believers’ tend to echo the cultural prejudices and worldviews of the dominant group in their country, with only a minority revealing any real transformation of attitudes or consciousness. It has been true of slavery and racism, classism and consumerism and issues of immigration and health care for the poor. — Richard Rohr

Pervading nationalism imposes its dominion on man today in many different forms and with an aggressiveness that spares no one. The challenge that is already with us is the temptation to accept as true freedom what in reality is only a new form of slavery. — Pope John Paul II

A lot of things that we cannot buy and sell in markets used to be totally legal objects of market exchange – human beings when we had slavery, child labour, human organs, and so on. So there is no economic theory that actually says that you shouldn’t have slavery or child labour because all these are political, ethical judgments. — Ha-Joon Chang

I appeal to you, my friends, as mothers: are you willing to enslave your children? You stare back with horror and indignation at such questions. But why, if slavery is not wrong to those upon whom it is imposed? — Angelina Grimke

Now I’ve been free, I know what a dreadful condition slavery is. I have seen hundreds of escaped slaves, but I never saw one who was willing to go back and be a slave. — Harriet Tubman

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds! — Marcus Garvey

Are you walking in the spirit of sonship as a beloved child of God, or in the spirit of slavery that keeps you in bondage and a life of defeat? — Joseph Prince

On Adoption (A Theme from Romans)
Was it the act of giving birth that made you a mother? Did you lose that label when you relinquished your child? If people were measured by their deeds, on the one hand, I had a woman who had chosen to give me up; on the other, I had a woman who’d sat up with me at night when I was sick as a child, who’d cried with me over boyfriends, who’d clapped fiercely at my law school graduation. Which acts made you more of a mother? Both, I realized. Being a parent wasn’t just about bearing a child. It was about bearing witness to its life.  ― Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

Anyone who ever wondered how much they could love a child who did not spring from their own loins, know this: it is the same. The feeling of love is so profound, it’s incredible and surprising. ― Nia Vardalos, Instant Mom

The beggarly question of parentage–what is it, after all? What does it matter, when you come to think of it, whether a child is yours by blood or not? All the little ones of our time are collectively the children of us adults of the time, and entitled to our general care. That excessive regard of parents for their own children, and their dislike of other people’s, is, like class-feeling, patriotism, save-your-own-soul-ism, and other virtues, a mean exclusiveness at bottom. ― Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure

I believe one of the most sacrificial acts of love adoptive parents can do is to give up their preconceptions and agendas about what their child’s views “should” be and be open to hear the conflicting emotions and thoughts their child often experiences. ― Sherrie Eldridge, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew

A son or daughter in any human family is either born to or adopted by the parents. By definition, a child can’t be both. But with God we’re both born of Him and adopted by Him.  ― Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey

I am an amalgam. I will always be something glued together, something slightly broken. It is not something I might recover from but something I must accept, to live with- with compassion. ― A.M. Homes, The Mistress’s Daughter

Blood can help make family, but family often transcends blood. ― DaShanne Stokes

I must acknowledge that though his adoption embodies graciousness, it is also a reminder this world is not as it should be. Brokenness permeates our world. Sure, beauty is born from ashes, but the ashes don’t just magically disappear. Suffering and all that is wrong in this world still exists. This side of heaven, tragedy remains and the moments of her son becoming ours is a representation of joy and suffering deeply intertwined. Our son, the living proof and blessing that love is what makes a family, reminds us that adoption is born out of undeniable loss. Irrevocable loss of wholeness, of what was meant to be. To only acknowledge the beauty without giving voice to the tragedy, is to detract from adoption. In diminishing the tragedy of adoption, I decrease my son’s story, along with others a part of the adoption circle. I would be choosing to ignore a massive portion of who he is. ― Natalie Brenner, This Undeserved Life: Uncovering The Gifts of Grief and The Fullness of Life

Memorial Day Commentary: Different Views
… I was lucky and survived Vietnam, but he did not. My life has been full with a wife who loves me, children I am proud of and grandchildren I can enjoy at the end of my life. Natalie lost his life and missed that opportunity. I will always remember him every year on Memorial Day. — Chase Wickersham, U.S. Army Veteran, Vietnam and Director, Goodwill of Orange County’s Tierney Center for Veteran Services, for LA Times

The memory of our war dead … deserve a better dedication. They deserve a dedication to peace and a defiance to governments that make war. —  Tim Duff, Lakeshore News

There is nothing new about remembering. People have always grieved for the departed, but death became a bigger part of America 150 years ago. Freshly dug graves of some 500,000 soldiers marked the countryside where four years of fighting had claimed husbands, fathers, and brothers, many from the same family on different sides of the conflict. A grieving country needed hope that it could continue, once again united … What is Memorial Day about? Our soldiers; death; and, yes, about us. We converge at this moment, recognizing a larger purpose … America belongs to all of us, large enough to contain and even celebrate our differences …This is Memorial Day. We can use this anniversary to place some flowers on our common ground. — Harriet Freiberge, Denver Post

Memorial Day represents a day of national awareness and reverence, honoring Americans who died while defending the nation and its values. Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May, honors service members who have died in all U.S. wars. Memorial Day differs from Veterans Day even though both federal holidays acknowledge military members. Veterans Day is an opportunity for Americans to publicly recognize living military veterans while Memorial Day is a solemn reminder of the valiant service members who have sacrificed their lives in service to the country. — Office of Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, Fort Campbell Courier

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day we have set aside to honor by remembering all the Americans who have died fighting for the thing we like the most about our America: the freedom we have to live as we please. No official day to remember is adequate for something like that … the men, boys really, who died in our wars deserve at least a few moments of reflection during which we consider what they did for us. They died. We use the phrase “gave their lives,” but they didn’t give their lives. Their lives were taken from them … Remembering doesn’t do the remembered any good, of course. It’s for ourselves, the living. I wish we could dedicate Memorial Day, not to the memory of those who have died at war, but to the idea of saving the lives of the young people who are going to die in the future if we don’t find some new way – some new religion maybe – that takes war out of our lives. That would be a Memorial Day worth celebrating. — Andy Rooney, CBS

It is appropriate, though, on this Memorial Day, to fully honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, giants all … Time drops a cold fog over all war veterans, however, including those who came home. They don’t always like to talk about what happened, and other than some stylized Hollywood version of combat’s horrors, we really don’t want to know. Consequently, medals get polished and framed on a wall but there are holes in too many people that just can’t be decorated over … Remember all those grippingly personal Memorial Days that pop up all year long, not on the general calendar but always on America’s heart. — Dave George, Palm Beach Post