Reflections on Memorial Day: those who serve & sacrifice, those who work for peace

Only the dead have seen the end of war. — Plato

This is the day we pay homage to all those who didn’t come home … it’s not a celebration, it is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom. — Tamra Bolton

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed. — Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. — Mark Twain

Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. — Adlai Stevenson

Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion. — Gandhi

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons (and daughters) of God, and our brothers (and sisters) wait eagerly for our response. — Martin Luther King

Memorial Day Prayer —Carl Schenck
We gather on a somber holiday.
We remember with sadness those we have loved and lost.
Let us not glorify the conflicts and violence
that tear our loved ones from us.
Let us, rather, give glory to God,
who calls us to use our freedom peaceably.
Our God is a God of all nations and peoples.
May our worship of God unite rather than divide.

Songs for Memorial Day Weekend

Film Clips

Protest & Peace Songs:


Memorial Day (excerpt)— Michael Anania … We know the stories that are told,
by starts and stops, by bent men at strange joy
regarding the precise enactments of their own
gesturing. And among the women there will be
a naming of families, a counting off, an ordering …


Peace — Langston Hughes
We passed their graves:
The dead men there,
Winners or losers,
Did not care.
In the dark
They could not see
Who had gained
The victory.


Who kept the faith and fought the fight;
The glory theirs, the duty ours.
— Wallace Bruce


You silent tents of green,
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Notes on Memorial Day (excerpt) Lillian Daniel

Memorial Day began after the Civil War as an effort toward reconciliation between the families of veterans in the North and the South. After the war, there was already a tradition in the North of decorating soldiers’ graves, called “Decoration Day.” But in 1868 an organization of Northern war veterans decreed it ought to be a national holiday. May 30 was carefully chosen as the date because it was not the anniversary of a specific battle, and therefore would be a neutral date for both sides. But human beings hold on to their wounds, and reconciliation takes time, grace and mercy…

Memorializing Rightly (excerpt) — Debra Dean Murphy

… much of our memorializing will trend, as it always does, toward … the simplistic, the cliche-riddled hyperpatriotism that does a disservice to the women and men who fight and die in wars conceived by powerful men … Surely it’s possible to honor the selflessness that’s part of soldiering and to mourn the fallen without slipping into the kind of sentimental white-washing that denies the complexities and ambiguities, the compromises and betrayals, both large and small, that the war dead knew well? Why, then, can’t we–in their stead, on their behalf, for their sake–be honest enough to honor such truths? … May we remember and memorialize … all deaths, this day and every day, with the truth-telling they deserve.

On Those Who Serve & Sacrifice

Heroism doesn’t always happen in a burst of glory. Sometimes small triumphs and large hearts change the course of history. — Mary Roach

It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result. — Gandhi

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. — Winston Churchill

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. — G.K. Chesteron

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.  — Joseph Campbell

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise
that every human life is of inestimable value. — Bishop Desmond Tutu

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived. — George S. Patton

Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well. — Jennifer Granholm

Work for what you believe in, but pick your battles, and don’t burn your bridges. Don’t be afraid to take charge, think about what you want, then do the work, but then enjoy what makes you happy, bring along your crew, have a sense of humor. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices. — Harry Truman

Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have
and all that they are. — Hafsat Abiola

It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle. – General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. — Martin Luther King

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes! – Maya Angelou

I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone you run the risk that when you are no longer there nobody else will do it. ― Wangari Maathai

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. — John F Kennedy

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. — Gandhi

Peace Workers

On Memorial Day, I don’t want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live. — Eric Burdon

One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world. ― Malala Yousafzai

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. — Nelson Mandela

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. —John F. Kennedy

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it. — Eleanor Roosevelt

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come. — Henri Nouwen

We must pursue peaceful ends by peaceful means. I’m committed to nonviolence absolutely … I will continue to preach and teach it… I plan to stand by nonviolence. …(because) only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead toward community where people live together without fear. — Martin Luther King

Today, we are truly a global family. What happens in one part of the world may affect us all. This, of course, is not only true of the negative things that happen, but is equally valid for the positive developments. … But war or peace; the destruction or the protection of nature; the violation or promotion of human rights and democratic freedoms; poverty or material well-being; the lack of moral and spiritual values or their existence and development; and the breakdown or development of human understanding, are not isolated phenomena that can be analysed and tackled independently of one another. In fact, they are very much interrelated at all levels and need to be approached with that understanding…  Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each one of us individually. Peace, for example, starts with each one of us. — Dalai Lama

When you have a conflict, that means that there are truths that have to be addressed on each side of the conflict. And when you have a conflict, then it’s an educational process to try to resolve the conflict.
And to resolve that, you have to get people on both sides of the conflict involved so that they can dialogue. — Dolores Huerta

The answer lies in the last word of the priestly blessing: shalom, peace. In a long analysis the 15th century Spanish Jewish commentator Rabbi Isaac Arama explains that shalom does not mean merely the absence of war or strife. It means completeness, perfection, the harmonious working of a complex system, integrated diversity, a state in which everything is in its proper place and all is at one with the physical and ethical laws governing the universe. — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Violence and nonviolence agree that suffering can be a very powerful social force. But there is a difference. Violence says suffering can be a powerful social force by inflicting it on somebody else, so this is what we do in war… The nonviolent say that suffering becomes a powerful social force when you willingly accept the violence on yourself, so that self-suffering stands at the center of the nonviolent movement… There is no easy way to create a world where people can live together… but if such a world is created…it will be accomplished by persons who have the language to put an end to suffering by willingly suffering themselves rather than inflicting suffering on others… Unearned suffering is redemptive. — Martin Luther King
 

Reflections on ravens: curiosity, creativity, and cultural messenger.

Songs about blackbirds and ravens (note: these are different species): 
Blackbird by The Beatles (rock)
Blackbird Song by Lee DeWyze (ballad/blues)
Raven Song by Elephant Revival (folk)
Blackbird by Nina Simone (blues)
The Raven by Alan Parsons Project (electronic rock pop based on Edgar Alan Poe’s work)
Hear Me O God, Nor Hide Thy Face (Christian choral music)
How Many Are Your Works (Christian hymn)



How sweetly did they float upon the wings
Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night
At every fall smoothing the raven down
Of darkness till it smil’d.
— John Milton
 
The Raven (excerpt) — Edgar Allen Poe

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door —
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door —
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore —
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.” …

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Cultural Quips about Ravens 

Did ever raven sing so like a lark, That gives sweet tidings of the sun’s uprise? — William Shakespeare

For out of black soul’s night have stirred dawn’s cold gleam, morning’s singing bird. Let black day die, let black flag fall, let raven call, let new day dawn of black reborn. — George Woodcock Honestly, all crows are not ravens. — Munia Khan

The raven spread out its glossy wings and departed like hope. — Cecilia Dart-Thornton

Ravens are at home everywhere. They only have one enemy: humans. — Bernd Heinrich

Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as ravens claws. — Jim Morrison

Does wisdom perhaps appear on the earth as a raven which is inspired by the smell of carrion? — Friedrich Nietzsche

My love, she’s like some raven / At my window with a broken wing. — Bob Dylan

Needless to say, urgings by ravens are ignored at one’s peril.  — James D. Doss

But the black raven, the bird over the fated men, will tell, will say to the eagle, how he succeeded at the meal, when he with the wolf plundered the slaughtered ones.  — The Beowulf Poet

For this reason, the lean wolf in the wold / rejoiced, and the dark raven, a bird greedy for slaughter. — Cynewulf

It is said that when Raven created the first world, he made everything perfect, a world full of happiness and beauty, without pain, suffering, or ugliness. But Raven grew bored with this perfect world and started reshaping things. — Catharine Feher-Elston

One raven does not peck out another’s eyes. — Danish proverb

Censure acquits the raven, but pursues the dove. — Juvenal

The cry of a young raven is nothing but the natural cry of a creature, but your cry, if it be sincere, is the result of a work of grace in your heart. — Charles Spurgeon

Ravens are the birds I’ll miss most when I die. If only the darkness into which we must look were composed of the black light of their limber intelligence. If only we did not have to die at all. Instead, become ravens. — Louise Erdrich

Commentary on Elijah and the Ravens

Elijah had enough, but it did not always come to him in the nicest way; for I do not imagine that the ravens knew how to get bread and meat always cut into nicest shape. Perhaps they snatched a rough bit of meat here, and perhaps a crust of bread there, and it came in all sorts of ugly pieces, but still, there it was, and it was enough. “Beggars are not to be choosers,” we say, and certainly pensioners on God’s bounty ought not pick holes and find fault with the Lords providing. Whatever God gives thee be grateful for, for if too proud to take from the raven’s mouth, it will be well for thee to go without, until shine hunger consume thy pride. God promises his people enough, but not more than enough, and even that enough may not come to us in the way we should choose. — Charles Spurgeon

God knows what you need, and he knows when you need it, and he will make sure you have it in time. As he sent the ravens to Elijah, he can command all heaven to come to your aid … God lets those things happen to move us from self-sufficiency to God-sufficiency. From self-reliance to God-reliance. From trusting in our own ability to trusting in him alone. … You should plan ahead. That’s biblical. You should plan ahead but you shouldn’t worry ahead. There’s a big difference … we would have been less surprised if God had used a robin redbreast or a meadowlark or a turtle dove to bring the food. But that is not how God works. He routinely chooses the despised things of the world in order to confound the mighty, and he uses the foolish to bring the strong down to nothing. As you look at the course of life, you may think that God is going to use some rich uncle or a wealthy friend to help you out. But experience shows how unlikely that is. He is much more likely to meet your needs through the ravens of the earth that fly to your need when you least expect them. — Ray Pritchard

Raven and the First Men —Bill Reid, qadasgu qligawaay clan (Haida Origins Story)
 Haida stories tell of how the first people emerged from a gigantic clamshell on the beach of Rose Spit. They got out with the help of Raven, the most powerful creature from myth time. Raven was wandering on the beach, when he heard some noise coming from a clamshell. He looked more closely and saw that it was full of little human creatures. They clearly looked terrified by Raven and the great big world outside the shell.

“So the Raven leaned his great head close to the shell, and with the smooth trickster’s tongue, that had got him out of so many misadventures, in his troubled and troublesome existence, he coaxed and cajoled and coerced the little creatures to come out and play in his wonderful, shiny, new world.” 


Fable: Fox and Raven
by Phaedrus
Retold by Rohini Chowdhury

Once, the Raven saw a piece of cheese in a window, and grabbing it in his beak, flew off quickly to a nearby tree, there to savour it and eat it in peace.

Now the Fox, who was passing by, was very fond of cheese, and when she saw the cheese in the Raven’s beak, she determined to have it for herself. Going up to the foot of the tree, she called up to the Raven, ‘Oh my dear friend, how wonderful you look today! You are the handsomest bird I have ever seen. Oh the shine of your feathers, the regal grace with which you hold you hold your head! Your voice must be as beautiful as you! If only I could hear you sing…’ and the Fox sighed, as though with longing.

The Raven was deeply flattered. No one had called him handsome before, or wanted to hear him sing! Surely he could please this kind Fox and sing a little song for her! Taking a deep breathe, he opened his beak…and let fall the piece of cheese. The first caw was not even out of his throat when the Fox had snapped up the piece of cheese and run off through the woods with it!

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