by Robert Wilkinson
Not to sound too much like I want to rain on the many parades happening on this day, but I've been contemplating this American holiday commemorating those who die in war. While it's always good to remember those who died before us, this "holiday" has become a mockery of all that is good in the human condition. While it purports to celebrate the sacrifices of soldiers, it seems strange that we do not use this day to question why those sacrifices had to be made in the first place.
This day came out of the American Civil War, a time when war was still glorified in songs and fables. For centuries, going to war was the ultimate badge of honor, where we demonstrated our mettle and dedication to God, country, and family. The war machine still tries to stir these ancient feelings, but in our times wars have changed in their ferocity, destructive potential, and uselessness in resolving disputes, since nothing good has ever or can ever come out of such wanton destruction.
War is ugly, mindless, and cruel to all that lives. Yet we have made this just another commercial holiday, used to sell objects and food and a feel-good atmosphere regarding American moral and military superiority. In fact, it is probably safe to say that war itself has become just another commodity to sell to the public so that the masters of war can make ever more profits off of blood and carnage. Otherwise, why wage war at all?
War is based in an idea that there are two views and that violence can resolve any dispute between those views. Yet all contrasting views arise on the level of mind, and therefore are part of the illusion of duality. We can try to convince ourselves that there are righteous versus unrighteous wars, but that too is based on dualistic perception. Again, is any war truly necessary?
My father was considered a "war hero" for doing what he had to do in WWII, the last so-called "righteous war." Yet he never considered himself a hero for getting shot while taking care of himself and his buddies in some of the worst hell on Earth ever seen. In fact, he hates war to this day, and won't tolerate any glorification of it. To put it succinctly, he thinks war is not necessary in any way, shape, or form.
I feel that waging war is different than doing battle in defense of a high ideal. To quote H.H. the Dalai Lama, "War is legalized murder." Wars can go on a very long time, but almost all battles eventually end. And we can do battle without murdering.
I have fought many types of battles this lifetime, within myself as well as with people who insisted on doing battle rather than coming to a meeting of the minds. I have always disliked doing battle, yet known I have had to rise to any occasion where my own lower nature or the lower nature of another actively tried to hurt me or my loved ones.
In those unfortunate times I was comforted by the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita that when I had to do battle, it was Spirit, or Truth, doing battle through me. How do I know that I was battling from the higher view rather than the lower? Something Gandhi once stated is a good yardstick: that we must always be ready to meet the opponent halfway, respecting their view even as ours is also respected. Where this respect is lacking, there we find aggression, and where it is present, there are efforts at peace making through mutual understanding.
That's why when questioned about how the Poles taking up arms against the Nazis squared with his views on Ahimsa, or "non-violence," Gandhi supported the Poles, since they were defending their homes and families and would not have furthered aggression beyond the least it took to stop the aggression.
While it may seem a bit insane to believe that we can stop war by waging it, it is more insane to believe that we can tolerate aggressors without suffering damage. To begin to end war, we must find other ways of dealing with human aggression without waging war.
To transcend getting caught in war with whatever or whoever, we must find a level of consciousness beyond where all wars originate. All war originates on the mental level, both higher and lower. The higher mind justifies waging war from its own aspirations, and follows up with the lower mind rationalizing those aspirations. These are given density by the desire body, and from there it's a short trip into hell.
Though the world has been ravaged by war for countless eons, we still have the power to end it if we truly want to. But we will have to move beyond glorifying causes and believing we can use violence to perpetuate those causes against real and perceived "enemies" of those causes. And we will certainly have to stop the practices of those who seek to make money off of what has become a perpetual war on Earth.
If only we had days and monuments to commemorate peace rather than war, as well as those who strived for peacemaking rather than warmaking, we would go a long way to keep alive the fires of peace and unity despite the destruction wrought by separateness, selfishness, and brutality. We shall see the end of the causes of war only when we awaken to our common Spiritual nature and cease to accept violence as a means to win something that cannot ever be won.
Anyway, just a few thoughts on this day to commemorate those who died as a result of legalized murder. I'll close with two quotes:
You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.
and courtesy of Saint John the Beatle,
War is over if you want it.
May we live to see war no more.
© Copyright 2010 Robert Wilkinson