Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Poppies, Flanders, and Third Stanzas

Today is Veteran's Day in the United States. It is Remembrance Day in other countries.

Often quoted on this day is the haunting poem, written by Canadian physician and officer, Lt. Colonel John McCrae, "In Flanders Fields." Here is that poem in its entirety:

In Flanders fields the poppies grow,
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Oh, how I wish that third stanza had not been written. The First World War was a useless war, fought to punish each other for some hidden grievance. It became the impetus for the Second World War, the Cold War, and the War on Terrorism. If only that poem had ended after the second stanza, it would emphasize the futility of the conflict. That third stanza seems to me to suggest that the soldiers would go on haunting those who do not fight in that same cause.

What cause? What was so noble that they had to die in some field in Belgium, only to become the ground that poppies grow on? World War I exemplified that depravity of humanity to kill each other for political reasons.

A friend of mine, Mark Sandlin, wrote an impressive blog about his true feelings for Veteran's Day. I can only quietly echo his sentiments.

Shane Claiborne has also shared an equally powerful story of Charlie Liteky:

I respect those who have served in Armed Forces. What they have done is something that I could never do. I do not respect the political machinery they suffered and died for. I do not respect that so many men, women, and children had to die for a political cause that could not be solved through other means. We remember our own veterans, conveniently forgetting those that our veterans killed, including the innocent men, women, and children.

I mourn for veterans who come back, suffering from scars and wounds that will never be healed, especially the scars of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which used to be known as shell shock. The adage, "Thank you for your service," does not seem to be adequate for my feelings. I'd rather say, "I'm so sorry that you had to suffer."

I know there will be those who think I am trying to dishonor the veterans who served and died. I am not. Rather, I am trying to honor all the victims of war. War is the sign that we have given up on showing the Fruit of the Spirit to each other. War is the sign that it is easier for us to kill each other than to love each other.

Love is hard. Love is not merely an emotion. Love takes real work.

On this Veteran's Day, let us resolve to love. This is not an option. Jesus commands it:

"I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other." John 13:34 CEB