Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Remembrance Musings

It’s been a while. I haven’t had the time or energy to write anything lately but today is a snow day. At least this morning is. I was supposed to be at a deanery meeting but decided the snow fall last night made traveling too treacherous. I did drive in worse conditions last Thursday but it was to a school Remembrance Day service about 30 miles north. I was very glad I didn’t have to drive further as it was packed snow and ice all the way.

I had spoken at this same school last year for Remembrance Day. Of course the weather was much better so there was more participation by the community than there was this year. It is a First Nations school just south of the reserve. I found it interesting that this service has O God Our Help in Ages Past and no restrictions on what the priest can say. The other school that I spoke at last year was just east of here. They asked that I not speak of anything religious. I did speak about Shalom. I’m not sure if that was enough not to get me invited back to speak this year or they rotate. I’m not even sure why they would get a priest to speak if they didn’t want anything religious. The teacher who asked me was so apologetic.

All told, I attended three Remembrance Day services this year (as I did last year). I realize that it is in remembrance but I always struggle with the idea that we mourn those who died in wars and conflicts and yet go on to have more wars and conflicts. We haven’t yet learned that violence is not the answer. My talk at the first school was along those lines. Yes we come together to honour all those who have sacrificed so much for freedom and peace – not only those who died but also those who survived with wounds whether physical, mental, or spiritual. But are we really honouring them the rest of the year when we continue to react to violence with violence.

And yet there is a part of me that questions what else would have stopped Hitler. What else would have stopped the Taliban? What else would have stopped Saddam Hussein. But then did we really try anything creative in any of those situations.

I’ve been looking up Walter Wink’s “third way”. He points out that there have been non violent revolutions. There were a number in South America in the early and mid 1900’s. There was Corazon Aquino. There was Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. There was Ghandi. We do have examples of situations that had the potential for major violence being defused because of the commitment and dedication of their main leaders. It can be done.

Wink uses a passage from Luke – the turn your cheek if someone hits you on the right cheek one. His interpretation is interesting. It is about being creative and non-violent in one’s response to oppression and imbalances of power.

We had a Remembrance/Peace Sunday here on November 5. I like to mark things in our church community before the event in hopes that I can give some food for thought in the days leading up to whatever event it is. I relied fairly strongly on Wink’s work. Whether or not it gave the congregation something to reflect on, it certainly gave me something on which to reflect.

So off I went to my three Remembrance Day services (I only participated in two of them, the third was the one in which my children participated). In only one was there the mention of working for peace outside of the areas that I participated. At the one my children did there was song that seemed to be saying that it was okay if a soldier died – I don’t think that was the intent of the words but that is the way I understood them. I think the intent was that the soldier was saying that he accepted that he might die and that was okay. But it still sat wrong with me.

At the first school, where I gave the talk, I mentioned that we do honour to the men and women involved in the various conflicts when we remember them on Remembrance Day but we don’t do them full honour as long as we keep turning to violent means to resolve our differences and problems. Interestingly enough, as I was waiting in the staff room for the service to start, two girls started fighting outside. I think it was mainly for show more than anything else. I do know that when I go to that school, the tension levels are fairly high. They never know how the children will react or behave. And this particular day it was mainly the children that the parents had brought themselves because they didn’t want to have to deal with them at home. They were attentive as I spoke about honouring our soldiers by looking for non-violent solutions but whether they were just choosing that moment to behave, I don’t know.

I always struggle on Remembrance Day. As I grow older, the more I struggle. We don’t seem to be doing much to be moving toward a world of Shalom and now to add into the mix of destruction of the earth and its inhabitants by war and conflict we can add destruction of the environment by everyday living. It’s a very depressing time of year for me.