Memorial Day 2015: War and American Freedom

Flower and colors bursting this morning in Mill's River, North Carolina ... a little red, white, and blue on Memorial Day weekend 2015.

Flower and colors bursting this morning in Mill’s River, North Carolina … a little red, white, and blue on Memorial Day weekend 2015.

Memorial Day weekend 2015: I keep seeing signs in the community and posts in the social media community thanking those who died in military service to keep us free. And I keep wondering: Which was the last war fought that was actually necessary to preserve American freedom?

Not all wars are, clearly. I’m not saying they need to be. Maybe it’s okay to fight a war to fight for other people’s freedoms, although perhaps we also ought to take care to ensure they value the same freedoms. Or maybe not: maybe we appropriately fight and die to impose values we believe to be universal, innate to humans as human.

Maybe there are other values worth fighting for: economy, territory, alliances, global military strategy.

Maybe God did not make an editing error in omitting the asterisk after “Thou shalt not kill.” Maybe God meant it literally.

I’m not trying to answer these questions here. I’m just asking the first of many that quickly come to be mind.

To be sure, I think most Americans in the military we honor on Memorial Day indeed joined (or were drafted) and fought and died with the value of protecting our freedom.

I believe the best way to honor that sacrifice is to exercise our freedom to engage a fuller vision of what war has meant and means today and will mean for our children. Then we will choose leaders and representatives and policies and perhaps wars based on what’s genuine and real, not compelling slogans. Then our children who so choose will join the armed services with more realistic vision and understanding of what service and war mean. Then, when we honor their service and their sacrifice, that, too, will be grounded in truthfulness and much more meaningful for it.

We honor all who died in military service by engaging the questions of what just war is and of whether just wars must be, or should be, fought. And we indeed should be unreservedly thankful for the sacrifice by so many who, looking at the longer history of American warfare, have given us both the freedom and the perspective to guide us to the possibility of a kinder and more just future and, again if we so choose, just possibly a more peaceful world, as well.

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