Yesterday, November 11, was Veterans’ Day in the United States, and Armistice Day in Europe. In Britain they honored the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I with poppies – 900,000 poppies for the 900,000 military – human beings – who died in that war. It was said to be caused by militarism, nationalism, and imperialism, along with international alliances and of course an assassination. It was not a war for freedom by anyone’s imagination. The end of that war was a cause for celebration – yet the world has continued to make war in the same way ever since.
There is a place in Neillsville, Wisconsin called The Highground, Wisconsin Veterans’ Memorial Park.
“It is the mission of The Highground to honor Veterans and their families and to educate about the cost of things – the human cost. It is the vision of The Highground to honor human courage and sacrifice wherever it is displayed, without either denying or glorifying the pain and suffering of war or of life.”
When you go there, it feels like that. It’s a memorial for those of us who abhor war.
Veterans Day just happens to be the day the Berlin Wall was opened up 25 years ago, and the day of Kristallnacht in 1938, the beginning of the Nazi Holocaust. (Now the only walls are keeping immigrants out of the U.S. at the Mexico border, and keeping Palestinians trapped in what is now called Israel. Do the supporters of those walls ever think about what it means to put up such a wall?) Right now five women are fasting at Bhopal, India, with 1000 supporters, all survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster that killed thousands. They are fasting without water, to ask their government to hold Dow Chemical (which bought Union Carbide) accountable to the court summons that Dow ignored.
On my Facebook page are notes remembering dear friends who never came back from a war, photos honoring those who died in 500 years resisting colonialism in North America, and one poster saying “Who would die for you? Jesus, and the American soldier.” I immediately thought of Rachel Corrie, who died protecting homes in Palestine; five young people who locked themselves down in White Clay, Nebraska on behalf of the Lakota people), and several Lakota people who did the same over the KXL pipeline, and people who lock their necks to bulldozers, and a man long ago who died in Cleveland because the bulldozer driver just didn’t see he was there. I’m only talking here about the heroes, not those killed accidentally, carelessly, or with intentional carelessness.
Heroes are everywhere. In addition to those who died for their people, or for all the people, I want to honor those who took a chance and lived, those who guided their people, who raised the children, healed the sick, fed others, or took care of the land which they knew could not be owned. Our lives are full of such people. There are people who risk their lives. There are people who work tirelessly. There are people who create a deep place of love which nourishes everyone around them. We only have special days for a few of these people. The Buddhist in me wants to honor them all.
So, two days after Veterans Day, I ask: which of these heroes are you? If you think you are none, please look again. Find the hero hidden inside you. Free her, free him, and feel your life open before you.