Vigilance: n. 1. The process of paying close and continuous attention-synonyms: alertness, wakefulness, watchfulness
As I compose this on Memorial Day, I remember years ago I wrote a piece called Gardens of Stone. I warned the Gardens of Stone would grow from the souls planted there during the soon to be entered War on Terrorism. I was all too right in my assessment of how things would go. “Gardens” wasn’t an anti-war piece. It was a warning of our fate to come. Today only one thing has changed.
We’re no longer vigilant in our protection of this great nation and the bounty it commands. We are suffering the inept and incompetent command of a disinterested, disengaged, disappointing president knows nothing of global politics and foreign policy. What he lacks in experience he more than makes up for in incompetence.
When “Gardens” was written I was praised because some people saw it as prophetic and timely. Others simply understood from personal experience, as I do, any nation attacked will respond with force and the power of their national conviction to maintain their sovereign rights to do so. The serious problem we have though is in the fact nations don’t send their elders, the ones most likely to wage war and issue the commands leading to whatever outcome may be derived; they send their young to die. That never changes. And the stone memorials dropped into neatly formed rectangular holes dug into the rich soil of combatant’s native lands mark the territory gained in finality by us all.
I must admit, for all of the religious instruction I’ve endured: I don’t know exactly what God expects of us. We’re told to love one another. We’re told to be charitable. We’re told, like children, we should share and be at peace with the blessings we have. But, we can’t seem to do that. We fail miserably at loving one another because we lust after what another has and we want it too. We don’t seem to understand happiness doesn’t come from without but from understanding within. And for that we sacrifice God’s greatest gift, our children to antiquity’s gods of war.
Mark Twain most accurately said it in his short story: The War Prayer. In that famous work he told of a people coming together to show their support of their young men going off to battle the enemy before them. Prayers were spoken and the assembly exhorted: “God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder they clarion and lightning thy sword!”
Then an old man entered the church and ushered the preacher aside to take the podium. He spoke the following prayer, the one that balanced the exhortations of unknowing, prideful souls and was mirrored in the supplications of the enemy’s followers and families: “Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —
For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”
No man or women with a heart and soul would knowingly and with dignity speak this prayer aloud lest it offend his god, but it is the yin to the yang keeps all things in balance. It is the truth a wounded heart cries out for before understanding healing doesn’t come from fighting back so much as for when we forgive as was commanded in scripture. But by the same token we can’t allow others to enslave us with their hatred.
We now till the Gardens of Stone I warned of in 2001. We see the fruit of that tilling everyday we see a veterans’ cemetery and we understand finally, with the return of each living vet that the stone in his and her broken heart stands cracked for their and our losses in battle.
Though Memorial Day has passed, stay in remembrance. Put down the beer and pray for those who served and those who died in service. Ask God for forgiveness and guidance so no more may die. But stand vigilant all the more. There are consequences to be known.