Monday, May 28, 2018

They Have Family and Friends.

This is a question that I am sure has been bothering Quakers for centuries. How do we honor our nation's fallen soldiers, without glorifying war? We have long followed the Peace Testimony. We have long sought to prevent war.

The Woodlawn National Cemetery, located in Elmira New York, has the most northern of the Confederate Civil War monuments (it came up during the recent debate, and that's what the local news said). The monument is dedicated to all of the Confederate dead who died in the Elmira Prisoner of War camp.

During the Civil War a formerly escaped slave, John W. Jones, made sure that every Confederate prisoner that died received a proper burial in Woodlawn. That they would not be forgotten or lost. To this day Southerners visit the cemetery to find family members. I personally believe that he must have been very in touch with the Divine that was inside him to be that forgiving. Especially since he was a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

My childhood was spent within sight of the Woodlawn cemetery, both the civilian and national sections of it. I wandered into it a few times as a child. I once happened upon that monument. I was confused, because weren't the Confederates bad? Why did "bad people" have a statue (I was too young to know the difference between a statue and a monument) in the cemetery? 

Now, all of my Civil War ancestors were on the Union side. Also, my single mother was raising me as a Quaker. So, we were decidedly pro-Union and abolitionist in our family (If we needed to have the old labels applied). I asked her about the statue, and she gave me an awesome answer.
The Confederate Soldiers mostly weren't bad people, and they had family and friends that loved them. So they deserved a statue to remember them.

That statement informs my adult Leading on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and all the other times our Nation seems to give into jingoism. I respect and honor all of our veterans. They did what they felt was right. Or at least did what they felt they needed to do. We should take note of them, because they have family and friends who still love them.

However, I dream of the day that the last military veteran dies of old age. When war is nothing more than a distant memory. That is the world I work for by following the Peace Testimony.