This is Memorial Day, and the land is full of high talk of the sacrifice of the mostly young men and women whose lives have been lost in war, of their heroism and selflessness.
And that is fine insofar as it goes: there is nobility in giving one’s life for something greater than the self. But such talk also can be employed by those with a vested interest in glorifying their own ignoble pursuit of empire and profit at the expense of young lives, and in silencing those who would criticize their policies. ‘Support the Troops’ easily become a mantra to silence dissent. That an uncanny number of those most eager for war in fact did their best when they were young to avoid military service only adds to the sin.
Let us remember the fallen troops, certainly.
But let us remember as well that most of their lives were wasted in the service of power and money, not in defense of freedom or any of the other pretty words that are thrown about. And let us remember the multitudes of lives in other lands that have been taken in our imperialistic misadventures.
And let us vow to work for peace.
We have been blessed by a string of absolutely perfect May days: clear blue skies, white cumulous clouds, a soft breeze. These days remind me of my wedding day, and of my Michigan boyhood. Michigan, surrounded by water, is a very cloudy place. This is not good in November and February, which are dark and sunless, with grey clouds hovering low overhead. But all summer there are a lot of days with fluffy white clouds floating in an azure sky. Like the other day; I was carrying mail and at the moment the words “could this be more perfect?” formed in my mind a pretty young woman pushing a stroller entered my field of vision, walking down the cross street in front of me, maybe two hundred feet away.
May, feminine beauty, babies: beyond perfect.
The old white oak, the biggest between Massillon and Wooster, which has stood as a dismembered stump for two weeks, came down the other day. Driving home I saw a towing company hauling away the trunk, which had been cut into huge pieces. Even in parts it was impressive. The next day all that remained was sawdust. Personally if I had to take down a tree that majestic I would leave the stump as a memorial…
But it did put the beech tree into focus. If you recall I wrote last summer about a large beech on my route which swept the ground. It was one of my favorite sights of the day, and the owner mutilated it, cutting all branches to about ten feet off the ground. I grieved, until the loss of three huge trees that were dear to me made me grateful that the beech at least still lived.
And the other day, walking under the beech, I acknowledged that it is still beautiful; the translucence of beech leaves in the spring is unmatched.
Yes, it is not as whole as it was, but what remains is still stunning.