Peace and Memorial Day

by Brad Cotton

(published Circleville Herald just before Memorial Day 2013)

It is amazing how our national memory “sanitizes” progressive movers and shakers. Although Martin Luther King was viciously attacked , jailed, and beaten up by conservative politicians and conservative churches throughout the nation ,  reading what these reactionary groups say now, you would think MLK was one of their own. Still suppressed are the facts that Martin was killed while supporting striking municipal workers and  his anti-Vietnam War speeches: “ Whether we realize it or not our participation in the war in Vietnam is an ominous expression of our lack of sympathy for the oppressed, our paranoid anti-communism, our failure to feel the ache and anguish of the Have-nots. It reveals our willingness to continue participating in neo-colonialist adventures… … The bombs in Vietnam explode at home. They destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.”

Even more appropriate for Memorial Day is Julia Ward Howe’s initial anti-war plea for Mother’s Day, a holiday similarly “sanitized” of   Ms. Howe’s original heartfelt passion:


Arise then…women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly “ We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, Nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of council. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace… each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and the earliest period consistent with its object, to promote the alliance of different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Ms. Howe wrote after the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, the conflict that led to the anger and distrust that led to the wholesale slaughter of World War I, and the opening of the bloodiest century in human history.

This Memorial Day we honor our war veterans by working for peace. It can be done. Europe, the bloody ground of both World Wars is now at peace, in closer familial ties than ever. Japan prospered by outlawing war in its’ constitution. There is now so much concern over our national budget deficit, a deficit created largely by our unfunded wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and our huge, huge military spending. We spend as much on our military as does the entire rest of the world combined. Cut our military spending by 50% and we can solve the deficit and provide healthcare, education, real equality of opportunity for all of our citizens. We can build the kind of America Martin Luther King dreamed of in his “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall August 1963. Julia Ward Howe would be proud. Imagine a world where our schools and hospitals have all the money they need to serve all and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to build a bomber. It can be done. I write today as a member of Veterans for Peace, as a healthcare provider, as a son of a teacher and father of another teacher.