A Memorial Day Reflection (TW)

CN: violence and religion

The sacrifice of Abraham *oil on canvas *195 x 132.3 cm *inscribed b.r.: Rembrandt. verandert. En overgeschildert. 1636

“They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.” (Jeremiah 19:5)

We’re going to hear it again and again this weekend, as we’ve heard it so often: “Sacrifice. Sacrifice. Sacrifice.”

It literally means “to make sacred.” And it’s bullshit.

I am not saying there is no honor in dying for an honorable cause. I’m saying nothing and no one is made sacred by killing. It is a religious lie.

The manufacturers of war use the rhetoric of sacrifice to create a caste of warrior-priests. They want us to genuflect to the flag and the uniform and to think of combat as holy. They recruit preachers who should know better to parrot their heretical doctrines and put flags in their sanctuaries so that the Prince of Peace polishes the boots of their generals.

How do you know the language of war sacrifice is a lie? The whole point of war is to make the OTHER people sacrifice MORE. Nobody wins wars because they “sacrifice.” You win because you kill, or you raise the cost of war so high the other side can no longer afford it. That’s what the metaphor of “sacrifice” elides.

It is also why we don’t honor the people who pay the highest cost in war: women, children, and the poor. Tell me about the sacrifice of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tell me how those children’s burnt bodies made anything holy. Tell me about the 60+ children dead in Gaza this month, or the handful in Israel. Where is their Memorial Day? When is “Collateral Damage Day?” when we remember those who wandered the ruins of napalmed villages and bombed cities and the kids who starved during sieges? There is a reason we fail to honor their sacrifice for our victories. There is a reason we don’t talk about how their sacrifice “protects our freedoms.” They are the unwilling transaction we fail to memorialize. We have no day for them, no time to spare to think of them.

Children during air raid : Soviet children during a German air raid in the first days of the war.(near Minsk,Belorussia) RIA Novosti archive, image #137811, http://visualrian.ru/ru/site/gallery/#137811 from Wikimedia Commons

How do you know “sacrifice” is a lie? No warrior went to war to die for their country. They went to war to KILL for their country. That they suffered, that they experienced terrible things, that they did brave things for country and comrade, and that they had honor and altruism in their hearts may all be true. They may have even fought in a just war, though those are far rarer than we admit. But they did not make “the ultimate sacrifice” because nothing was made holy by their deaths. No god, not even Ares, was appeased with their blood.

Tell me about the sacrifice of returning vets who survived but had no roof over their heads and who numbed their trauma with drugs, whose government turned its back on them, just as it does to all those who suffer. Tell me about how our suicide dead outnumber our combat dead. What is made holy by how they were changed? Are we healed by their suffering?

And their human masters only became more greedy and went to war more easily the more we spoke of nation and war with religious devotion. That is why the language of war was so often in the puckered mouth-sphincter of our 45th president, why he blustered and carved a path through his own citizens to hold a Bible and glare through the tear gas. He is the perfect picture of a priest of war, this dolt who never served.

Rinse from your mouth the unholy language of sacrifice. If this is holy in your god’s eyes, your god is trash, and your religion is a lie. I want nothing of your religion, because it has no salve for the wounds of this war-weary world.

Honor the war dead. Remember your kin who wore the uniform. Show gratitude to those who lost limbs, life, or loved ones. But may God damn to hell the language of war “sacrifice.” War never makes holy. It only profanes this good Earth.

3 thoughts on “A Memorial Day Reflection (TW)

  1. Thank you for this post. Sacrifice is indeed a divine, life-giving act (whether something done directly by God or something done by God’s people under the empowerment of the Holy Spirit). It certainly cannot be accomplished through killing. I especially appreciate the implications your message has for worshipping YHWH vs. mere mortals. In a book currently being published, I wrote on this same theme in a section that connected patriotic music to the worship of victorious Greco-Roman soldiers. I suggested that Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A. (Proud to Be an American)” is a pagan worship hymn, in part because of the divine attributes it places on veterans. I am sensitive to the need to offer this kind of message with the utmost respect, as my grandfather fought in WWII, probably the last just and necessary war that the U.S. was involved in. Yet, when I wanted to post a Memorial Day reflection myself, I could not find the words that would not plagiarize myself, since the book has not yet been published. But then I found your Memorial Day reflection. It includes much of the same content and the same attitude I wanted convey in my own reflection. So, I will reblog this. Thank you and God bless you.

  2. How dare you speak the truth about those who died on the day set aside to celebrate them!
    We’re supposed to “honor” those who died in such a way that today’s youth are eager to emulate them.
    And nobody gets to question the need for further wars. If our politicians want it, it’s necessary.

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