We drove through a small town on our way to a nature area for a picnic and a hike in southern Ohio. The town is quaint with old storefronts dotting the public square.
In the middle of the square is a cannon, part of a large war monument that lists the names of town members who died in various wars. It’s a nice gesture to remember their sacrifices.
What struck me, though, was how there were no other remembrances of anything else involved with the town. How odd, I thought.
There was no mention of the town’s founder. Nothing honoring the teacher who started the first school that taught children about their world. No tribute to the town’s first doctor who made house calls in the middle of the night.
Nothing honoring the wise and compassionate leaders who developed the town and got it through times of division, showing everyone that there are ways to settle differences other than conflict.
I’m not picking on this one town. Most places – large and small – are the same way, if you think about it. There are war memorials and monuments to warriors in rural and urban communities.
Sporting events have morphed into tributes to the military, with fans applauding those who serve.
Meanwhile, we give comparatively scant attention to those who teach us, heal us, help us to grow in wisdom. We don’t invite doctors and nurses to stand on dugouts between innings for applause. We don’t invite teachers and social workers to stand at midfield for tributes.
We don’t hold ticker-tape parades for scientists and researchers who develop treatments that save our lives and our environment. We don’t create memorials to those who feed the poor and help the needy and work for peace.
No, our pedestals are mostly reserved for those who conduct war. So is our national budget; our society spends as much on the military as the next seven countries combined.
There’s nothing wrong with remembering the sacrifices of military people. When theirs are the only sacrifices we honor, however, we’re doing something other than showing appreciation to them.
We’re glorifying conflict and worshiping war.
My dad was a paratrooper in the Korean war. He was wounded and returned with his emotional scars. Neither he nor any of the other veterans in my family circle spoke of the atrocities they saw.
None of them glorified war.
Noble and courageous acts occur during war, but war itself is the ultimate human failure – God’s children killing God’s children — and must never be portrayed as anything else, certainly not with pedestals.
During our response to the pandemic, we’ve started paying more attention to people who have been overlooked by comparison.
We’re seeing the brave medical workers sacrificing to save lives and how we have failed to give them the support they need. We’re appreciating teachers much more after two months of home schooling.
We’re seeing how ordinary people treating others with compassion and care. We see regular folks doing courageous and noble acts to keep others safe.
We see so many people who belong on pedestals. We need to think about which ones we choose to put there, and why.
(Photo courtesy of Szilas @commons.wikimedia.org)