And so it is this sort of criticism we face, when we dare reveal our rituals of Memorial Day.
When you remove the Corpus from the Cross, you worship dead wood. For it is His Body, His Blood that makes that wood sacred. While I reveal the sometimes shameful outward signs of suffering– I imperfectly attempt to reveal the strength nobility and sacrifice behind them. Sacrifice is suffering made Holy by the love of God. I am simply incapable of expressing it fully, by the very nature that makes me human. I cannot fully understand it, but, as it redeems the whole world–potentially even me, I must strive in the attempt.
We cannot honor the sacrifice without revealing the suffering.
War as an abstract entity ravaging the pages of history is an irredeemable evil. It grows in the mind to an implacable moloch devouring sons and daughters. All it births is misery and disease. By what human agency are we to respond? Will talking to the beast assuage it’s hunger? Will aspiring to greater things, pushing and punishing ourselves to greater and greater acts remove the burning destruction from our midst?
It will not. War, like the poor, you will always have with you. We are forever human, and only in Christ are we transformed. But we cannot achieve the absence of suffering– nor enact even a sense of peace just by willing it. Not even if everyone is working their asses off all the time in some perfect concert would it bring us an iota closer to perfection. Perfection is beyond the reach of Man in every way but in our minds. Without sacrificial love, we cannot even hope to tip the balance sheet away from evil.
Only heaven and God’s peace can do these things. Simply said, the good we accomplish is a gift from Him and for Him whether we will so or not. What we will for ourselves will either bring us closer to our own destruction or used to good purpose we did not intend. Reality is a bitch that way. The transformative power of love is God’s Might– and more often than not, we don’t even see what good we might accomplish in our lifetimes.
This is why, when war is just, we must fight. This is why we should honor that sacrifice, rather than spurning it. For without that sacrifice, we fail to understand what it is that we have, the special, privileged bubble we live in– and just how fragile it is. Our lesser natures never rest– always pushing us to do greater things– and without the knowledge of good and evil, those “greater things” become greater horrors.
What everyone seems to forget about the twin evils we fought during WWII is that they were ultimately experiments for the perceived GOOD of Mankind. Nazism, Stalinism, and the Emperor’s Glorious Empire were supposed to bring the nobility of humanity to new heights, to create a world of universal peace and prosperity. Sadly, when one embarks on such experiments, not everyone agrees. Thus, some people must be sacrificed for the good of the whole– and this seemingly innocent reaction spawns Secret Police, Death Camps and Execution Squads.
This is also why a soldier is not really a soldier unless he volunteers. It took an economist to explain this to our government, ironically. After all, they would not listen to soldiers or priests. The soldiers were seen as biased, and the priests were only religious people who know nothing of the affairs of State. Oh, how we wish.
In the making of any Utopia, will always be someone asking whether this new innovation is such a good idea. There will always be someone asking uncomfortable questions. When you are building Utopia, such people are potentially lethal to the project. It is far easier to tear down than to build up. In the world of Idealism, Potentiality equates actuality. That is what Idealism means. It is not that you have ideals, it is that you confuse them with what is real. Thus, any dissent is considered the assassination of the glorious Idea that is worshiped, thus, they that question are killed so that the Idea might be born into reality.
As time goes on, the estimates of human value (based on our very real faults) get lower and lower. This is why human dignity is essential for honoring the human person, and pulling away from spiraling horrors.
All categories are artificial constructs that can obscure the truth of any given matter. Lining up little boxes made of ticky-tacky as a means of dispensing Justice will only lead to further horrors as the injustices pile up for a whole new set of reasons based on the inaccuracy of the model and the sloppiness of man. Sisyphus is laughing at us from the lap of Death. We chop off the legs of those who are too tall so they may fit the same bed that is the stretching rack for our shorter brethren. This is the mechanics of why any Tyranny is evil.
So what does this have to do with the sacrifice and suffering of soldiers? The sacrifice of Christ? I’m glad you asked.
The necessity of sacrifice is the ultimate lesson for the monstrous 20th Century. We live in ultimate luxury, yet as a whole execute more people than were ever deliberately killed in history before us. We are still devouring our own young for the sake of convenience and comfort. We further mutilate and manipulate the unborn to make them fit our own image. We play God and think we are immune from the relentless crashing waves of reality that always erode the beach eventually.
The soldier fights for Justice. Sometimes it is a good thing to stand on the crest of progress yelling STOP! Because God only knows where that progress goes. We have for too long decided our own values of good and evil. Sacrifice is only meaningful if it is done for an absolute Good, and we can only know Good as it comes from something greater than us–that is, God.
Everything we have done in the 20th Century is a rebellion against God and everything He stands for– which is mostly the necessity of Sacrifice and the inherent and otherwise inexplicable orderliness of the universe. We cannot explain why we exist– as a chain of random events that leads to our existence is so absurdly unlikely that it boggles the mind.
It has been decided by the leading lights that we don’t need first causes, we don’t need to acknowledge ideals, and only use them as tools to shape reality to our liking. Thus we manipulate our friends into thinking as we do.
The difference between education and propagandizing is that critical factor of teaching. Education is teaching the young to THINK. Propagandizing is teaching the young to agree with you. Thinking is the analysis of the underpinnings of ideas, where they come from, and how they express them as they do.
You may laugh and say that Christianity is merely a type of propaganda– think again. Christianity (in the form of the Catholic Church) formed the foundations upon which you build your philosophy- no matter how nihilist or contrary to our Faith. Chances are, Thomas Aquinas was debating variations on a theme of your current philosophy. There really is nothing new under the sun. As we keep insisting otherwise, we fulfill the horrific predictions of the most outlandish of our detractors.
Do we really want to use Aldous Huxley as a road map, rather than a warning?! He too was an atheist, yet he saw the necessity of the bounds of civilization. That is, he saw the necessity of Natural Law and Morality to the health of civilization and the human person.
Historically, the function of the armed services are about protecting Civilization from those who would threaten it. They are the white blood cells going after those who would disrupt the peaceful goings on in Civilization.
What is a soldier to do when civilization turns on itself? A soldier can stop a disease from without, but rot from within requires a different physician. Soldiers are the surgeons of our nations health. But you can’t cut out leukemia without cutting your own heart, and spilling all of your own blood. And the Cross shall absorb that, too.
It means we must acknowledge that playtime is over. Our freedom has a definition that outlines it’s limits. An orderly society, while constraining in many ways, is a requirement for true freedom. The government cannot give us liberty– it can only rob us of our native right.
So this is not a call to arms. It might become that ultimately, but those decisions are out of our hands. The just war is fought for the defense of the innocent. It would be nice if it were not necessary, but sometimes, it is.
No. This is a call to prudence, to chastity, to rejoining the fruitful acts of civilized life. The soldier protecting those innocents from harm is a timeless metaphor for justice– and a path to justice in truth. But. They must have something– a civilization worthy of the name– to believe in and defend. Otherwise, it is a total war– everybody vs. everybody– and against that there is no defense– save martyrdom.