Challenge Your Bias
DAY 19: Practice Radical Love for our Troops
Seek the stories you don't usually hear
I can count on one hand the number of people I know who are veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can count them on one hand and still have three fingers left over. One is the cousin of my childhood best friend and the other is a guy I met at church through young adult gatherings.
This means I don’t hear the stories of military members or veterans very often. Sometimes I would hear a report on the radio, read a news article, about veterans returning with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), veterans who can’t get access to the healthcare they need, and I would shake my head and be dismayed by our system that spends so much money on the war, but so little on those who took part in the fighting. But mostly war seemed far away from my middle class well-educated liberal life.
This feeling of removal is interesting because military service runs in my family. Both my grandfathers were in the army in the 1940s and my father was in the navy during the Vietnam War. But those are history book wars, events that happened before I was born. They never felt immediate.
I’ve been insulated from the effects of those recent wars by my social class, my education level, my cultural milieu. But it is important for me to hear the stories of those who have not been so removed. It was good for me to sit down and have a drink with the man I met at church who is a veteran and hear about his experience and how it motivated him to join Iraq Veterans Against the War. It was good for me to read Rev. Cynthia Kane’s 2009 reflection on the challenges of being a UU Navy chaplain and to read Kimberly Paquette's 2013 article about how finding a UU congregation when she was in the army was life-saving. It is good for me to keep my ears open to the stories I have yet to read and hear.
I think one of the best places to tell stories and to hear about the lives of others is at church. Whether it’s a testimony during the service, a coffee hour conversation, someone sharing at small group ministry or posting on facebook, we benefit from being in communities that are truly diverse, where we can learn from those whose life experiences have been different from our own. That is one of the many reasons we need one another. And that includes you.
So, maybe you’re someone who gets nauseated at the mere suggestion of mainstream patriotism and its support of the military industrial complex. Or maybe you’re someone who feels your heart swell with pride when you hear the Star Spangled Banner or got misty eye over that Budweiser Super Bowl commercial.
Maybe you have marched in 100 peace marches over the years, starting with protesting the Vietnam War. Or maybe you started protesting war after you returned from Iraq. Perhaps anti-war protests upset you because you highly value military service.
Maybe you served in the armed forces or maybe you were a conscientious objector. Maybe you have a friend or family member who was killed in a war, or maybe, like me, you feel far removed from that particular grief.
Whoever you are, if you are someone who believes in the worth and dignity of each human being, if you are someone who knows how deeply connected we are to each other and to all living things, then we need you. We need you in our Unitarian Universalist communities so that you can bring your wounds and your gifts and share your stories.