Memorial Day has come and gone—a holiday to think about all those military veterans who have gone into harm’s way, including those who have given or have had their lives taken in the process.
When I wonder about those who went into harm’s way, I cannot help but think about agendas. I suspect some of those agendas were not at all pristine, as my parents—both veterans—also wondered. Certainly the effects of those agendas, pure in motive or not, have had a major impact on all of us, veterans or not. I think Memorial Day is a good time to look at our agendas—all of the agendas, both military and civilian, that have fostered so much harm. Yes, there have been agendas in both arenas that have helped tremendously, but this bit of muse is about those agendas that don’t.
Is our agenda to survive? To preserve? To be free? To avoid? To belong? To be unique? If any of these components are threatened, is our agenda to fight? There’s some Memorial Day musing: the contemplation of the veracity and efficacy of our agendas.
It seems to me that one of our most telling agendas is to fight rejection. The reader may find this a wee bit negative and/or projective. We might also fight acceptance (the you’re-great/no-I’m-not syndrome), but not nearly as vigorously as we do rejection.
On the surface, rejection may seem like too lame a reason to fight. Consider that small rejections can have a cumulative effect, gradually building until a breaking point is reached. Big rejections can push one to that breaking point very quickly. Small rejections are important because of the threat of being ostracized. Big rejections result in being ostracized. Being ostracized is abandonment—a reality that leaves us without support. Without support, humans can survive, but they can’t thrive. And this we know so well and at such a deep level, that even the implication of rejection, big or small, puts us on alert. When our sympathetic nervous systems go on alert, it’s fight, fright, or flight. When fright or flight don’t work, we fight.
Okay, what’s this got to do with Memorial Day and remembering those who fight? I think war is about battling the specter of rejection and the possibility of ostracization, whether it’s an individual or a nation engaged in any of this mischief. What if we only fought these wars, internationally and interpersonally, because in our efforts to accurately describe and live reality, we had to? Rejection itself is not a sufficient motivation to war with each other. Being rejected is only a challenge to increase the efficacy and veracity or of our own and others’ feelings, thoughts, and interactions.
Not that I want to get rid of holidays, but if we stopped going to war for all the wrong reasons, we might stop going to war at all. We might then move past Memorial Day in some future generation to another holiday such as Memorable Day, a celebration/remembrance of having understood that rejection is a reason to work on our clarity, not a reason to war on each other.