Berrigan, Ellsberg and Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day noted for its parades honoring veterans by ennobling, glorifying (and thereby perpetuating) US war and militarism. The peace community in Rochester observes instead a solemn riverside service memorializing the thousands of victims of current US war and aggression, with each victim symbolized by a single rose tossed lovingly into the river’s flow.

Victims memorialized include the casualties of US sanctioned war and aggression, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria to Yemen to Somalia to South Sudan to Palestine. Also the many innocent victims of drone attacks, inhumane US immigration and incarceration policies, militarization of the police, and preventable gun violence. And the worldwide victims of catastrophic climate change, fed by US policies of denial and consumption. And an entire global population victimized by the threat of  nuclear Armageddon triggered by senseless US provocations of Iran, North Korea, Russia, China.

There would not be enough roses to identify and honor even the tiniest sample of the the thousands of innocent victims lost to aggressive US policies. Such roses could easily choke the Genesee River in sorrow. Yet remembrance, however heartfelt, is still insufficient. After all, in his Gettysburg memorial address, Abraham Lincoln noted the futility of consecrating the war dead without rectifying the war’s cause: “It is for us the living to be dedicated to the unfinished work … so that these dead shall not have died in…

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