Think Memorial Day, and most people think flags, parades, cook-outs, beach and an extended weekend. The underlying pain of war is papered over with baseball and beer. Lost in the innocence of parades and children with cotton candy is the way that we take for granted our freedom and the blessing that war has not come to our country since the Civil War. Underlying all of this is the expectation that it never will. But the energy of the world says otherwise. War has taken on a new guise: we call it terrorism. As I thought about that this morning, I felt awe for the amount of hope and belief that takes, given the way the world is today.
At Easter I wrote an article here about Hope, using the quote from Emily Dickinson that begins “Hope is the thing with feathers.” In contemplating our world and the weekend dedicated to war and warriors, I realized that I don’t believe “the thing with feathers” has the strength to represent what hope really is. Hope is more like iron—like the steel cables that hold up bridges or the steel that allows us to build towers so high that airplanes run into them, and then we rebuild them even higher. After the bombing of the concert in Manchester, I was in despair. More children targeted, more men with holes where their hearts used to be killing and maiming the innocent. How can there be hope? And then I remembered the refugees and immigrants.
No matter whether it is war instigated by politics, religion or ethnicity, families throughout the world are suffering unbearable atrocities. And yet they, somehow, find hope. They walk away from their homes penniless and sometimes shoeless and get on a boat to god-knows-where, armed only with hope. Hope that survives Aleppo, Mosul, southern Somalia and so many other war zones on the planet has a tensile strength that most of us have not experienced. Its underpinning is the ability to believe in good in the face of evil.
So, when immigrants refuse to believe the rhetoric of a president or a party or a group of citizens, and believe instead in “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” that is hope. They come and stand at the door of this country, believing in our basic system of heart and hope—the two most profound energies on the planet. That hope streams from the faces of those who have seen what is unbearable and yet they dare to hope. We have the ability to feel that hope and go beyond our fear of “other” to the high spiritual value of love one another. In the words of Robert Kennedy:
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
This is the definition of good in the face of evil, and it’s what those who defended freedom and those who came to this country embodied. Hope: an energy that can, as he says, sweep down the mightiest walls. And I would add, melt the hardest hearts. On this Memorial Day weekend, I still have hope.