It has taken me nearly a year to get through Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States. I bought it at a small bookstore in the center of Summerville, South Carolina while visiting my personal partner’s brother. Even that is somewhat of a privilege when I consider how many people around the world cannot fly to another city, kayak for fun, or choose which recipes to mix for a healthy meal–with clean water. It is not lost on me that the decision to buy a $19.99 book would be a major one for some people in this country.
It is my awareness of the inequity and injustice in the world that makes it so difficult to read more stories of how my beloved homeland caused or contributed to them. Zinn’s book is full of them, yet he wrote that his intent was to call us into action. That is my intent here, too.
For years, if not decades, I have been conflicted about the celebration of some of our national holidays. In my youth, Memorial Day was when public swimming pools opened, big sales were held, and we gathered for a potluck barbeque. Sometimes school was already out, and the holiday was celebrated in conjunction with my birthday. Even with lots of military veterans in my family and neighborhood, I don’t remember ever discussing the reason this became a national holiday.
When I decided to learn and think more about Memorial Day, my internal conflicts around it grew. Perhaps that’s why many of us focus on the food, clothes, and fun.
It seems kind and right to honor the people who died while serving in the US military. My family tree has its share of distant relatives who died in the Civil and World Wars. Fortunately, most of our enlisted loved ones returned with no or minor impairments–at least physically. I honor them for their service, even if I question the effectiveness, politics, and motives behind wars or individual decisions on serving in the military. It’s all more complex than we like to make it.
Unfortunately, there will always be conflict. It’s a natural part of living that facilitates growth. But we can choose the growth we want. Every action is paired with an equal and opposite reaction, according to Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion. So today I’m thinking about balance:
- What peaceful actions can we take to avoid adding names to the list of Memorial Day honorees?
- Can racism and sexism be corrected with racism and sexism directed at different groups?
- Can love really drive out hate, as Martin Luther King said in his Strength to Love book?
We have the day off to reflect on the country and world we want to create. Perhaps this is the best way to honor those lost in violent conflict.
Keep listening with your third ear.
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Nance L. Schick, Esq. is an attorney, mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City. Her goal is to keep people out of court and build their conflict resolution skills. She helps managers and business owners have difficult conversations about topics like race and gender. Her holistic, integrative approach draws from her experience as a business owner, crime victim, employer, human resources supervisor, minor league sports agent, and United Nations representative.