Millions of people around the United States will place flags and flowers at the monuments of loved ones who served in the armed forces on this upcoming Memorial Day. The President will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. These rituals honor those who made great sacrifices and provide families with another opportunity to express their love.
I think the greatest tribute to loved ones lost in war is to mark that special day with a pledge to create a "Culture of Peace." Such a pledge means we seek truth, speak truth, and do truth by challenging lies that create wars that are unjust or promote violent systems. President Eisenhower spoke as one who knew much about war, "Beware of the military, industrial complex!"
"All that is necessary for evil to exist is for good people to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke
Women in today's military are not safe. According to a report in Newsweek, women in the United States military are more likely to be assaulted by men in the military than killed or injured by an enemy soldier. Last year there were 26,000 reports of sexual assaults. Those are only the reported assaults. Women state they are being intimidated if they consider reporting. When a guilty verdict is reached, it is often overturned by a commanding officer. Women senators and representatives are taking a leadership role in addressing the issue.
The Violence Against Women Act was finally reauthorized despite conservative opposition. Those objecting did not seem to think it was important to protect Native American women or immigrant women from domestic violence.
In January 2009, President Obama announced that he would suspend all ongoing military tribunals and that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility would close within a year. Four years later, Guantanamo Bay remains open, fueling determination among human rights advocates to close it down.
Supporters of Guantanamo Bay claim that it is needed to deter terrorist activities and disrupt the coordination of splinter groups. There are compelling arguments for closing the detention center, including:
As congress comes together to debate an immigration reform bill, it is important that they consider the specific needs of children of immigrant parents. According to the Coalition on Human Needs, children of immigrant parents comprise one in four of all children in the United States. Too often children have been disregarded or excluded in U.S. immigration policy decisions.
There is a strong chorus in the United States expressing frustration about a "do nothing" Congress. Bill after bill goes nowhere and partisan posturing fills the air. In the midst of this discouraging scene is a promising immigration reform bill created by a bipartisan group of eight senators.
The Coalition on Human Needs presents a grim picture of the consequences of the sequester. Unemployment compensation, education, jobs programs, housing, public health, and justice funding are already feeling the brunt of deep cuts coming from the inability of congress and the president to reach a reasoned agreement. Families and individuals will all suffer. The following points are snapshots of effects of sequester cuts provided by the Coalition:
When accompanying immigrant families, one learns the tremendous effort necessary for them to come to a totally different culture in another country. After trying everything to make a living for their children, in desperation the couple decides to move to the United States.
Once here, there is the stress of finding a place to live and a job that will enable them to meet basic needs. Being immersed in a new language and navigating a whole different educational system become overwhelming at times. The laws for driving, disciplining their children, etc., come to their attention after they are in trouble for having broken them.
There is the feel of springtime in the church today. We witnessed a pope reject symbols of pomp and privilege - no red shoes, no red cape, no chair elevated above an audience, and a simple apartment to serve as home for Pope Francis. Pope Francis is following in the tradition of St. Francis and reaching out to those often uninvited by society or church. It was a teachable moment when he conducted Holy Thursday Mass at a juvenile detention facility and washed the feet of prisoners, including two women and one Muslim. Earlier he said to priests gathered at the chrism mass: "...shepherds need to be with the smell of their sheep. We need to prioritize the poor."
Good news is always welcome! Recently good news came from Maryland as the state's house members approved repeal of the death penalty and Governor Martin O'Malley has promised to sign this long awaited bill. Six states have repealed the death penalty in the last six years, bringing the total to 18 states now death penalty free. It appears that Delaware will follow Maryland's lead and abolish the death penalty this year.
This is a time not only for abolitionists to rejoice, but for persons everywhere who are concerned about violent solutions to problems of violence.
Someone once said, "History books are not filled with the names of the cautious." I have thought of that many times when reflecting on critical social issues of our time. President Obama and members of congress recently gathered in the Capitol Building to unveil a statue of Rosa Parks. I am sure she thought of all of the consequences of remaining in her seat on that bus in Birmingham. The thought of losing her job, being misunderstood, being separated from her family, and being confined to a jail cell enduring racist comments certainly crossed her mind. She chose to be bold and speak truth to power. This one action moved the civil rights movement forward and buses became integrated.