Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day, War, and Notre Dame

"Where have all the flowers gone? ...
Gone to graveyards every one
Oh when will they ever learn?"
–Pete Seeger, from his song "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?"

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again" (Micah 4:3)–from today's reading.

In the VH1 show Behind the Music (a show about famous rock groups) the episode begins with the band struggling to make it, then after succeeding, succumbing to drugs, booze, sex, or all of the above, and then, in the final act, the surviving members trying to make it back. In the lives of the saints, the story starts with a holy man or woman giving their life to God, then enduring many physical and spiritual struggles as well as persecution from the jealous within and the heretics without before finishing the race and coming face-to-face with Christ. And on Memorial Day, there are always tales of young gung-ho soldiers gallantly going off to war, only to be cut down in the prime of their lives and never coming back, their once patriotic parents weeping at the passing ...

What to do about war, or how–or if–to fight them, is one of life's most difficult questions to answer. Indeed until all nations are governed by just men, it is difficult to imagine Micah's prophesy coming to pass. As for our own country, our wars are too filled with both patriotism and pathos. We tell our kids how cool it was that we defeated the British for our Independence with smaller forces firing from behind bushes and rocks as they fought in straight lines in open fields. Yet we don't take so kindly to such tactics when the opposition used similar subterfuge in Vietnam and now Iraq. We liberated the world from the demonic dictator Hitler who slaughtered six million innocent Jews, but in doing so, dropped bombs that killed thousands of innocent Japanese and made allies with the Satanic Stalin who enslaved most of western Europe while killing twenty million of his own people as well. We made America a land of freedom and opportunity, except for its natives who we slaughtered or banished to reservations ... or casinos ...

So looking back, we see even the just wars (WWII) unjust by St. Augustine's standards and the unjust wars just disgusting. We do not seem to learn from history, for although Augustine's Just War theory is still valid, it seems about as easy to accomplish as a rich man entering into the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps that is why I (as well as Lou Holtz and many other Irish observers) so cling to football—especially Notre Dame football—as the ultimate just war. For not only does football take place on a field with specific rules with almost no "collateral damage," the decision is nearly always decisive. And with the possible exception of when Notre Dame plays Boston College, it is always a battle of Our Lord and Our Lady against the forces of worldly wisdom. How we would get the nations to take up footballs instead of guns and solve their disagreement in this way I cannot say, but after watching today's Memorial Day Parade, I do know one thing:

I can't wait 'til fall for the Fighting Irish football season to begin.

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