"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

“For Your Tomorrow”

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Author Melanie Murray has produced an extremely moving book (Random House 2011) about her nephew, Captain Jeff Francis, who was killed by an IED blast in Afghanistan July 4, 2007. He was a FOO (forward observation officer) supporting the combat operations, and the second FOO to die (the first being Captain Nichola Goddard). [anyone who seeks to know the high danger experienced by the FOO, should read through George Blackburn’s series on his time in WW II as a Canadian FOO]

What I found most fascinating were her own struggles (as a pacifist) with the question of warfare and the Canadian mission in the Middle East. I would recommend it, although I thought there were a few too many interjections of ancient myth, as it interrupted the continuity of the narrative.

His aunt, who notes she lay with John and Yoko in their 1969 bed, reflects on her stance as a pacifist after she learns of her nephew’s enlistment:

“As a pacifist, however, I had never been able to resolve the problem of how to combat the evil that exists in the world. What do you do when the barbarians are at the gate? What would I do if the lives of my own children were threatened? Speak softly and carry a big stick?”

I think she has summed up the central question for a pacifist, as I’ve written before – how does one maintain their own sense of goodness, when their choice to avoid violence leads to the suffering of others?

From a Christian perspective, I would think that question answered by the parable of the Good Samaritan: the rule is no violence, but all the rules are subject to the two big rules: love God; love your neighbour as yourself. It is hard to understand a decision to remain passive, when you could prevent suffering through the use of violence. The passive one stands along with the priest and the Levite in the parable…walking past the man in need, only to preserve their purity.

I know the usual response is that you can’t answer a greater evil with a lessor evil (doing violence), but that question pre-empts the important discussion about the status of violence if used to save the marginalized – is it in fact evil, if it is done to be a neigbour to those who are dying?

The author makes a powerful statement about the public witness along the Highway of Heroes:

“With every bridge they pass under, [they all] gaze in wonder. The sentiment emanating from the crowds penetrates the tinted windows of their limo. They grasp each other’s hands as tears of gratitude mingle with their tears of sorrow. The never expected such an outpouring – this benediction – during this interminable two-hour journey…The weight of their grief…is lightened, as it’s borne on the shoulders of Canadians. Ordinary people acknowledging their debt, the price that these soldiers and their families have paid on their behalf: The dove is never free.”

Underlining this message of debt, she includes the text from a letter from a woman they did not know, but who wrote to thank them for their son:

“Your son gave his life to the fragile dream of peace and for the security of others. His life had this richness of commitment and a huge, yet unknown, effect on others. I am, myself, a product of those brave souls that fight for freedom as my parents survived the holocaust of World War II by being liberated by soldiers like your son. Because of soldiers like him, they were reborn when they settled in Canada. My brother and I owe our own lives to soldiers who assist those in need of protection. Your son’s life was large and very important. Without people like him and parents like youself, who must soldier the pain of loss, our way of life and freedom would not exist.”

We must always remember, that the citizens in a democracy (pacifist or not), owe a debt to the soldiers who suffer at the request of that democracy, for we share a collective obligation for the actions of our government…even when we disagree. That obligation, the sacred contract between the state and its soldiers, means we all bear the cost and the responsibility for those who have been wounded or killed because of the will of the people. We can not, like Pilate, wash our hands of their blood by claiming that we have never supported the mission, for that only serves to drive yet another nail into His cross.

A touching witness to the life of a soldier, a warrior and a true person. We shall not see his like come this way again. Highly recommended.


Written by sameo416

February 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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