On Memorial Day, as we pause in remembrance of those who have died in service in the U.S. military, I hope we also remember as well the diplomats and the mediators, those working in conflict resolution, the activists dedicated to preventing wars and to bringing existing wars to diplomatic resolution once they have begun, the individuals of conscience who refuse to give over their minds, their souls, and their bodies to armed conflict, the practitioners of non-violent resistance in the face of tyranny and oppression, the anti-war activists who strive to educate their peers, their citizenry, and, yes, their government to the perils of unjustified and unjust armed conflict and incursions into lands not their own in advance of appropriate attempts at diplomatic means of resolving conflict.
Individuals and groups who stand up and put their lives on the line to defend the country from very real threats to our national security, as do those in our nation’s military, are true patriots. But true patriots are also those who speak out, stand up, and challenge our governmental leaders, those who put their lives on the line by actively advocating for justice, freedom, and liberty through peaceful means.
Looking over the history of humanity, it is apparent that tyranny, at times, could only be countered through the raising of arms. On numerous occasions, however, diplomacy has been successful, and at other times, it should have been used more extensively before rushing to war.
I find it unacceptable when one’s patriotism and one’s love of country is called into question when one advocates for peaceful means of conflict resolution, for it is also an act of patriotism to work to keep our brave and courageous troops out of harm’s way, and to work to create conditions and understanding that ultimately make war less likely.
On Memorial Day, let us expand our definition of “patriot” while we remember and honor all of those serving our country.
Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).