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The Other Memorial Day

Today, May 29,2006, is the day that in the United States we celebrate memorial day. It is a day to honor the people who have given their lives for our country.

I have very mixed feelings about Memorial Day because I am a moral person and I believe that killing people is wrong and I, with John Lennon, Imagine a world where people would stop killing and maiming one another for religion, for nationality, for money and resources. Like Rodney King said, "Can't we all just get along?"

I have a great, great, great, great, great grandfather, Avery Markham, who served in the War of 1812. My maternal grandfather, James Gerould, served in the Spanish American War in 1898. My father, Donald F. Markham, served in the Second World War, and my son, Michael Markham served in the Army Medical Corps in the late 80s just before the first Persian Gulf War.

I am not a pacifist and yet I have observed our country, the good ole U.S. of A., perpetrate what I consider to be unjust and immoral wars in Viet Nam, in Panema, in Grenada, and now in Iraq. Soldiers in these activities are to be pitied more than honored because they have been used by politicians to further their political ends rather than being legitimate activities necessary for the defense of our country.

People join the military to kill. Maybe they don't understand that at the time they enlist because the recruiters are good at seducing young minds into believing it is about honor, education, service, etc. when it really is about joining a mercenary enterprise met to subjugate, oppress, coerce, and intimidate.

There are those who have seen through the fraud and refused to join, or, as in Viet Nam, actually became conscientious objectors or fled the country to avoid the draft. There have been those, too, who have objected to further serving in Iraq. These are the unsong heroes, the people who have sacrificed their livelihoods, their families, their social standing and status to do the right thing. They have been castigated, criticized, in some cases arrested and imprisoned for their refusal to cooperate in the killing machine.

What would the world be like if every parent took this pledge, "I promise to raise my child to not kill your child?"

So, today, I begin celebrating the "other memorial day" when we honor those people of conscience who refuse to kill in immoral and unjust wars, who question the motives of those who send the nation to war leading to untold death, destruction, and suffering. I want to honor those who seek peace through negotiation, cooperation, collaboration, and nonviolence. There may be times when it becomes necessary to stand up to injustice, abuse, and oppression with armed resistance, but it is hard to imagine such a legitimate use of arms in our modern world unless you live in a third world country or in a country that has something the United States wants like oil.

The Idolotry of secular gods more powerful social influence than belief in the Christian god

In spite of what you might expect, I believe that most people come to a religious conviction later in their life, instead of continuing to identify themselves with the religion of their childhood, the faith they were raised in. Whether one sees oneself as a Protestant, a Catholic, an Evangelical, a Buddhist, a Jew seems to be as much an accident of birth and culture as anything else and for most Americans not as influential an identification in the organization of their life as their identification with a secular religion.

There also are many secular religions which have even more powerful influences than god based religions. These are the religions of materialism, of alcohol and drugs, of sex and pornography, of gambling, of work, of sports. These secular religions have many of the same influences in terms of mode of dress, use of time, activities participated in, the purpose which organizes behavior and provides incentive and motivation.

Let's take just one example of a secular religion, professional sports, and an informed observer notices such things as people's team identification complete with costume of ball cap, jacket, jersey, and knowledge of the rules and histories of major players and teams, and time spent in ritualistic ways attending games and discussion of pre-game and post-game intricacies. People look forward to games and play-offs with an enthusiasm and anticipation which far out distances any similar enthusiasm and anticipation for religious services and celebrations. Over the last 40 years one of the most holiest of holy days in America's secular religious celebrations is Super Bowl Sunday. It rivals Christmas and Easter in terms of celebrations, family get togethers, anticipation, etc.

Religion can be re-defined as that which gives meaning to life and that which influences identity, interpersonal relationships, and codes of behavior.

If we use this as a definition, the Father God of Christianity has relatively little influence considering the idolotry of the secular gods in our culture, of which sports is but one example.

There are important social consequences for sports being a secular religion. In many sports such as golf, tennis, soccer, baseball, the interest is international, tends to be racially inclusive, is a suggogate for war which does not lead to death and destruction.

Sports are performance based and fans "worship" their heroes of accomplishment who often are elevated to "sainthood" by being admitted into the Hall Of Fame. These Hall of Famers often are held up as icons of athletic virtue to be emulated by the young.

To be continued

Freeway, the film

Freeway is a film distributed in 1996 about a teenager, Vanessa Lutz, played by Reese Witherspoon who has a real chip on her shoulder after being raised by a drug addicted prostitute mother, and sex abusing methamphetamine addict step father.

As she flees placement in foster care to find her never seen before paternal grandmother, her car breaks down on the freeway and she gets picked up by a youth counselor who also turns out to be a serial killer. When the serial killer attempts to molest her she fights back and the story goes from there.

Vanessa is wise beyond her years and her spunk and honesty are a real inspiration. This is clearly an adult movie with graphic description of sex and violence, but done in a satirical and yet straight foward bluntly honest way.

There were times that this movie made me laugh and times when it made me cry. I have worked with "oppositional defiant" kids just like Vanessa and I have a great respect for their desire to survive very difficult circumstances while standing up and even striking back at unfair attemtps by adult authority figures to unfairly subjugate and oppress them.

I highly recommend this movie to an adult sophisticated audience. Reese Witherspoon gives a stunning performance.

Link: Freeway (1996).

In Her Shoes, the film

In_her_shoes In Her Shoes is a romantic comedy about two mismatched sisters, Maggie (Cameron Diaz) and Rose (Toni Collette), whose mother it turns out commited suicide when they were children. Their father remarried to an obnoxious step mother and for reasons unknown cut off contact with the girls maternal grandmother, Ella, played by Shirley McClaine.

This movie gets off to a slow start with Maggie engaging in promiscuous, alcoholic behavior, while Rose is a promising, earnest, hard working young attorney. Rose and Maggie have a falling out when Maggie sleeps with Rose's boyfriend from the law firm.

Maggie, however, desparate for a place to stay since Rose threw her out, tracks down the long lost grandmother, Ella, in Florida, and they develop a positive relationship. Eventually, Rose finds the two of them and there are family reunions and a happy ending all around.

This film has a lot of positive features in that it is funny, honest, and not sentimental and maudlin. I enjoyed the character development and the realistic portrayal of family relationships. The performances by the actresses are excellent.

I recommend this film.

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Quote of the day

"And God said to the soul, 'I desired you before the world began. I desire you now as you desire me. And where the desires of the two come together, there love is perfected.'"

Mechthilde of Magdeburg

Quote of the day

"For the most part, my solutions to human problems have been simple ones - get more rest, do good work, take things a day at a time, and find some people to love. Of course, simple suggestions aren't necessarily easy and they don't always work."

Mary Pipher