When I lived at home, Memorial Day included cookouts and a visit to the neighborhood cemetery to honor veterans.
Today I'm thinking about how many people in armed services all over the world have served their respective countries, dutifully and faithfully, with the belief that they fought so that future generations wouldn't have to, and if that dream will ever be realized.
What could bring about world peace? What could make the sacrifices of so many millions of lives over the years worth it? I've been reading the Book of Revelation lately (it inspires surreal images when I write lyric poetry), and the book makes its readers consider the final destruction of Earth, and the ultimate victory over evil. It's actually a pleasant thought for some people, but I hate to think the only route to peace is the end.
The problem with peace is that too often in war, the idea of peace is, "My side wins. Future generations won't need to fight because now, everyone sees it my way." This is great when "my way" is really freedom and justice for everyone, not just my people, my country, or my social class. It is a false peace that sets bridges on fire rather than attempting to create them. Like animals mating or protecting their territory, it struts, thumps its chest and physically attacks rather than communicate.
We're humans. We have to be smarter than that, and yet for centuries, we haven't figured it out. I wonder sometimes if our shortcomings in achieving peace are due to how overwhelmingly patriarchal much of the world has been for so long. I thought about this recently while listening to Rev. Beverly Dale speak on an irreverently-named but brilliant episode of Jaclyn Friedman's "Unscrewed" podcast. Dale had a solution for saving the world. Near the 21-minute mark she said:
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… the words that I'm using -- connection, intimacy, even I would throw in here nurturance -- those are identified as female virtues. We don't allow our men to feel those things. We want them to be strong and never show any kind of risk or vulnerability. … If I'm in a position of power -- or society says I have power, because a lot of these men don't feel like they're powerful -- and you want me to be vulnerable, then I lose my identity as powerful male. … We have to empower the women to not be ashamed of our feminine power and desire to connect and nurture with other people, and instead, lift that up. That's what's going to save the planet, folks. We have to be able to do that, to reach out to those children in other countries who are being bombed. Come on. Where's the women's voices on that? Because the men don't have permission from a patriarchal system to be caring about little ones, or to be nurturing to the whole planet, but the women do. …
Feminine power can save the world. This is deeper than the mom separating children who fight on the playground and yelling in frustration, "Why can't everybody just be nice?" This is the same power that's at the core of Christianity: God's desire to connect with people who have separated themselves from her, to reconcile with them and nurture them back to an intimate relationship with her.
It's maternal. It's feminine. It's matriarchal. But it's not dysfunctional. For the body of Christ, female virtues are the ultimate power.
So what if, over the next hundred years or so, every person did everything they could to dismantle patriarchy, to give permission to all human beings to express their full range of emotion, regardless of gender or biological sex? What would solutions to the most vexing global problems look like then? How many soldiers might then rest knowing future generations wouldn't fight the same battles again?
[Mariam Williams is a Kentucky writer living in Philadelphia and pursuing MFA in creative writing at Rutgers University-Camden. She is a contributor to the anthology Faithfully Feminist and blogs at RedboneAfropuff.com. Follow her on Twitter: @missmariamw.]
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