Chapter Nineteen, Ashes and Embers / by E.M. Hernandez

Here I am, on the tail end of Memorial Day weekend, and by sheer serendipity the chapter for the podcast consists entirely of a memorial service for those killed in the Durian Revolution.

The funeral of the Artoren is wrapped in a confusion of emotions. All war memorials are. The victors honor their foes. The conquered honor their conquerors. The living remember the dead, both with pride and with mourning. All wars are moments of great decision, which shape all that follow them, never more so than in a Revolution; the participants must accept and address the decisions arrived at by the arbitrament of the sword. 

How should we talk about war? It is one of mankind's great puzzles. It is honorable to defend one's home and dishonorable to invade another's. But war is not simple in the way a crime can be simple. There is too much history and too many claims to what is right. One of the myths I have recently confronted is the simplicity of national identity. It is not simple, it is densely complicated. It is emotional. It is both more irrational and more logical that family identity. Does a government make a nation? An idea? Genetics? Language? Do we need nations, or are they merely myths in and of themselves? Collective myths easily disposed of? Are they worth fighting, killing, and dying for?

I have preferred answers to these questions. I think those preferences are better spelled out in Breaking The Skies than they could ever be in a blog post. My beliefs are deeply influenced by C.S. Lewis, who confronted many of the over-simple answers in defense of Pacifism with deep conviction and genuine experience, gained on the battlefields of World War One.

It is good to honor the fallen. And it should be painful to do so. Indeed, it is frail to honor them with words. It is perilous to honor them with show. It is appropriate to honor them with family and company and respect. But above all, it is essential to honor them with contemplation and vulnerability; a willingness to let our hearts be troubled as we consider what they died for and those they left behind. 

I look forward to the Fourth of July around this time of year. The month or so between Memorial Day and Independence Day can and should be a form of secular lent, in which the weight of the sacrifice is carried until we celebrate of the birth of a new nation, conceived in Liberty.