memorial

If there is a single force that generates inequality, violence and war throughout the world, and therefore this day of memorial, I vote for the self-image we create gazing up for assurance and approval as infants. At this early stage of development what emerges from that glance is not a fixed image, rather feelings of acceptance, of care, welcoming, understanding, empathy, encouragement or their opposites; rejection, anger, frustration, neglect and the various forms of abuse.

Over time the repetition of these feelings coalesce, merge, form predictable patterns and these in turn create the scaffolding upon which our social identity is formed. Belonging means survival. Rejection could mean death. So we began to judge our worth and value based on the emotional reactions we experience in the mirror of relationship.

Being accepted and maintaining the bond with mother extends to father, siblings, extended family, tribe, village, our score, grade point average, nationality, race, profession, political party, social status, cast, club, gang, and religion. Our identity and self-worth are sculpted by the selfish needs of these social groups and within each is a pecking order forged by comparison, allegiance, obedience and conformity. Conflict, greed and war are implicit in this structure. It is this that we memorialize this day.

We are told that it is human nature to form such an image, to justify and defend as we do the other image based structures we identify with, our nations, religions, our politics and beliefs. These too are images, thought forms, ideas. Consider that the source of our personal identity, our self-image is the same capacity that creates the image we call our nation, our religion, our political party and the other prides and prejudices we fight and kill over.

Imagine when that infant gazes up it meets not a social-ego, an image being justified and defended, but rather compassion, kindness, a deep understanding that we human beings are one species, brothers and sisters each and every one experiencing the same sensations, emotions, needs and hopes. Imagine this infant not being compared to others, not graded, categorized, standardized, but respected and appreciated for the miracle that they are.

That infant would not develop a tribal, national or religions self-image. They would identify with all humanity. He or she would understand that animals feel the same as we do, very similar feelings and sensations. Growing up this new human being would relate to the birds as cousins, with wonder, appreciation and care. Racism would not be part of this young person’s identity. When they see another they would see themselves and express that with every move they make.

Let this very real possibility be what we celebrate this memorial day and set the stage for something completely new, an end to war, greed and conflict as we know it, for all of these take root in this image. And that would be worth celebrating.

Michael Mendizza

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