When the elderly die, we don’t mind so much but we do mind when the young die. Cancer deaths of the young break our hearts, but war deaths of healthy young agonize us. Memorial Day reminds us of these tragedies. Yet after the marching, flag waving and hymns we again forget.  

Let’s follow the parade into the cemetery as it halts amongst the rows of white crosses. Like digging beneath those white markers, let’s think about endless wars and the depth of suffering and ask why. Remembering that most veterans say they fought for peace, why then do we not celebrate peace?

I saw in Japan warriors’ cemeteries billow with white flags. Peace is the reason. Why not us? Maybe because they study the Tao which declares, “The best way to win a battle is not to fight one.”

Because our country has fought endless wars since WWII: Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Gulf I, Gulf II,  Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. We have a Secretary of State and a Secretary of Defense but we have no Secretary of Peace. We teach wars in history class but we do not teach peace. 

Sadly, as a country we have no idea of peace. Our minds are blank.

The wise know this: now is the time for change. For starters we should study Lincoln, who said, “The best way to change an enemy is to turn him into a friend.” We must remember how to make friends. 

Above all, the Tao recommends, “Know thyself.” We as a country need to reevaluate our war making and change to peace making. We need to teach peace studies in schools and as a discipline at the university level. We need peace studies now as all the warning signs of war are occurring: enemies are declared, weapons are threatened, sides are taken and armies are in place.  

We need to be a peaceful country teaching peace, and should start by celebrating Memorial Day with white flags of peace because that is why our brave youth died.

Mary Zanger


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