This morning these words (and the tune) ran through my mind. I ignored it. Again it played. Again I ignored. Again.... These words are from the Battle Hymn of the Republic. They are in the last verse, not the first. I don't remember last verses. It was a tap on my mental shoulder. So I put my pencil down and thought.
This is a song from the civil war between the states, a war that was ostensibly about northern states wanting to free slaves and southern states that wanted to continue slavery. It is a blatant mishmash of religion and politics wrapped in patriotic self-righteousness. It bears remembering here that history is written by victors. This song survives and thrives because its re-write by Julia Ward Howe is an anthem of the northern states.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a war song, and it is magnificent. I've never listened to it and failed to be moved deeply. I remember singing it with Lincoln Nebraska's All-School Choral Festival as the finale. I've sung it in churches, yes with all verses. As a war song, a song to inspire recruitment, a song to draw patriotic support of war, it excels.
My problem is who wants war? Why do we feel we must impose our values and standards on other cultures? Every war is about one faction believing it is right and the other is wrong. It is often more for economic or religious reasons than anything else. It's the religious based reasons that bother me the most. The civil war in America was more about economics than social justice, but it was clothed in religious fervor and righteousness as evidenced by this hymn.
Today we have wars sprouting up no differently than our civil war. America feels the need to impose its values on other cultures. America stirs the pot and then wonders why it boils over. We are not the only ones. Russia wants its satellite nations back, so into The Ukraine they go. Will others be next? Yes. Will we interfere? Yes.
Apparently we cannot help ourselves.
My friend Louella Marshall once said, there will always be war. Idealist that I am, I did not want to believe her. But she is wise. She has listened to her taps on the mental shoulder more purposefully than I. She's right. We cannot help ourselves.