I was driving through downtown Nashville a few days ago and saw a pillared but otherwise non-descript beige façade, as so many building are, outside the realm of honky-tonks and guitar shops. But something caught the corner of my eye. It was a little bundle of words dug into a block of stone set on the side facing Church Street. It said, “War Memorial Building.”
I quickly diverted my eyes. Who wants to remember war, I thought. My mind was pulled back into sharp focus of busy streets — pedestrians darting against green lights, a game between time and nerve; buses halting unexpectedly to spew and swallow mothers, jokers, students and a few business suits.
Later that night, those words flashed before me as I set my guitar down after plunking out a few tunes. A war memorial. Surely there is a meaningful way to make sense of what my heart can never make sense of.
When I was a little girl, I came to America with my family of brown skin. I remember the looks of wonderment I got from the country folk and school kids. In a little mid-western town, where the most outrageous thing that happens is Farmer Joe’s roof getting relocated to the cow pasture by a twister, or Uncle Sam getting out of jail before Aunt Sally can find his still and make a sweet profit on corn-squeezins. Being different does have its advantages! It was into this world of shrunken horizons that we landed.
After the initial shock wore off, the kids at school began to talk to me. Sometimes they would reach out tenuously to touch the deviating shades of skin tone never before beheld by their sophomoric eyes. Fascination eventually overcame caution and a few kids would rub the back of my hand and say, “Does that come off?” I finally started saying, “No, I’m made of chocolate. Through and through.” We’d laugh and then they’d bite me.
Color of skin, color of flags, color of gods can’t be discerned by a soldier’s last breath or a baby’s first cry.
If I could make a war memorial, it would be:
Every flower is precious, whether it’s red or purple or yellow or blue. A world with just one type of flower would be flat.
Everyone is someone’s child.
The eyes behind a burqa or Foster Grants harbor a lifetime of stories, questions, strivings, hopes, and relationships, just the same.
The nuancic differences between our DNA may delineate vanilla or chocolate or strawberry but our souls come from the same warm hearth. We all long for the same things – to be understood, to feel important to someone, to make a difference in someone’s life, to feel satisfaction from what we pour our time and effort into, etc.
The monster, Greed, is a hollow-faced emptiness that gets bigger when you feed it, and grows up to be desperation.
You are safe only when you befriend your enemy. When you befriend yourself, no one can be your enemy.
Love keeps no record of wrongs. I read that somewhere. And every choice we make is based on love or fear. My daughter read that somewhere.
So in memoriam, please remember: Love.
Thanks to awwproject.org for photo