Fort Hood, Armistice Day, & the Burial of Abraham
by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
When I was a kid, at 11 a..m. on November 11, in every school and workplace in America (and Canada, France, England, elsewhere) everybody paused. We took a silent minute or two to remember the dead of World War I and to honor the Armistice that went into effect and stopped the killing at that moment on 11/11/1918. Even during World War II, we did this—and teachers mentioned the hope that it would have been “the war to end all wars.” I don’t recall honoring just the American and Allied dead; I think the terrible slaughters of Germans, Russians, Austrians, were also part of it.
This week, the Torah reading includes the story (Gen 25) of how Ishmael & Isaac, Abraham’s two long-estranged sons, came together to bury him—though, or because, he had endangered both their lives. By mourning him together, they dissolved their hostility, and came to live together at the Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.
This week we have been mourning the American soldiers killed by another American soldier at Fort Hood, and sorrowing for their families. Elsewhere in the world, other folks are mourning Afghans and Pakistanis who were celebrating weddings when they were killed by US Predators flinging lightning bolts of death from the sky.
Could we bear to mourn their dead as well as “our own”? Could they bear to mourn our dead as well as “their own”? In Israel & Palestine, there is actually a Circle of Bereaved Families who do exactly that.
What difference might it make? If each “side” mourns only “its own,” it is likely that rage and hatred at “the others” will increase. If we can mourn all our dead, perhaps we can make an Armistice. Or even Peace.
So I propose that at 11 am on November 11, we pause to mourn the dead of Fort Hood, of the Pashtun lands, of all the bloodied battle fields.