Saturday, February 9, 2008

National Cemetery - Los Angeles

One of the good things about moving to a new area is doing tourist stuff ... and though I've lived in LA now for six months, I'm still exploring the area with a tourist's eye.

Having driven by it any number of time on the 405, its ranks of white stones, like soldiers on a drill field waiting the arrival of their commander, I finally planned a photo trip there.

After shooting for a few moments, a cemetery worker told me that I needed a shooting permit, and he gave me a ride to the office. Having explained my interests as purely personal, I was given permission to proceed.

It was a beautiful day ... and I was humbled by all the stories held by each grave - from the Indian Wars, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WW 1 and 2, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.
I don't like war, and I'm mostly a pacifist, but the men and women in that hallowed ground deserve my respect, and I'll work all the harder to promote peace so that millions of young women and men around this blood-soaked world of ours will have a chance to live out their days.

I saw several Medal of Honor graves - every living recipient of that highest honor says much the same thing: "I was only doing what had to be done. Anyone could have done it." I stood before those simple stones, engraved with the Medal, their name and the war - a stark reminder of exploding shells and clouds of smoke, and a split-second decision to risk everything.

A Civil Warm monument - a soldier standing with his arms folded and resting on his rifle - weary and wary are his eyes - arresting imagery.

I wondered: how is that we glorify war? Is there some deeply embedded shame in our soul about such things, so sad and dark, that rather than admit the carnage we create and the souls we destroy, we dress it up in glory and honor?

Never condemn the solider, that I know, but we humans have a strange attraction to war. Even the jerk behind the wheel, madly honking his horn and shaking his head, is at war with his world.

It was a beautiful day.