My Sikh Sense
By Mukhia Singh Sahib
Jiwan Singh Khalsa
Jiwan Singh Khalsa
Memorial Day, America in Play
Sat Nam. Memorial Day is a day I celebrate, at least internally. For me, it represents more than just America’s sacrifice. It represents all those who’s sacrifice led to an increase consciousness in the world. After all, if viewed from above, the history of the world has been juxtaposed with the collective increase in consciousness. This happens, either through force or agenda, as people, cultures, and countries step it up.
For example, take Vietnam. Forty five years latter we are still feeling the effects of losing our first war. It’s been a humbling experience for America. We’ve been just as reluctant to loosen the mantle of world supremacy. The question is: Are we still worthy to lead the world?
Vietnam was not necessary. In reality, there was no great strategic necessity for fighting this war for the purpose of containing communism. Until almost all citizenry are truly selfless, and there’s very little chance of that happening, pure communism is unsustainable. Why be scared of it? Well, we were back then. Furthermore, we believed that we could exercise our will, one way or another, over “lesser” countries. This has been the way of diplomacy forever.
But, if we are the true leaders of the world don’t we have to be better than the ordinary? Don’t countries, like people, have the right to choose how they live without interference even if we judge their culture, religion, etc. as limited? Can’t various cultures live in mutual respect? Here we go!
I love President Eisenhower. He was president in the early 1950’s and was a truly great man: he had the staunch faith of a Kansan, tempered by the discipline of a West Pointer, and the culture of a man further mollified through the understanding and compassion gained from leading the American military in Europe during WWII. His combination of virtues was dynamite. He was all this, but he wasn’t perfect.
It was under his watch that America virtually took over France’s position in Indochina in 1954. Big mistake. Vietnam was part of Indochina. There have been many reasons fluttered about as to why we did this. Some even make sense. Beyond the obvious, America was exercising what all nations previously had done.
America wasn’t different anymore. America was exercising it’s will. This is a deviation from the standard. Why did we have to keep up with the Jones? Just because European powers had colonies shouldn’t mean that we need to as well. But, we did, de facto or de jure. Imperialism had become the grand accouterment of wealthy nations.
After the French defeat and their withdrawal from Vietnam, Eisenhower promised the new Prime Minister of the Bao Dai government American support to ensure a non-communist Vietnam. It began here and there with arms and support, and ended some twenty years later with well over 50,000 American deaths in a war called “the war without a reason.” But, there was a reason, and it’s not pretty, American ego.
What have we learned from this war? Have we accepted being humbled? What have we done about it? Are we able to recognize American hubris? Has it made us humbler, or have we denied another opportunity to grow and lead? Are we again ready to lead the world through our compassionate, loving, and disciplined example? Has our experience in Vietnam taught us to lead by example, not force? And then, only as a last last resort. Finally, if any and all negotiation, true diplomacy, and conscious patience fail, then still are we still prepared to defend our right to freedom?
Freedom is the right everyone has to live their life their way. So long as their way doesn’t infringe upon my way, I’ll fight for their right. This is what a Sikh is committed to. This is what Vietnam has taught us -- we fought for the wrong reasons. We should have been fighting for self-determination.
Live and let live and be an example of how living the American way works. That’s it. Don’t change anything; spend your time perfecting yourself within your lifestyle. Only step in other’s conflict when called upon or when consciousness demands. Give magnanimously to other countries with no expectation of reciprocity required. This is the example the world will look up to. This is the example which is based on faith. A nation based of realized faith is the true leader of this world.
In some strange way, the painful experience of Vietnam may have been necessary for America to wake up. I know it may not appear so now, but change is a progression, not a straight line upwards. Patience pays. Sometimes, issues like the Vietnam war or our current political situation provide a roadmap to what we don’t want as much as a roadmap to what we need. Negative experiences also have a great lesson built in. If a person or a nation recognizes this lesson and learns from it, well, thank God.
This Memorial Day I pray that the experience of Vietnam is learned in a positive way and that America, once again, becomes the high standard and hope in the world by understanding and modeling compassion first. Unabated compassion is disastrous, disciplined compassion is divine, but this topic is for another time.
All the questions I proposed above can be answered in one way. America must not impose it’s will on others just because it can. America must be the country of benevolence. America must, as President Theodore Roosevelt said, “speak softly, but carry a big stick.” This is how America the great looks in the 21st century. Stay tuned.
In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
MSS Hari Jiwan Singh Khalsa
Chief of Protocol,
Sikh Dharma -- More.