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Finneran: Are We Worthy?

Friday, May 27, 2016

 

Are we worthy?

It’s an enduring question in our self-governing republic, a constant question to be asked of each generation. Are we worthy?

It’s a particularly poignant question to ponder during Memorial Day observances. As we gather in parades and cemeteries, as we decorate the graves of the fallen, as we listen to the words of citizen-soldier generals and admirals, we cannot and should not close our minds to those seventeen and eighteen year-old boys who came home in coffins.

In most cases they left our homes and our neighborhoods eager to serve, filled with that sense of excitement and immortality that is so unique to youth. They may have fallen in Italy or France, in Germany or Libya, in the islands of the Pacific or from the skies above countless battlefields. Perhaps they fell in Korea or Vietnam, or more recently in Kuwait, Iraq, or Afghanistan. The location seems irrelevant. The loss is immeasureable.

Look at the headstones that their grieving parents raised in tribute to the memory of their sons. Imagine the shattering sadness of brothers and sisters, some older who would have wanted to protect their little brother, some younger who looked up their big brother as a family hero. Examine the dates on those headstones, the birth date and the date of death. Do the math in your head. They were so young.

Again and again, the question intrudes upon us---are we worthy? Worthy of their sacrifice? Worthy of their courage? What is our answer? 

The Dead speak to us in gentle tones, from far away and close to home, from Gettysburg to Flanders:

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place, and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from falling hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

 

May they rest in worthy peace.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.

 

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