I read obituaries for the light they shed on living. On Monday, three men with little in common reminded me of the diversity of our travels from birth to death: Bud Day was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and endured five years of living hell in the Hanoi Hilton prison. He never broke, and his courage inspired his fellow prisoners, including John McCain. I consider personal courage among the highest virtues; I just wish our culture would uncouple it from warfare and honor it in all its manifestations. And I was saddened to read that Colonel Day later supported Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in their efforts to smear John Kerry, a sad postmark to a brave life.
Garry Davis, also an army aviator, embarked after World War Two on a quixotic journey when he renounced his American citizenship to become a “citizen of the world.” “The nation-state,” he wrote, “is the breeding ground of war” – a point worth thinking about as our government insists that secure national borders are the key to peace in Palestine, where the shame of the Israeli settlements is less that they infringe on Palestinian sovereignty than that they are an inhumane response to the tragic squalor of Palestinian camps.
J.J. Cale’s life celebrates the importance of making music. A musicians’ musician and writer, Cale didn’t need the bright lights on him. “I’d like to have the fortune,” he wrote, “but I don’t care too much about the fame.”