We all know about Memorial Day, President’s Day, and “Columbus” Day, but did you know that there is an international holiday to celebrate the courage of the Conscientious Objector? That’s right. The date of May 15 marks the recurrence of the International Conscientious Objectors’ Meetings between 1981 and 1997, and has since become a day to educate and work on the duty/right/issue of conscientious objection. What does it take to get more people to oppose what is repugnant to their conscience and take on the struggle to live by its daily guidance? It’s a good question–and a tough one, because conscience requires action.
Even before the International Conscientious Objectors’ Meeting, however, there was poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her 1934 poem from Wine from these grapes, “Conscientious Objector” challenges the very spirit of war, that Destruction and Death somehow should triumph over life. It is a fitting anthem for this day, with notes of the nonviolent struggle even Gandhi would savor.
I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.
Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.
I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
Learn the story of a CO today. What did they do and why?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org