The names of the dead are overwhelming.
The victims of wars -- the soldiers and sailors who enlisted and died following orders and a larger cause and the many, many others who were in the path of destruction -- are solemnly remembered and memorialized in the United States at the end of May.
In our grandparents' generation, the returning bodies from World War Two's overseas battles must have felt like the tide of the ocean: unending and incomprehensibly large. The personal and permanent pain to parents and siblings and spouses and children now just a distant memory of those who never met the dead.
Other people in other places more recently endure the pain of war that devastates the entire population: Syria and Yemen and South Sudan and Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya. Their memories are fresh. Their anguish is urgent. And our choices in the United States, most of us insulated and protected altogether from the consequences of war, increase or alleviate their suffering.
If there is a final reckoning of our lives after we pass, will our choices to vote for those who campaign on war or peace weigh in those deliberations?
Political campaigns can seem trivial or absurd or pointless. They are not. The ballots in a church basement or library or firehouse every other November are among the most consequential documents we ever touch. These ballots (however imperfectly translated into the public will) always carry with them the weight of life of death. More war -- brutal and horrifying and a dark stain on our collective conscious -- or a path to peace.
It's easier to choose war. It's easier to fight an enemy than find common ground. Perhaps we're hardwired that way. But it is a choice -- personal and private in each of our own hearts and minds that become our governments formed from our choices whether and how to vote.
The best evidence of civilization is overcoming war. Choosing peace. It is difficult and frustrating and in some ways counter-intuitive to choose the ambiguity of permanent negotiation over the clarity of conflict. The millions who might die or suffer from continued military conflict, both American and overseas, deserve our full attention and empathy every single time we are blessed with the opportunity to select our political leaders. We best remember the dead when we vote for peace.