Walking in the Shadowlands

In the Shadowland

Late last  night I sat outside  with Joe on the sidewalk as he ate some food I had prepared and as we talked he shared with me the hateful comments he had received all day for being a veteran and homeless. He was in tears, and very sad. He had displayed an American flag in honor of Veterans Day and people cussed him, and spat upon him. As I reflected upon what he was telling me I thought of an Uncle, and a cousin who fought in World War II,  both suffered malaria and PTSD, from the aftermath of the war; I thought of those who fought in all of the wars, and what we have as a result of their sacrifice–our freedom, our right to protest, and the successes  on our journey for equal rights.

As I reflected further I thought of all the veterans, young and old, who are homeless, suffering form PTSD. I am in a group with ten,  never have I heard one regret their service; I thought of my three psychiatrist friends,  one in San Francisco, and two in New Mexico who work in our Veterans Hospitals and of the stories they tell me of devotion and sacrifice; I think of my friend Joe, a Presbyterian minister, who served in the Vietnam War, and I think of a friend of mine in Southeast Mo., whose son fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. They served and suffered because of believing in the best that this country offers. Frankly at one time if I had not been queer  I would have been a Navy chaplain. now because of the struggle of so many, that is possible for other queer young men and women.

      Dorothy Day once said of the Church: “She is both a whore and our holy mother,” and so it is with our country.  So much harm we do, and yet so much good. In the  struggle this flag symbolizes we have seen our country move from a country ruled by men, to one where women, people of color, people of all races and creeds have a part. And yet we still see oppression.  We are always in the  shadow land. It is  in the shadow land  that we struggle and from that struggle comes the best. We lose some, we win some. 

Let us respect that flag as a symbol of the struggle for what we view as best in the world, and in our lives. Let us honor it for the freedom and the justice it has given. To burn it, to tear it  up, to drag it on the street, dishonors the integrity and the sacrifices of the men and women who have served under it. It dishonors our rights that we have to protest and our integrity in our right to protest.  Let us honor the flag as a symbol of the best that we can be. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



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