A century before I was born, a noteworthy event transpired in another part of the world. It is directly related to Mexico’s victory over the French occupying forces at the Battle of Puebla that Cinco de Mayo commemorates. Though that battle did not give Mexico decisive freedom from Napoleon IIIs occupation, it was a significant turn toward that end. The Mexican army was outnumbered 2 to 1 and under qualified; still, they crushed the French army on May 5, 1862. It is speculated that if the French did win at Puebla they would transfer forces to aid the Confederate cause in the US. Instead, Mexico held on following the win, and after the Civil War’s end, the US offered political and military aid to Mexico ensuring they would wrest a final freedom from French occupation June 5, 1867 – cinco de Junio!
These Independent-Study history lessons continue a common theme: everything changes. nothing changes. Whether it is a significant incident in the year of my birth, or 100 years before it, when society does not collectively remember its history, hubris – or despair – catalyze a repeat. Friends are only friends until the friendship is no longer useful. Or, uncomfortable. Or, becomes embarrassing. Or, horror of all horrors, costly.
But friendship is inherently costly—whether between individuals, communities, or countries—because it is only friendship when each gives up the self. Voluntarily. Out of love. In solidarity with the other. And love does not come with conditions. Anyone who has ever been to a wedding has heard 1 Corinthian 13. But love is not just for those who marry. Indeed, marriage is symbolic of our relationship with God. It is symbolic of our covenant with one another to regard the other with dignity, as one created in the image of the God of all that is created – and not yet.
In (nearly) 50 years, what has changed because I exist in this world? What remains the same because I lack courage? My mother gave me a Bible at an important time in my life. She included a verse on the opening page – what felt to me as a prophetic blessing: “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh1:9)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Or dismayed. I can – and must – be a part of making things right in this world. It is what makes me human. One of those ways is to stand in solidarity with my neighbors and friends from Mexico whose dignity is disregarded. Today this is what I remember to be, and that having lived (nearly) half a century I am not finished. But the courageous are only thus when in the company of others who do the same. Are you in?