In viewing Ken Burns’ Vietnam series and then rereading Jesus’ words in The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), it strikes me as tragic that the world has usually reserved the highest honors for the warmakers.
Yet, the peacemakers — those who plead for understanding among all peoples, see all peoples as siblings, want cures for diseases and not merely a salving of symptoms, are routinely called “hippies,” “traitors,” and “troublemakers.” Authentic peacemakers don’t only pray in feeling or sentiment, but in practice, and they not only pray for the suffering and physically handicapped, but for the morally crippled — like the poor in honor however rich they may be in money.
Mercy-wise, it was the Romans of Christ’s day who despised pity. It was the Stoics who might offer succor, but looked askance at compassion. The Pharisees were harsh in their self-righteousness; they showed little mercy. I have found, writ large, the benediction that is promised to the merciful of The Beatitudes in these lines of Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, scene 1):
“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.”