May 15

International Conscientious Objectors Day


When Nicholas was a young lad, he joined the afterschool band for a short while.  An instrument was assigned to him based on his limited musical skill:  the triangle.

Bassoon and trumpet and drum kids would practice outside club hours, losing precious sandlot and television time to find proper notes and beats, in endless repetitive patterns.  Nicholas played kickball and watched shows like Lucy and Car 54 instead of practicing, and he felt lucky that the little dings of the triangle were so simple to produce within the band’s limited repertoire.

After a while, however, the lack of challenge began to bother him.  Once the limited pleasures of “Sugar Sugar” and “Ba-Ba-Barbara Ann” were exhausted, Nicholas decided to hang up his triangle for good.

The club leader wasn’t happy about his decision to quit the band elective.  She looked down her nose at him, said that “Every part of an orchestra was important,” and argued that, “If everybody thought like you did, Nicholas, we’d no longer have music.”

That last comment smarted a bit.  Everybody liked music, including Nicholas.  He just didn’t want to ding his way through the same five songs for weeks on end.

Nicholas remembered his band teacher’s comment years later, when it was time to sign up for the draft.  He’d decided to register as a “conscientious objector.”  To support his new-found philosophy, he marched in protest rallies.  Nicholas held up wooden signs and repeated rhythmic chants about love and peace.

His father didn’t approve, saying “conscientious objector” was another word for coward. “If everybody thought like you did, Nicholas, we wouldn’t have any more wars.”

Wasn’t that a good thing?  For Nicholas, the idea of a “beneficial war” was an oxymoron.  But he still felt guilty for disappointing his father.

That was a long time ago.  His father has been dead for many years, and Nicholas has outlived most of his friends.  The Wars took them: the one called III, followed closely by the one called Ultra.

It didn’t matter who objected.  People fought, countries fought, until there was nothing left to fight over.  Now the wars have ended, and music has ended, too — replaced by chants about love and peace, with nobody around to heed the words.