Monday, May 27, 2013

The Honored Dead . . . Just as Dead

Today is Memorial Day. When I was young, it never was much a big deal. Traditionally it was regarded as the beginning of summer. It got to be a bigger deal for me when I worked for the Fed because it was always attached to a three-day weekend. Lately, however, Memorial Day has become somewhat of a media carnival. No news report today is complete without shots of the president laying a wreath or some other important personage giving a speech, and virtually everybody talking about the "ultimate sacrifice" that past "heroes" made for our "freedoms."

Of course, one would come off as a despicable clod to give voice to other takes on this holiday, at least if one disturbed the universal public adulation of the hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed from our wars. And of course, the adulation for all of those veterans of military service (of which I am one) for their "service." In point of fact, back in my day, back in my generation's war, Vietnam, "service" was not always voluntary. People got called to military service because they weren't rich enough or lucky enough to avoid it. Now of course, we have done away with the draft, and our "heroes" are all volunteers not rich enough or lucky enough to avoid "service" to their country. And, our country still sends these young people, women now constitutionally included, off to get killed, maimed, ruined for life in their heads, some of them, to fight wars against whatever current bogeyman the national government has decided requires chastisement in the name of liberty and freedom and, let's not forget, national security.

Forgive me if I'm a skeptic about Memorial Day. The United States, of course, is participating in and perpetuating an ages old charade: that war is honorable, and that to die in one for "one's country" is one of the most moral and notable things a person can do. No one, except me and a few others, considers these people victims, not heroes. Victims to avarice, cruelty, and madness. For what has war ever solved? What has war ever produced, except the "reason" for the next war? Every age, every country, follows the same script. It glorifies war dead, because to do otherwise would be insensitive, inhuman, cruel to the survivors, and disrespectful of the dead. I just think we ought to be aware that we never stop digging graves for war dead, that were never stop maiming our youth in the name of patriotism and "freedom". And it's always going to be a tragedy, crime, not something to be celebrated and mythologized.
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