Saturday, May 28, 2005

Happy Memorial Day!

It is Memorial Day, so be sure to take a moment to get very serious about what this holiday means. But don't let that get in the way of a trip to the beach, an afternoon of playing "Halo 2," or breaking out the grill. I'm not going to do any of these things, but I do feel compelled to put together a list of the worst cliches/myths that we tenaciously cling to on a daily basis and then attempt to reaffirm with vigor on Memorial Day. Some of them apply only to Iraq and Afghanistan, but most apply to every veteran-creating exercise in which we engage. Enjoy!

1.) "We will never forget the sacrifice made by our fallen veterans." In truth, we will forget...and with astonishing speed. The deaths of 30,000 in Korea and 58,000 in Vietnam (among others) have had absolutely no negative impact on our desire to take part in unnecessary military adventures. Unless you personally know and love someone killed in war you're pretty much feigning sadness just so you don't feel like an asshole. In that sense, the pain of young men and women getting killed overseas is never even felt by most people, so there is nothing
to forget.

2.) "They gave their lives' for freedom." Not true of any conflict since World War II. Any freedom gained in Iraq is an indirect consequence of our primary motives, those being oil and the ability to establish permanent military bases in that part of the world. Elections aside, the people of Iraq are about as "free" as the people of China. The "police actions" of Vietnam and Korea had nothing to do with freedom; quite the opposite.

3.) "They died to protect our nation." Possibly true in World War II, but again, totally untrue in EVERY conflict since then.

4.) "They made a sacrifice so future generations wouldn't have to." You can always bet that there will be a fresh hell for each generation, sometimes several. Our delusions of grandeur, bipolar morality, culture that celebrates "bravery" and "heroism" and military-industrial economy means that we will never stop preparing for, and engaging in, war.

5.) "We are united behind our men and women overseas." It's a nice thought, but magnetic bumper ribbons aside, most people turn a blind eye to cuts in programs designed to help returning veterans, like VA hospitals (this happened in Vietnam and Korea, as well). We also embrace a "back-door draft" that keeps soldiers overseas long after they were promised they could return home. That's not a good sort of unity.

Well, those are the top 5 myths/cliches that bother me the most. I'm going to spend Memorial Day doing chores, reading, watching television, and writing emails like this one. I will, however, pause as I do every other day and think about how horrible it is that so many people have died for nebulous reasons. Naturally, I'm particularly bothered by the 1,650 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, not to mention the tens of thousands of civilians who are just trying to live with a modicum of peace and dignity. And when I think of how over 1,100 troops have been killed since Bush declared that "major military operations" were over in Iraq, I have an anxiety attack, but I'm prone to those.

So, this Memorial Day be sure to take a moment and consider how many people have died because of specious reasoning and a lack of moral scruples. That is my greatest tribute to the fallen. At least I, and others like me, can honestly remember the dead, and how they tragically trusted the people who led them from afar.


No comments: