Another Memorial Day and remind me again what it is we are fighting for?
Y’know, when I was really small, I can recall both my grandfather and my uncle reminiscing about the wars they’d fought. It was easy to see that the experience, even to that very day, had left them with a mix of feelings. Proud yes, but very sad at the loss of friends and others in their fleets and platoons. As they sifted through old dog-eared photos, it was not unusual to see them wipe a tear away. My grandfather and his men fought to rid the world of fascism. Both he and my uncle were, at different times, a part of the Second World War and the Korean War. Of course they justified it all by saying that it was the "price of freedom."
On Memorial Day the family would go to watch the parade and watch the assorted politicians lay wreaths on assorted monuments in front of assorted dignitaries all about the city. All very somber and not just a little heart-wrenching as I thought about those noble men who had given their lives so that I could be safe in my home. Even as a preschooler I felt so indebted to these men who had done this, so that I could grow up in a free world. Though I may not have understood everything I was honoring that day, I did have a vivid picture in my mind of a brave soldier facing down an enemy and shooting him dead. I, like so many, justified this by saying it had to be that way – him or me – cost of peace – I’m surprised my visions didn't have a patriotic soundtrack to accompany them.
Fast forward to the mid '60s. Operation Rolling Thunder and Vietnam. More prices of peace paid there in Vietnam, as well as Cambodia, Iran, Lebanon, Grenada, El Salvador, Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and now again Iraq. Has anyone figured out yet why two million Americans had to take part in ‘Nam? Worse, more than 58,000 Americans and another 304,000 wounded – for what? Did any of those soldiers facing down “the enemy” have a gripe with the enemy? No. They had no quarrel with the people who were trying to kill them. Neither did the enemy for that matter, both sides being victim of patriotic rhetoric trotted out from their governing houses to the media and subsequently a population of listeners. In any of the war footage sent back, did you see the brave politicians fighting in the rice fields of Vietnam? And reported deaths – anyone hear of many higher-up generals dying while in combat there?
Those soldiers were fighting and dying simply because powerful people who would never have to face death in battle told them it was their duty to die. And we all bow our heads and nod sagely. Maybe if they’d been able to see graphically what that ‘price was’. Not a romantic hoopla war movie, but the real deal? Maybe each evening when the news shows the loss of life in Iraq for that day, instead of a fresh young face all decked out in dress uniform, they should be shown a photo of the kid after he was killed. Maybe then people will have a real picture of the price extracted. And realize that real guns shatter people's skulls and leak their brains like seeping, grey pudding, and the bullets rip their insides to shreds and leave them screaming for their Moms.
Those guns kill families and leave children fatherless or motherless, or in all likelihood a longer term injury – having to live with their visions and demons they bring back with them. Not a pretty picture, is it? The truth many times isn't. But then the news would also warn us to turn our heads as the following would be graphically unpalatable for their tender eyes.
So here we are again today, fighting to save lives. Whose? Four years ago we were fed more war mongering fodder and told we had to send our guys back to war again because Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed a direct and immediate threat to the peace and security of our country. Blah, blah. They’re coming to get us again so we have to get them first… blah, blah. Four years later, 3,200 more young Americans are dead, and 30,000 more have been wounded.
We all know, if we’re honest with ourselves that is, that we went to war based on a lie. And now instead of saving more lives, Mr. Bush asks us to be patient; Congress diddles around over non-binding resolutions and it seems once more there will be no end to this. These soldiers in Iraq today are dying for the same reason the men and women in Vietnam did – arrogant government power brokers that are either too ignorant or too cowardly to separate the rhetoric of patriotism from the real essence of patriotism. Why should we really worry about terrorists taking American lives? Our own government is doing a bang-up job of that for us! Our soldiers died because a Hollywood fantasy version of the ‘noble fight’ and it has been trotted out to us by war-mongering leaders.
And on this Memorial Day we again honor those heroes who can’t be a part of it.
I think if we really want to honor our fallen heroes properly, we need to try a little harder to keep any more of them from falling in the first place. We might try to be less gullible and ready to believe rousing oratory when politicians and generals tell us the next war is necessary. We might take a moment to consider that the ones who start these wars for peace are seldom the ones who take part in any of the killing – or any of the dying.Powered by Sidelines