As the son and grandson of veterans, Memorial day growing up was a ritual of taking in a solemn parade, then spending time in the graveyard at ceremonies. Those conducting the ceremonies were often ill-suited to the purpose, their speeches clumsy, and readings a stuttering mess. But there was always sincerity in their hearts despite the awfulness, and by the time we reached the playing of taps, and the volleys were fired, the weight of the moment was clearly present.
Within the cemetery where we stood, and in the Catholic one across the street, were the many graves of veterans who had served honorably. Most had been laid to rest after their time in war, and some came from the battlefield to this place. The decoration of those graves by an increasingly elderly (at least in my mind) cadre of ladies from the American Legion, is a tradition from the original Decoration Day, dating back to the post-Civil War era.
Now, with years and knowledge under my belt, I have to pause and consider if all the pomp and ceremony in celebrating and honoring the fallen warriors is part of the problem that has led us into our suicidal foreign policy.
To clarify, I don’t believe for a moment that those who served, and especially those who died, were not deserving of great honor for their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the ideals of this country, whether because they were drafted, or because they volunteered. The debt to them for their service can never be paid in full.
But one way we can honor those willing to lay down their lives for this country is to not put them in the situation where it is asked of them in the first place, when other options are available to us. Since the founding of this country, and against the advice of the founding fathers, the United States has repeatedly sought foreign entanglements, both diplomatic, and military. From the War of 1812, which was the first unnecessary war; to the the Civil war, a mix of honorable crusade against the worst of human rights abuses mixed with the aggression of an imperial North; to military adventurism all around our borders, best personified by the crazy uncle of progressives everywhere, the thug Teddy Roosevelt; onward through World War 1, which then spawned World War 2, which led to America as the “leader of the free world” and entangling alliances that have tied us to the unholy amount the government spends on “defense” compared to every other country out there in fighting the Cold War and beyond, it’s a pattern of America pushing itself into conflicts that could be resolved without sacrificing brave soldiers who believe in the cause but don’t know why we fight, except for the incessant propaganda we are fed, while simultaneously sowing the seeds of the next war.
In the ongoing perpetual and futile War on Terror, this has reached a fever pitch, with no one too prominent as voices for reason and peace, and the only strong popular antiwar sentiment present when Team Blue is using it to score points on Team Red (ie, Iraq during the Bush years). We’ll hear that in the next few years again, as the idiot manchild trump (who, during the campaign, was less pro-war than Hillary Clinton, despite his desire to “bomb the shit” out of some of the government’s enemies) starts up the next batch of limited conflicts that we’ll be told are necessary to protect this country from the current boogeyman (ISIS, or the generic raghead terrorist that doesn’t like Ariana Grande [insert joke in extremely poor taste here, because that’s just some cold shit]).
This reminds me of one of the GOP debates from 2008, specifically the exchange between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani, concerning terrorism and blowback. I was still on Team Red Kool-aid at the time, so OF COURSE I cheered Giuliani for blowing that senile libertarian’s argument out of the water with his brilliant response of: “TERRORISM IS BAD, KILL ALL THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS UNTIL THEY’RE DEAD AS A DICK IN A CHEESE GRATER! U!S!A! U!S!A!”
(Note, I may have paraphrased a little on that quote, but that’s basically what I heard.)
But as I embraced a libertarian mode to thought, I finally, truly began to understand the idea of blowback, the concept that when our country is sitting in a shitload of countries with a standing army and blowing shit up in other countries, and making deals with some thug bastards to fight other thug bastards (ex. the Iraqi army the USA blew up in the first Gulf War was one we funded partially in the 80s so Saddam could fuck up Iran), someone’s bound to get pissed and find way to fight back. Osama bin Laden said as much. And we’re in a perpetual blowback loop with the War on Terror here, as every “win” is a recruitment tool, and every loss justification to not only perpetuate the war but strip away erode civil rights like a sexy undress game with 90-year-old sex parts underneath: We think we’re going to like it, but damn that shit is scary when the wrinkles get down there (been there, seen that).
Consider what we would do if another country attacked us for some reason, and although they had every justification in their minds, it was our people that ended up as corpses on an air field or buried in a ship beneath a harbor, or crushed in a building as it fell on them. Yeah, I’m talking Pearl Harbor and 9/11. We reacted loudly and violently to both of those attacks, although our government had been giving those enemies plenty of reasons to hit us. As long as we meet violence with overwhelming violence, far beyond that which is necessary to defend ourselves (come on, we’re still in Afghanistan for some fucking reason), this spiral of escalation will never end.
So as we honor the fallen heroes, we owe it to them, and to all veterans, to stop repeating the mistakes of the last two centuries, to stop letting our government kill with impunity and give the aforementioned terrorists more reasons to want to kill us, and to break a cycle where our government finds an enemy and we all “do our part” to perpetuate what is essentially military porn to the godawful sound of Lee Greenwood belting out the shit tune “God Bless the USA” while jets fly overhead, which then gets recut with kickass war footage and set to the Team America: World Police theme.
America, FUCK YEAH!