I wrote this last Memorial Day… still seems fitting, sadly. I think all the links still work, even if the articles, etc, are a little out of date…
So. This one will be really out of character but… oh well.
This morning, I am not out BBQ-ing or sitting on the beach. I’m not traveling to visit friends or family.
I’m in my office. Playing catch-up. Of course.
I open my e-mail and have a forward from the joint e-mail account of one of my best friends from HS and her husband (yeah… joint e-mail accounts… for another time…)
It is titled “Memorial Day” and includes many cartoons, with some text.
You get the idea.
I am not entirely sure how I feel about this holiday. I mean… on one hand, I am irritated that most Americans see it as just another day off of work for enjoying summer. I guess this is one way to “celebrate” it, but I doubt they take all that much time to think about why we have it off in the first place.
On the other hand…
Is war really the price of freedom? Are the lives of young men and women really what we must pay for the “American” way of life? For our rights of free religion, speech, press, assembly, etc etc etc (in theory at least)?
Are the wars we’ve fought, and are still fighting, really what is necessary to keep Americans “free”? To keep us… safe?
I don’t know.
Sometimes – sure. I can see that. But… the conflicts (such a simple term) since, and including, Vietnam? Really?
Honestly… I don’t buy it. I just don’t.
My HS best friend’s husband is ex-military. Their marriage was not attended by friends and family because they ended up getting hitched quick – he was shipped to Iraq. The first time. His tour was extended from six to eight months that trip. He came home. My HS BFF got pregnant. He was shipped out again.
She miscarried, alone and in a new city, while he was in Iraq for the second time, where this time, six months became a year.
It’s the greater issues, as well. It is the increase in mental problems and suicide in veterans today. It is the fact that people are more likely to survive warfare today, but come home without legs or arms. It is the lack of actual support for our troops, in terms of medical and psychological care. It is the idea of a back-door draft. It is the assumption that we know what is best for another society and culture, and that we use bullets to bring it to them.
If you can get a hold of this article , “A war of disabilities: Iraq’s hidden costs are coming home” ~ R. J. Glasser, Harper’s Magazine August 12th, 2005 – read it.
It is the things we don’t talk about… and the things we don’t remember.
It is also the hypocrisy and ignorance. The fact that some people decide being a “patriot” and “supporting our troops” means shutting the F up and deciding the government knows what’s best. It means not asking questions, not challenging the very idea of sending American’s youth to fight, die, or just come home maimed and/or suicidal. The idea that somehow wanting a war to end is… unpatriotic.
I realize this was (I say this hopefully) a larger problem with the past administration. However… even when we do discuss the current situation, we are still ignoring the mental toll of war on our young men and women.
And the fact that we don’t often understand, support, or even address the issues they return with.
Of course, that’s not even getting into the fact that the less fortunate and less white among us overwhelming carry this burden.
These are the things that make this holiday a little difficult for me. The messages that ask us to remember, like the e-mail from my friends, often leave a bad taste in my mouth because of everything else, even while I tear up a little (oh hush – they succeed on some level ok).
But then… I think perhaps it doesn’t matter that I don’t believe we’re fighting the good fight any more. Maybe the fact that I no longer believe these… conflicts are what keeps me “free” and “safe” is not the point.
What matters is that those men and women believed that. Or that, outwardly or in their hearts, that’s why they are doing this. That was the reason they made this sacrifice. The true cause for conflict, and whether their lives were truly necessary, may not be important when we try and save this day for them.
And maybe they don’t believe it… but they fight any way.
It’s very sad that I have this thought process, when what I think about the powers that be and the battles we fight really should have no bearing on the men and women who have served, do serve, and will serve. It should not keep me from remembering, and from recognizing what they have done and will do.
Happy Memorial Day.