Disclaimer: I do not purport to have any claim on The Truth….the following stream is just from my heart, in response to a dear friend’s forward of one of those Memorial Day emails…
My heart and mind struggle with this every Memorial Day. While I know I’m supposed to “honor and respect the fallen,” the most I have ever been able to muster is profound anger and sadness at the waste of human life on both sides of every conflict, how senseless and tragic it all is, and how many families will never be the same (or exist at all) because of the hubris, greed, violence and stupidity perpetrated by old (mostly white) men around the world, in every generation since time began….and the influence and control they’ve exerted over whole populations of people who drank the Kool-Aid.
Backing it up too many paces as usual, I suppose…In recent history (ie my lifetime) I see soldiers as mercenaries, since no war I’ve been alive for has really been about “defending ourselves,” but has instead been about mercenary, expedient self-interest. I know this is not a popular viewpoint, and have been called unpatriotic and worse for it, especially in the dismal past 8 years … I just always come back to one of the first political slogans I remember as a kid: “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” That has always sounded like the very definition of a perfect world to me.
In my opinion, it has always been too easy to manipulate men into battle, under the banner of “patriotism, honor and duty” without (it seems) much thought about what the reality of war actually is/does. Beyond bragging rights, nothing good ever comes from perpetuating violence. Is it genetic? Are men just born with a proclivity for violence and weak resistance to the call? If you look at how men are with each other a lot of the time, it’s easy to understand the huge, dangerous, testosterone-driven games of chicken that have played out since the dawn of man. (I’m a raging feminist, as you know, but one thing about it stumps me: that women actually fight for their right to stand shoulder to shoulder with men in all of this….it’s beyond my comprehension. If women are nothing else, shouldn’t we be the voice of reason when hot heads prevail? I suppose that would be true if men actually listened to us en masse….but that’s another diatribe.)
The reason we don’t (all) speak Japanese or German is because the U.S. is a melting pot….always has been, always will be…and nothing will ever change that. That creates tension and pressures and enemies that many other countries don’t have, but that kind of diversity (and the right to express our views freely) is our charter, our birthright…and no amount of weapons or murder is necessary to sustain it. It is who we are. Take away the murder and pillage and occupation and empire-building, and it will still be us….maybe even stronger for choosing non-violence. That is an excellent theory that NO ONE has ever tested….the lure of glory on the battlefield has always dominated the collective consciousness, and everyone who has ever tried to refute its value has been either dismissed (if female) or ridiculed as “weak” (if male.)
If you look at history, the UK and the US have been responsible (directly or indirectly) for the vast majority of the slaughter and destruction in the world. It’s no wonder that some people hate us and want bad things to happen to us, if only to take us down a peg. Common sense dictates that doing the same thing over and over again (like being the world’s biggest arms dealer) will engender a substantial amount of animosity ~ and dismissing it as “jealousy” or “hating our freedom” misses the point entirely. Fear doesn’t endear or enroll people in our tenets, or build strong alliances. The biggest bully in the yard may not have many challengers, but he doesn’t make the friends he’ll need later in life either.
We are at the end of our adolescence as a country, and war is not only obsolete, but obviously doesn’t work as a “path to peace” ~ or we’d live in a peaceful world by now. The whole “defending freedom” line is and always has been bullshit propaganda to get men (and now women) all riled up and ready for slaughter/maiming. It’s time to outgrow our schoolyard bully tactics and start treating the rest of the world with the respect and compassion they deserve. Even our “enemies” have the right to believe what they believe. If we really want to spread “democracy and freedom” around the world, wouldn’t it be a good idea to start by demonstrating that we believe everyone has the right to believe what they believe, whether or not we agree with them?
I’m so sick of Bush & Co (and the entire GOP’s) tired, now-generations-long argument that if we appear “weak” the terrorists and/or enemies “win.” If we weren’t such hypocritical bullies, the “terrorists” would have no beef with us! If we didn’t casually desecrate their beliefs (by, say, putting female soldiers on bases in Saudi Arabia for starters ~ which was what put the bee in Bin Laden’s bonnet to begin with) or dismiss/belittle their religion as “fanatical” or “terrorist” (which, in my opinion is equally if not MORE applicable to their beloved Christianity) without even the courtesy of actually learning about it….what would “the terrorists” have to push back against? If the UK/US hadn’t arbitrarily decided to plunk European refugees in the middle of Palestine and call it “Israel” after WWII, what would the Palestinians be doing today? Probably living, working, raising their families and minding their own business the way they were before that travesty was visited upon them and blew their country to smithereens under a violent, arrogant, US-backed regime.
While we’re fantasizing about a perfect world, what’s wrong with others “winning” sometimes, in the form of “live and let live?” Gee, where have I heard THAT old chestnut before…..? Hmmmm…..
The Chinese say that water is the strongest element, because it is completely non-resistant, yet wears away stone in time. What would the world look like today if we hadn’t provoked (or perhaps even colluded with) the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor, to give what was a protectionist population at the time the rationale to mix it up and get a piece of the action in Europe, (while boosting our economy and becoming the world’s largest arms dealer during WWII?) What would the world look like if we hadn’t created a “cold war” to justify spending billions of dollars on our (and the world’s) arsenal in order to bankrupt the USSR and become the sole “superpower?” And now that we’ve accomplished that, what will we do with all of that awesome power, one day soon when the world’s water supply has dwindled to dangerous shortages? What good will all of that “firepower” do us when our children (along with those in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe) do not have clean drinking water anymore?
Clearly, our times indicate the need for a different kind of leadership….a different paradigm for “superpower.” In order to sleep at night, I have to believe we are at a tipping point where that view has become more widely accepted.
Please accept my heartfelt apologies if any of this offends or seems disrespectful to your father…that is not my intention. I do not express any of this flippantly. I really do respect people who do what their conscience dictates, regardless of whether or not I agree or would choose the path myself. To me, that is the highest form of expression of ourselves as Americans ~ to follow the dictates of our conscience, do what we feel is right for us, and to accept others’ right to do the same, all while living peacefully, with tolerance and mutual respect. It is no small feat, and most of us do it very well.
In spite of all of this (or perhaps even because of it) our country has done some astonishing and generous things in the world; we have been a beacon in so many ways ~ why not be a beacon of non-violence and REALLY change the world? We have the power and (now) the intelligent, compassionate leadership which seems to have begun to take minute steps in that direction. I have all the faith and hope in our country that my heart can hold.
All of this is my brand of patriotism, this holding a vision of the best America. THAT is what I honor on Memorial Day. Thank you, fellow patriots, for always stimulating my mind and giving me the space and listening that you do.
My best (and gratitude) to you fellow patriots in uniform for your service.