Memorial Day Blues
My kids have been a part of the Trumansburg Marching Band in the Memorial Day Parade for years, so I’ve attended a few of the ceremonies that follow the parades. The American Legion organizes these parades, and invites someone from the military to speak to the crowd. Oddly, I’ve never heard any of these speakers, address the question of wether or not it is wise to continue to sacrifice more and more lives in our current conflicts. They seem to think it inappropriate to talk about politics on Memorial Day, and so we play John Philip Sousa songs and admire the crisp uniforms and observe the world through a patriotic lens. The next day we return to paying for more war with our tax dollars. Is this really what our fallen soldiers would want? Our illegal occupation of Iraq bothers me greatly so I asked the parade organizers if someone from Back To Democracy could speak. They said no.
We have been observing Memorial Day in this country since 1865. It is appropriate that we continue this practice, and reflect at least once a year, on the sacrifice of thousands of brave men and women. Part of this reflection, must be to ask why they chose to make this ultimate sacrifice, because sacrifice for ideals such as honor, or patriotism, or defense contractor profits, or oil company profits, seem to me, much less significant than sacrificing for the defense of our country, our freedom, and our constitution.
There are times when a nation must go to war. My great, great, great grandfather fought in the War of 1812. The British invaded Washington and burned the White House, and 2260 of our ancestors died defending our country. 14 million allied soldiers perished in World War 2, defending the world from the Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini.
We would dishonor our fallen ancestors, if we suspended critical thinking, and allowed their progeny to die for causes of any less merit.
According to the Department of Defense, 3455 US soldiers have died since we invaded Iraq. (5/28) We’ve been told a series of lies as to why we invaded. Our president has used fear of terrorism, to bolster his case. When that doesn’t work, he tells us we are spreading democracy.
My kids used to belong to the same play-group as a kid who graduated from Ithaca High School last spring and is now in Baghdad as part of George Bush’s surge. I admire his willingness to serve his country, but at the same time I despise the people who have deluded him. Chances are very good that next year we can remember this kid’s sacrifice on Memorial Day, and for what? Is he fighting them over there, so we won’t have to fight them over here? No. His actions are increasing the number of people that seek to do us harm (according to the Pentagon’s National Intelligence Estimate). Is he looking for weapons of mass destruction? Of course not. Is he spreading democracy? No, democracy can not be spread at the barrel of a gun.
Colin Powell said that war must be used only as a last resort, so Bush asked him to leave, and replaced him with a more compliant Secretary of State. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfwowitz used war as an instrument of foreign policy. This is very far from what our founders intended. George Washington warned us against foreign entanglements. James Madison, our fourth president and principal author of our constitution said “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”
War must be used only as the last resort, only for self defense, never preemptively, and never without the consent of the United Nations Security Council.
On Memorial Day, the best way to honor the memory of fallen soldiers is to strive to keep the wonderful country that they died for, and we cannot do that work if we are blinded by patriotism. If patriotism means blindly supporting a government gone wrong, then I am not a patriot, but if patriotism means doing all that we can do to return this country to the principles that it was founded on, then I’m proud to be a patriot.