Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day calls for at least some sobriety

I really grow tired of the endless politicization of anything and everything. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. If you are a citizen of the United States of America, I think it's important to acknowledge that some of your fellow citizens gave their lives in service to your country. Many others have put their lives on the line and lived to tell the tale.

I am very aware that war, as Clauswitz accurately observed, "is politics by other means." What that means to me is that war is often avoidable and usually inadvisable. As Sting sang in his poignant song about WWI, "Children's Crusade": "Corpulent generals safe behind lines/History's lessons drowned in red wine." We certainly have our 21st century equivalent of this phenomenon- Does the term "chickenhawk" mean anything to you? If not, look it up.

I have to believe that most U.S. service members who died in battle understood that they put their lives on the line, not necessarily for their country, let alone the flag, which are abstract, but for their fellow citizens. Whether you agree or not, given the range of legitimate views on various conflicts in which the U.S. has engaged and in which some its citizens have been killed, I think it's important to grant those who died the benefit of the doubt in this regard.

The fact that they died in service is true whether you personally believed in what they were fighting for or not, whether you thought the war/military action/whatever was just, or even if you style yourself a pacifist, which is a position, if held with courage, I can respect. I certainly respect those who were willing to suffer for their resistance by going to jail. I also think it's important not to get too carried away on the other side of the coin and give war a romantic gloss and shine it does not deserve. When it comes to the sobering reality Memorial Day beckons us to contemplate, we need to avoid sentimentalism. What's important is that we remember those who died and honor their sacrifice, even as we reflect on the cost of war. This ought to cause us to pray and work for peace.

When their country called, those who perished responded with a willingness to serve. It stands to reason that some did so more willingly and freely than others. Without a doubt those who were killed in battle thought, at least hoped, they would do their duty and return home, likely dreaming of their future. This is why, for me, the song "Galveston" is one of the best, if not the best, song of the Vietnam era. The vast, vast majority of those who died while serving our country were not blood-thirsty warmongers, but peace-loving people, as is any sane person.

At least to me, here's where the rubber hits the road: they didn't return home! Instead they died, usually far from home, often in another country and on another continent, leaving behind bereft mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, and children. It's that sacrifice we honor.

Enjoy your day, have some fun, but please spend a least a few moments tomorrow thinking about these sobering things and remembering those who died in service to our nation.

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